The Vanguard View: Insight for Association Websites

9 Things We Learned At ASAE Technology Conference 2009

Posted by Chris Bonney on Wed, Feb 04, 2009


Mike Wiley, president of Vanguard Technology, and I attended the ASAE Technology Conference last week in D.C. Here are 9 things we learned while there that we think you as an association could benefit from.

1. Social Networking Is Still Hot

Higher Logic had the hottest booth on the expo floor and MANY sessions were on social networking - everything from legal issues to case studies of successful roll outs. Seriously, don't assume social networking is a fad. It's something every association needs to at least investigate.

2. Integration Is The New Buzzword

Multiple sessions with "integration" in the title. Overall, we found most of those sessions somewhat disappointing, though. As integrators ourselves, we felt that the content focused a little too much on the vendors providing the talks and less on why integration is important to associations. The positive takeaway here is, though, that the right conversations are beginning to take place. Are your systems integrated? They can be.

3. Don't Forget About The Touch

The best session I attended at the conference by far was by Jeffrey Cufaude called Creating Connections: Finding the Right Mix of High Tech and High Touch. The question the session asked is this: In this high tech world we now live in, the question to be asking is how can your organization use technology to help create meaningful connections? It's an excellent question and something every association needs to ask at the next web committee meeting. I'll blog more on this topic in future posts, but here's a quick takeaway: How about using an online form to collect donations, but then at the end of the week call everyone who donated on the phone to thank them. Nice blend of tech and touch.

4. Be Prepared

Anyone who attended the pre-conference town hall can attest to this one: be prepared. If you're going to create a slideshow and present it to hundreds of people, think it through. Are your slides redundant? Have you thought of every angle? What started as a highly informative session, degenerated into a perpetual critiquing of the session's presented content. Not the intention, I'm sure. How many of your board meetings have been derailed for the same reasons?

5. Don't Hijack Your Best Customers

We spoke to numerous exhibitors who were extremely frustrated at the attendance of the event. "Thin" is one word to describe it. When asked why they don't take their thousands of dollars and invest them in other more effective marketing initiatives than a booth, it was implied that they felt their presence was necessary to be considered favorably within the industry. I'm sure it was no one's intention at ASAE to make them feel this way, but perception is reality. Are you forcing your members into an antiquated model of engagement with your organization simply because it's how it's always been done? Rethink the perks and benefits of everything you offer.

6. Twitter Is Still A Stretch

We're on Twitter. We get it. I think we get it. Yeah...we get it. I think.

7. Crowdsourcing Is Real

The general session on Tuesday with Jeff Howe was a sobering reality check for many, I think. The premise is that in the blink of an eye someone can put together a network and completely dismantle an entire industry. iStockphoto was one of Jeff's examples of crowdsourcing at its most powerful. A single person created a website enabling people to upload photos for others to buy cheap, and a multi-billion dollar stock image industry fell to pieces. Someone mentioned to Jeff in the Q&A section that associations feel they are the ones that should be handing down the expertise and advice to their industry, not the amateurs. Jeff had a very nice way of explaining how that mentality may be a fatal flaw for some organizations. How are you embracing the cult of the amateur at your association?

8. The Old Rules No Longer Apply

A 10x10 exhibit booth is a very difficult place to fully project the value of your brand as a vendor. Your banner never hangs quite right and it's hard to compete with the huge flat screen TV in the booth next to yours and on and on. That, of course, is why we put people in the booth - for that human factor. The question then become though: What are the rules of engagement? Some booths tried to lure people by having a magician perform tricks for them or by having a big screen Wii display set up. Anything to get someone - qualified or not - to take their brochure. Yet, the most popular booth at the trade show had no gimmick at all. What they did have though was buzz. Higher Logic has made an impact in a meaningful way on the industry lately. Have you? Or are you still doing magic tricks to get new members?

9. Personalize

A suggestion to ASAE would be to create different tracks for their sessions at this conference. Audiences varied from membership managers to CIOS to vendors. That's a mixed bag. How about a track for IT managers, one for industry partners and one for association executives? Gear each session to a specific audience and retention and engagement increase. How about your website? Are you offering tracks for your users to follow or are you still hoping all of your audiences will be able to sort out the valuable stuff on their own?

Do you have a #10 you'd like to share. What were your thoughts of the conference?

Topics: ams integration, web strategy, association management software, ASAE, Communications, social media, Vendor Relations, conference, Websites, associations

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