A Year of Living on the Edge: 10 Tips for Associations

29th Dec, 2020

What might have been a great kick-off for the new decade when it comes to promoting associative events and conference destinations, lo and behold, marked the outset of 
a forced standstill for both parties (buyers and suppliers). To help associations in their strive to success, HQ has compiled ten precious tips for any association manager to face this exciting 2021 head on. See below:

1) Engage young generations

The average age of non-profit leaders is 52, a survey by the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance showed. Now, take a look at the online influencers’ average age: it is between 18 and 24. The conundrum is before your eyes, so take advantage of the ‘new normal’ to solve it. Fresh blood is needed in most non-profit organisations to adapt quickly to modern technology and digital tools.

2) Stay responsive

As a network, representative or association, we have an obligation to keep up with questions and requests from our stakeholders and members. Mostly, we must not leave room to neglect our day-to-day interactions. Encourage your employees to stay informed, engaged and give them confidence to take decisions. Do not gloss over that missing contact or yesterday’s email. Who knows what will be around the corner?

3) Build an online community

Since we are all relying on digital communications and event platforms, creating an online community is an important step. This means that you should encourage your members to attend the virtual events on a regular basis. A communication strategy will be required, to help members getting into the habit. But keep in mind that you are growing a tree, not building a house. You don’t need to have blueprints for what it will look like from day one. Just start bringing people together, take it easy and, over time, your community will organically find its own form.

4) Retain the value of your members

Desperate times call for strong and convincing measures. Look for your partners and help out your members to create a true associative coalition. Embrace surveys and questionnaires, leverage your relationships and understand that value improves retention. A 'one size fits all' solution is rarely applicable in the association world. Your members may - is the best part - provide unexpected inputs and resources. Membership is a sharing culture. It is time to use it properly!

5) Find your tribe

How can you stay relevant over the passing of time, become global and have a hyperlocal impact? It all sounds overwhelming, but there is a solution for that. Which is making things meaningful for ‘your people’ and applying something called ‘slow thinking’. If you know your members, you will be able to (slowly) think like the community you serve and you will eventually know yourself.

6) Use the data you have

If anything, we can say that the closing decade showed us what data can do. And it can do a lot. So, make sure you are using this powerful tool as much as you can. The association world is full of figures about members’ identities, origins and interests (that are free, accessible and legal) too often disregarded. It’s worth taking some time to collect this abundant information and analyse it, obviously in compliance with GDRP regulations. It will help you predict challenges, empower your tribe (see above) and in the end, reach your goals.

7) Offer support

Can’t believe we are still in the middle of 
a pandemic. You know what could help? Knowing that you are not alone. We are coping in different ways. Some of us find it more difficult than others. What is fantastic is that associations are precisely born to solve this and assist people in need. So, offer training, masterclasses, some distractions or even little moments of apparent normality to your associates. Continue to do so after the pandemic is over (it will!) and members will always be grateful. Don’t be afraid to share your knowledge between organisations, too. United as one equals final success.

8) Travel sustainably

There was a silver lining in staying home. Actually, two. Pollution levels decreased for a tiny bit and, notably, more and more people started realising they are part of a delicate thing called ‘nature’. Of course, your list of travels is waiting, conferences on the other side of the world are just being postponed and everybody needs a holiday now more than ever. You can for instance offset your emissions by choosing trains, locally grown food and energy efficient venues. Satellite images of a cleaner world, at the time when people were forced home, will hopefully be sticking on our mind for a while.

9) Keep diversity in mind

Ashanti Bentil-Dhue is a practitioner and speaker who helps the global events industry become more diverse. She recently said there are ways to avoid an all ‘white old men’ panel, which will only end up speaking to a minority (though the powerful one) of the global population. One way is giving a huge importance to inclusive language, another is bringing diverse speakers and contributors from different departments and different levels of seniority. Try to be protective and practically useful for everybody. “Ultimately, good communities are built on the basis of trust.”

10 Lead change

The best way to embrace change is to anticipate it. Do not shy away from it, so avoid improvisation and free yourself from the past. Updating new work systems, balancing organisational structures, reinforcing new action plans... these are just some of the procedures reflecting a transition. To help your organisation thrive in a new environment, analyse new trends in your field or come up with new guidelines for your partners. Change must come from within. Leading change is simply the most accountable way to shape the face of your association.

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Supported by the Union of International Associations (UIA), the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) and the Interel Group, the global public affairs and association management consultancy, Headquarters Magazines serve the needs of international associations organising worldwide congresses.