• 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. 

MACVB Annual Educational Conference finally reaches the shores of Mackinac Island.

As I rode in the carriage from the Shepler’s Ferry terminal to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, my mind wandered to a scene from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” In said scene, King Arthur and his sidekick, Patsy, approach a castle while galloping and banging coconuts together. After a few moments passed and my mind wandered back to the tree-lined streets of the island, I realized it was the clippety-clop of the draft horses pulling our carriage that brought on my thoughts of Python.


First came COVID. Then came the tornado.

The northern Michigan community of Gaylord was just starting to rebound from the pandemic with its groups and events business as a new season was getting underway when a rare EF3 tornado with estimated wind speeds between 136 and 165 miles per hour struck May 20.

Two people were killed and at least 44 were injured, according to official reports at the time. West Michigan meteorologist Bill Steffen said it was the strongest tornado to strike in the U.S. that month. 


A conference or convention venue might be described by meeting planners as offering ease and convenience for multiple reasons. It may be because its address is easily accessible from numerous compass points. Or perhaps it’s the destination—with a variety of opportunities for activities and entertainment close-by. And of course, it could be that the venue itself offers a peaceful, easy setting with all the comforts you could want. 

Well, at Treetops Resort, it’s all of the above.