• Why Planners Need to be the Disruptors in the Association World

    FROM THE Winter 2018 ISSUE

    Year-Round Engagement

You can Google anything. We all know it. It doesn’t mean that what we read online is always accurate, but sometimes, well, it’s close enough.

So, if I can Google answers to most of the questions I have in my job, do I really need to attend the annual conference offered by the professional organization of which I’m a member? Do I even need to be a member at all?

In our industry, I’m not worried about The Special Event or IMEX. Event planners won’t give them up; they are the reason we exist. B2B and B2C events and trade shows will survive because corporations have deep pockets, and often there is no substitute for hands on experience with a product.

But I am worried about professional associations and the impact their decline would have on our industry

 As online communication tools continue to become more sophisticated, how long before they outpace our desire to belong to professional organizations? We didn’t know we needed Facebook and LinkedIn before they appeared, and there are certainly more innovative tools on the horizon that will change the way we connect.

As my colleague said recently: “Today’s new hires don’t see themselves waiting around for the next annual conference. That’s their parents’ model. They are plugged in 24/7 and seek constant, year-round engagement and information.” 

At my firm, for example, we continually look for ways to help our association planner clients speed up the evolution of their organizations. Here’s one idea that’s on our radar right now.

What if, in addition to face-toface member meetings, content was delivered throughout the year on a pop-up basis via Facebook Live? Let’s say your organization has just conducted important research. As soon as the results are available, members receive a text to hop on a Facebook Live session later that day.

You share key learnings, but promise a deeper dive at the next meeting. Or, what if an industry supplier is ready to launch a product, but your annual conference is six months away. A popup live event/teaser ensures members receive valuable, relevant information through a delivery method, which is increasingly preferable.

Events like these would require a culture shift for some associations. First, there needs to be agreement that it’s possible to provide a steady stream of valuable content to members without devaluating the organization’s face-to-face meetings.

Second, association leadership would need to accept that content could be transmitted through a webcam by a guy wearing flip flops versus a suit standing in front of a podium.

Why? Because professionally produced live sessions cost more and cannot be done at the drop of a hat, so you risk losing the immediacy. Meanwhile, younger audiences are just fine with flip-flops, even if young-ish baby boomers are not there yet.

I believe there is no time to waste. Planners need to be the disruptors in the association world, or risk being viewed as dinosaurs.


Carol Galle is the Co-Founder and CEO of Special D Events, an experiential business meeting and special event management agency, and the Anniversary Co. She is a member of the Michigan Meetings + Events Hall of Fame. 

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