Membership Pro Tip: Throw Members a Lifeline to Stay Engaged

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News, news-feed

Showing members you have their back during turbulent times keeps the community together and is a way to increase renewal, retention, and engagement.

Members of the Professional Convention Management Association have been hard hit because of the pandemic, particularly its supplier members who were affected by the downturn in the hospitality industry.

PCMA has always offered a hardship dues rate for members who have lost their jobs, or are in transition, to help them sustain their membership and remain engaged with the organization. However, when the pandemic hit, they put the offer out to all members.

“Having a hardship dues rate is a great recommendation for other associations versus having members drop off,” says Meredith Rollins, PCMA’s chief community officer and foundation executive director. “Then you may never get them back.”

How Does It Work?

PCMA included some soft messaging during its regular renewal dues campaign offering a $50 hardship dues rate, which is roughly 15 percent of its regular dues, or $50 to renew. Rollins says it was important to put the messaging in the regular cadence of its communications so members could say, “Hey, that’s me. Am I eligible?” Since March 2020, PCMA has had 712—10 percent of its total members—signed up for the reduced rate.

Why Is It Effective?

It is effective for associations because it keeps members. “It’s a lot more successful for an association to retain a member than to go out and get a new member,” Rollins says. “This was a way to allow them to keep their benefits and keep connected to the community for future job opportunities,” she says.

PCMA, like many associations, put out research findings and content daily to keep members updated about COVID-19 protocols. “It was an important member benefit for them to be able to stay connected to their community, even when they are without a job,” she says.

What’s the Benefit?

For members, the overall benefit is that it allows them to stay engaged with the association, especially if their membership was employer-paid, they’re out of a job, and they suddenly have to pay out-of-pocket. The reduced rate is more manageable.

Rollins says her team has received hundreds of emails from members who took part in the hardship dues offer thanking them for allowing them to stay connected when it seemed like their whole world was falling apart. “I think it’s just about keeping your community intact and not losing touch with people just because they’re going through a job change,” Rollins says.

Do you have a membership pro tip? Please share in the comments or send me an email.

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How to Respond if Attendees Report They Have COVID-19 After Your Meeting

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Having a plan in place that allows attendees to inform your association of a coronavirus infection after your meeting is the first step in an action plan to deal with this potential issue. Then, organizations need to report to other attendees and possibly public health officials.

As more meetings return to fully in-person of hybrid events with in-person components, there is the chance that someone will test positive for COVID-19 following your meeting.

Julie Ann Schmidt, CMM, CMP, a certified COVID compliance officer and founder and CEO of Lithium Logistics Group, said having a plan to deal with this is important, and that plan begins by helping attendees understand who to report this information to.

“Organizations should have a process in place so that people can report back to them,” Schmidt said. “That is the first step, so that you do find out.”

Organizations can communicate what attendees should do if they test positive following a meeting using the COVID-19 section on the conference website or the conference app. If print materials are available onsite, info can appear there as well.

Generally, the meeting planner is the person that is put in charge of collecting that information. If someone informs an organization they’ve tested positive within two weeks of the meeting, other attendees must be informed. How many attendees are informed will depend on how well the meeting was set up for contact tracing.

“If your contact tracing is, we’ve got a reg list and we know who checked in, then that really means you have to inform everybody that attended your conference,” Schmidt said.

However, some meetings use contact-tracing technology in their badges that tells when a person came within six feet of other attendees and for how long. Typically, this badge technology anonymizes name information, so people are identified by a code (decodable by a key administrator, such as the meeting planner). Organizations that use systems like this can inform fewer people.

“If you’ve got that level of detail, you’re able to go into your system, plug in the code for the person who told you they tested positive, and it will kick out a list of who they were in close contact with,” Schmidt said. “Then, you only have to inform those people on that list.”

The downside of having to tell everyone, as opposed to a more targeted approach, is that you might unnecessarily worry some attendees. “Odds are, there are some people who didn’t ever interact with that person and weren’t exposed, but they don’t know for sure,” Schmidt said. “So, they have to potentially worry or go get themselves tested.”

When organizations do inform attendees they were exposed, limit the information to facts rather than advice. “I always advise my clients, if someone asks, ‘Should I get tested?’ you don’t answer that question,” Schmidt said. “I don’t think an organization should be giving medical advice. That’s between the person and their doctor. They should consult with their doctor on what the next course of action should be.”

The incubation period for COVID-19 is about 14 days, so infections after that time would likely not be related to your meeting.

