Author: Jennifer Crocker

How Associations Can Use Technology to Add Value for Their Members

While there may not be a lot of events happening right now, there is no better time to plan. As you think through your event plan so that you are ready as soon as things happen again, knowing how technology should be implemented is imperative.

Leveraging technology can assist associations in attracting and retaining members. In today’s current environment, it is essential. As the makeup of membership and even human interactions change, associations face several challenges. One way they can meet the challenge is to strategically leverage impactful technology to create experiential events.

Technology Can Create Challenges for Associations …

1. As the workplace requires employees to do more, and employees want more of a work-life balance, people are pulled in many different directions. Whatever outside associations they choose to give their time to must provide significant added value.

2. Social media channels make it easier for people to network without needing the framework of an association.

3. At the same time, the types of content, insights, and training that used to be available only through association memberships and conferences are now available online, often for free.

4. Younger members of the business world grew up with technology, using it for everything from educational learning, communication, social networking, shopping, and recreation. These digital generations have shorter attention spans than prior generations because they filter through information faster. Associations can struggle to capture – and keep – the attention of up-and-coming members.

… But Technology Also Creates Solutions

To reach modern audiences, the experiences an association offers need to transform from one-time events into something that creates enduring connections. By integrating technology into convenings, associations can:

  • Generate excitement before the event starts.

  • Continuously engage people during the event.

  • Build year-round connections and a way to continue to work together after the event has ended.

Generate pre-event excitement.

  • Post photos of the meeting or event location on Pinterest or Instagram. This works especially well if the venue is something unique or special, like a historic building, refurbished warehouse, museum, or art gallery. Tweet or text links to association members months before the event. This allows them to “explore” the venue before they arrive and already feel a connection to it.

  • Use a dedicated event app to send information about speakers, early-bird specials, and unique attractions to members, speakers, and sponsors. As the event approaches, information can be updated in real-time to give everyone a definitive and reliable place for up-to-the-minute information.

  • Host a pre-event Twitter chat or webinar featuring short interviews with keynote speakers. This gives attendees an insight into the great content they’ll be receiving by participating in the event.

Let your registration process do double duty.

  • A facial recognition application can be downloaded by event attendees, which “recognizes them” upon entry to the event. The app automatically generates a printed name tag and sends a schedule and map to attendees’ phones, shortening check-in lines and giving them more time to interact with other guests. This also allows attendee info to be uploaded to association databases immediately, so you have a real-time list of who’s on-site.

  • Chatbot apps can answer attendees’ logistics questions, like “What time is the keynote,” “Where are the restrooms,” or “What time is the next hotel shuttle?” The ability to have questions immediately answered gives members further confidence in the association and its ability to meet their needs. This also gives the association a record of what the most frequently asked questions and needs were, which will help in planning the next event.

Continuously engage attendees throughout the event.

  • Use 3D projection mapping to create a unique backdrop as members enter the event. Projection mapping technologies make it possible to create “moving” ceilings, borderless spaces, and objects that transform beyond physical limitations. The backdrop can be related to the theme of the association or be completely different.

  • “Meetup” topics and locations can be tweeted and texted throughout the event, inviting those participants interested in a specific topic to a small group setting to network and share ideas. This is a great way to start to build communities that can be nurtured after the immediate event ends.

  • Incorporate augmented reality and virtual reality experiences to engage participants, share more details about sponsors, attractions, and capture attention that can wane later in the day. For example, attendees might be virtually transported to another part of the world or have the ability to customize a new product.

Keep the excitement going after the event.

  • Post videos on YouTube or Vimeo of specific highlights and spot interviews with attendees and speakers. These can be embedded on your website, in e-newsletters, and shared on social media.

  • Invite event attendees to your association’s LinkedIn and Facebook groups to do a debrief about the event and network, interact, share, and engage with peers and subject matter experts.

  • Launch a membership community app. Great conversations start at your events, and people often want to keep those connections going. Allowing your members to continue to talk in a branded value-adding space is a great added value.

Leveraging technology increases engagement and ROI.

Studies show that using event technology can increase attendance by 20% and increase productivity by 27%. From improved website communications to email marketing and everything in between, incorporating digital technologies and digital communications is essential to maintaining membership and growing it.

Incorporating technology into events not only helps extend the experience of the association, but it also helps:

  • To augment meetings if circumstances prevent in-person interactions.

  • To allow people who can’t attend the event to participate.

  • To ensure a better event experience with seamless registration, updatable event schedules, and access to event materials without the expense of printed materials.

Creating engaging events that integrate strategy, engaging content, logistics, and technology to meet association member needs is going to remain an essential value for any organization. While it is not always easy to know what is right, it is important to have a solid plan. Wellington specializes in helping associations grow and strengthen connections with members through unique, “can’t miss” events that also provide lasting value. Learn more about what we can do for your association.