Follow the Members

Associations are urged to go where their members are — and that means onto digital platforms.

By Boardroom editors

In this age of digitalisation, business models and expectations are changing for association members and delegates. To stay ahead, experts say, it’s time to innovate with technology-driven solutions.

“For nearly a decade, technology usage has increased exponentially, and experience has shown that virtual connection increases face-to-face attendance and plays a very important part in meetings’ sustainability strategies,” according to MCI. But despite the reported advantages of virtual connections, an Association Innovation Benchmarking Report that surveyed 344 associations found that 42 percent did not focus on innovation.

How can associations move forward? Digital technology consultants Enginess says associations should go where their members are — and that means taking the mobile route. As more people engage on mobile devices, associations need to consider responsive formats for websites and e-mails so that members using mobile devices have the same access to digital content, Enginess adds.

Mélanie Delaplanche, MCI’s sustainability services director, recommends developing a digital strategy by employing digital experts who can train a team and create online experiences that engage the audience before, during, and after an event. With the rise of wearable technology, such as the Apple Watch, apps and push notifications are seen as even more powerful channels of communication. These resources can keep members up-to-date with association news, continuing education, and events, helping to increase ticket sales or speeding along the sign-up process.

Innovative technology can also help reach new audiences and event attendees, a topic discussed at the UFI European Conference 2018 in Verona, Italy. Heralded as the “most international gathering of European exhibition industry leaders,” the annual event grew at double-digit rates for the second year in a row, with more than 220 attendees from 35 different countries. One of the highlights: a deep dive into new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) and how they will impact industry products and services in the future.

“A key takeaway following these sessions is that new technologies, especially around artificial intelligence, will allow exhibition organisers to address their audience much more precisely,” Kai Hattendorf, UFI managing director/CEO, told Exhibition World. “At the same time, we’ve seen a very open discussion about those areas of our business where we are clearly lagging behind what customers experience elsewhere, and what we need to do about that.”

For associations, innovative technology may be key to upping enrolment and keeping members engaged and informed. If associations want to have a legacy, creating a community through event attendance, apps, and social media is one of the main ways, industry experts say, to stay relevant — and future-proof the organisation.

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