Multiple Positives

If several attendees at your event later report that they became sick, you probably have an obligation to inform local health authorities, Schmidt said.

“The rules keep changing, and what I would do if it were happening to me, is I would go and double check the rules,” Schmidt said. “But my understanding is that if you’ve got three or more cases, it’s recommended that you inform the state health department. That is where you as the planner have a potential reporting requirement.”

Since rules vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, she said it’s key to make sure you understand the requirements for the locale where your meeting was held and follow them.

With the rollout of the vaccine, Schmidt said attitudes have become less negative about having a case or two at an event. However, there could still be bad publicity from a number of cases.

“Last fall, everything was—oh it’s a super spreader event; you’d see that in the news all the time,” Schmidt said. “I feel like people don’t talk about things in that same way anymore, like the media has moved on. That being said, if you have a conference that’s 100 people and 50 people test positive, that might be newsworthy.”

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Let’s Rethink the Virtual Exhibit Hall

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News, news-feed

Virtual meetings don’t feel the same as their in-person equivalents, especially in the exhibit hall. But that may reflect an opportunity to reshape the event experience for vendors and exhibitors entirely.

With the conversion of in-person events into virtual ones over the past year, one big challenge that event planners face is translating the expo hall experience to a virtual environment.

Matthew Homann, founder and CEO of Filament LLC, considered these issues last December with a group of vendors in a hackathon-style event, the Vendor Value Workshop, which led to a manifesto that alerted event planners and exhibitors to vendors’ concerns. In short: Attempting to replicate in-person exhibit halls leads to disengaged attendees and vendors with little ROI.

One problem? The lack of serendipity. “What we weren’t able to replicate is the reason why so many people spend time in exhibit halls—the serendipitous connections,” he says.

A way to think about this is in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a psychological framework that can be applied to the attendee experience, as a 2016 report highlighted. In a traditional event environment, attendees are often guided directly or indirectly through a convention center as they look for basic things, such as snacks, and more nuanced offerings, such as human connection.

Along the way, attendees might run into a vendor that draws their eye and get pulled in, creating the type of engagement that leads to growth for all parties. But virtual exhibit halls can’t replicate this growth-centric serendipity easily.

“None of those things happen particularly well virtually, and yet we’ve tried to build these halls to mimic what is fundamentally the worst part of the exhibit hall for everyone—hearing about products and getting picked on about something you might not want,” Homann says.

Shifting the Value Equation

So how do we solve this? Homann suggests that the value equation needs to be recalibrated for the virtual experience: “What if instead, you start to think about what can we do virtually that we can’t possibly imagine doing in person?”

A few ways this could come to life, based on findings from the Vendor Value Workshop:

Do more with data. In real-world experiences, vendors get an opportunity for face time with likely buyers but not a lot of access to data beyond an attendee’s email address. In virtual environments, there should be more of a focus on data-sharing.

Improve discoverability. In a physical meetings environment, it’s expected that a vendor can exist in only one place. In a virtual environment, that’s not a limitation, so vendors can show up in multiple places and categories based on attendee needs. “Instead of having to wander through and sift through hundreds of vendors that may or may not solve my problem, they’re all concentrated in one quote-unquote virtual community area,” Homann says.

Bake vendors into educational events. The real secret to making virtual exhibit halls work might be to remove the distinction between educational and expo-hall events entirely. “This bifurcation of vendor hall and conference sessions—that line can be blurred dramatically in a way that is hard to do in person,” he says. Homann recommends shortening the presentations but building in “commercials” between them—something that’s happening at many virtual events already. This also creates opportunities for interactive elements such as brainstorms, fostering some of the serendipity that might have been lost in other settings.

Stage a virtual “gift shop.” Homann says one of the most innovative ideas that came up during the session was the equivalent of an “exit through the gift shop,” an element at museums or theme parks where a commercial opportunity is presented as a part of the journey. “You don’t have to wander through this entire exhibit hall, but you might find a way that it makes sense to wander through a small part of it because these are all the vendors who purport to solve the problem that you have,” he says.

Thinking Beyond Virtual Once Again

Homann suggests that when we move back toward in-person events, there may be a push to revert to traditional formats—but that in many ways, the rise of virtual events has brought the cat out of the bag, which might make selling the value of in-person events harder than it has been in the past.

“What I hope happens is that we use this opportunity, really for the first time in 50 years, to reimagine and rethink what conferences should be,” he says.

