Jun 12

4 Key Insights for Membership Associations from AuSAE’s #ACE18

The team at FineHaus recently had the pleasure of attending the Australasian Society for Association Executives’ ACE 2018 Conference at the Adelaide Convention Centre, aptly themed “Ignite Your Thinking“.  As we have come to expect from AuSAE, the conference was packed with insights for associations from a broad range of speakers.

Here are four key insights that really resonated with us – and the implications for your membership association:

1. Artificial Intelligence isn’t ready to take over the world (yet)

Keynote speaker, Matthew Michalewicz from Complexica, took us on a fabulous (and happily quite jargon-free) journey though the world of artificial intelligence (AI). He explained that the goal of AI is to mimic or recreate natural processes. While significant strides have been made in robotics, vision systems and national language processing, scientists need to unlock the secrets of the brain before AI can take over the world!  He predicts this will not be achieved in our generation or even our children’s generation.

However, AI is solving big problems for business, using big data to predict outcomes with greater accuracy and many times faster than mere mortals.

Innovation improves the way something is done. Disruption makes the way something is done obsolete.

He challenged associations to consider how science, data and technology could be used to enable improved interaction between you and your members and allow you to provide better services.

Given associations are notoriously bad at managing their own data (think about the state of your non-member data), let alone leveraging external data on members, this is something we need to get onto now!

Implications for associations:

  • Clean up your current member and non-member data!
  • Gather additional, external data and conduct research to extend the insight you have about your members.
  • Implement tools that will help you use data to improve service delivery, engagement and retention of members.  For example, interrogate your data to understand how members are using your services, predict ‘at risk’ members and develop strategies to improve their engagement – before sending out a renewal notice!

2. Meeting expectations for personalised, on-demand service

Matthew also discussed the fact that we are living in a world where we are coming to expect personalised, on-demand delivery of what we want. Just think about how we use Netflix compared to how we watch television as an example of this in action.

For associations, this means members increasingly expect that things will be designed specifically to match their individual preferences and needs – and delivered exactly when they want it.

The challenge for associations is how to re-design or enhance service delivery and communications to accommodate this. Many associations have started down this path by recording their events and make them available on-demand to members as podcasts or videos, or changing their quarterly newsletter to a regular blog posts.

But this is just scratching the surface of what could be done!

Implications for associations:

  • Brainstorm with your team on how you could make your services available at any time and from anywhere – i.e. online, on-demand, 24 x 7 services
  • How could you collect insight on your members’ preferences for communication and service delivery?
  • How can you change your communications to make them more frequent/more accessible?
  • How could you better personalise (or segment) your service offering to better meet specific member (or segment) preferences or needs?

3. The importance of personal connection

Dr Fiona Kerr discussed the science of interpersonal connection and reminded us of the fundamental importance and power of personal connection for human beings. She explained that personal connection was built and strengthened:

  • when people interacted directly, face-to-face
  • when people felt respected
  • through the power of storytelling to engage and excite people
  • by working together
  • where there was an environment of trust.

This is important stuff for associations, who can play a powerful role in creating and strengthening interpersonal connections among their members.  Dr Kerr also reminded us of the proven power of storytelling to engage and excite others:

Powerful storytellers light up the brain of their audience and change each other’s physiology. Engaging leaders tell stories and make eye contact.

Implications for associations:

  • It remains critical for associations to include regular opportunities for members to connect and engage face-to-face. Think about how you could further facilitate personal connections between members.
  • Develop strategies to connect with your new members face-to-face in order to quickly build a personal connection with your association.
  • Run ‘first-timers’ and ‘delegate-matching’ events to help build personal connections at conferences.
  • Consider how you could develop your association’s story-telling ability.
  • Develop the communication skills of your association’s leaders so they can clearly and passionately articulate the ‘why’ of your association.
  • Ensure your association leaders, board and state chapters/ stakeholders meet face-to-face regularly, especially if there are challenges or issues to solve.
  • Have a welcoming lunchroom at work to strengthen interpersonal connections and staff productivity.

4. Engaging the next generation of members

The panel session “Your associations future is already here… are you ready?” moderated by Claire Madden, Director at Hello Clarity!, featured some fascinating insights in terms of engaging the next generation of members.

Panel member, Brenda Mainland from Survey Matters, shared some of the key findings of their recent research into Millennial’s attitudes to membership associations:

Only 36% of Millennials feel any obligation or responsibility to join a professional membership association. The biggest barrier to joining associations for Millennials is lack of awareness.

  • 39% said it had never occurred to them to join;
  • 36% said that they had not been invited to join;
  • 28% said they didn’t know enough about the profession
  • 23% said they did not know who the association was for their profession.

To cap off the challenge of engaging with this generation, only 35% think associations use social media effectively.

Claire explained that this generation entered the workforce with high expectations about having a job they enjoy and wanting to make a difference at work – and put this in the context of Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs. Unlike previous generations, who worked to meet their survival and security needs, Millennials’ expect work to also meet their social and self-actualisation needs. They want:

  • a purpose-driven career – to connect with why their employer is in business
  • to be recognised for their contribution and rewarded for their loyalty
  • the opportunity to collaborate and network
  • the freedom to escalate ideas and challenge thinking
  • to feel like they have been heard and respected.

She also said that they had a longing for community and depth of relationship that is not always met online, which aligned nicely with Dr Kerr’s message about the importance of connection.

Implications for associations:

  • Associations are well positioned to attract younger members and employees – if they can articulate their ‘why’ or purpose in a meaningful way.
  • Consider how your association enables and encourages contribution by younger members and remove barriers to participation e.g. do you require membership for 10 years before joining a committee?
  • Find young leaders to serve as story tellers for your association, using their connections and networks to engage others.
  • Develop strategies to reach younger members. Include a personal invitation to join and clearly articulate how they can make a difference by joining and what is in it for them.
  • Consider how to help them make personal connections with other members through mentoring programs,  meet-ups, collaboration platforms, introductions to peers – be a broker for introductions (swipe right to meet other members!).

Turning insight into action

These are just some of the valuable take-aways that we picked up from attending the #ACE18 Conference. The real challenge is to now turn the insights gained into tangible action at your association.  If you need expert advice or assistance to make this happen, get in touch – we’d love to help.