That might require a more in-depth rethinking of events—and not just in the expo hall.

“Where I think there’s a real opportunity, especially as we have this permission to reimagine what these events might look like, is to really be creative in not only how we’re delivering information, but how we’re building engagement, exploring format, trying new things,” he says.


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Three Ways Emotional Intelligence Can Help Leaders Lead

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The pandemic has changed how association groups interact, which means leaders need to adjust as well. Two AMC professionals explain why emotional intelligence has become such a critical leadership skill.

It’s no surprise that emotional intelligence is discussed so much lately. So many changes in the workplace—and the culture at large—have put a new focus on how we do and don’t understand each other. Zoom facilitates remote connections but makes it harder to read people. Email and social media make sharing easier but more difficult to tease out tone and intent. Our personalities express themselves in new ways, which presents a new challenge for leaders.

Jodi Fisher, founder and CEO of Impact Association Management, has been thinking about these issues since before the pandemic. Along with the AMC’s COO, Kirsten Reader, she’ll present at the ASAE Annual Meeting on August 18 at 11 a.m. Their session, “Enhancing Your Organization’s Leadership With Emotional Intelligence” is based on their experience working with association boards and other volunteer groups as well as within the AMC’s own staff. In advance of the session, they shared three suggestions for how to approach a conversation informed by emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence assessments don’t box people into types. They help explain why they respond the way they do.

Take time to understand the personalities within a group. It’s worth the effort, Fisher and Reader say, to develop personality profiles of staff or volunteer groups. Myers-Briggs assessments probably are the best-known tools, but they’ve used DiSC Profiles to get a sense of individual work styles. “That was helpful as a way for our team members to understand how they’re going to react in a particular situation,” Reader says. “They also saw how a particular board president might communicate in a difficult conversation.”

Such assessments aren’t meant to box people into rigid personality types. Rather, they help explain why others might respond the way they do, which helps reduce conflict. A fellow board member who’s slow to respond to email, for instance, isn’t being neglectful, just taking more time to process information.

Know that emotional intelligence training helps boards help themselves. If a board member is overstepping their bounds—getting deep into operational matters, for instance—feedback will be better received if it comes from the board chair rather than a staff leader, Fisher says. And it’s easier for that conversation to happen if the board has a grasp of the personality types involved.

“You might know that the person is very data-driven and likes getting into the weeds, knowing all the details of when a newsletter goes out, what platform is used—the nitty-gritty stuff a board member shouldn’t be concerned with,” she says. “Using emotional intelligence, you can express some empathy and say you know why they’re this way, but explain that it makes the board extremely inefficient. Asking the board president to have that difficult conversation, with some pointers on what they should be talking about and how they should be talking about it—that seems to be the best recipe for success.”

Recognize how remote work changes the dynamic. People who are used to close interpersonal interaction can be thrown by how get-it-done types might act if all we know is how they conduct themselves over email or Zoom. Emotional intelligence, Fisher says, can help clarify that a person’s intense focus—and terse emails—shouldn’t automatically be interpreted as a cold shoulder.

“At the beginning of COVID, when we knew we were going remote and using Slack and email more, we stressed that there’s going to be less of that personal touch,” Fisher says. “People were more comfortable saying, ‘This is the way I am, I’m just trying to get through work.’ Others could see that and recognize, ‘That’s just her style.’ It really helped those interpersonal relationships.”

Fisher and Reader stress that conversations around emotional intelligence should be ongoing—a one-off education session won’t cut it. It takes time for leaders to understand their colleagues, but it’s worth the investment. “Don’t feel that it all has to be done right away,” Fisher says. “But keep on making sure that you’re progressing.”

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Why a Positive Attitude and Strong Partnerships Are The Key To Meeting Success

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Orlando-based Amateur Athletic Union President Jennings “Rusty” Buchanan thinks outside the box to organize mega-events for young athletes and their families.

Our third “Planner of Productivity” is Jennings “Rusty” Buchanan, president of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). Established in 1888, AAU once prepared athletes for Olympic competition—including Buchanan, a former Olympic hopeful in track and field. Today, the organization is more grassroots, with regional chapters promoting sports participation for kids through approximately 45 sports programs in 55 districts around the country, as well as annual national mega-events. When this year’s pandemic protocols required thinking differently about the organization’s flagship Junior National Volleyball Championship, Buchanan’s can-do attitude, established partnerships, and a world-class destination ensured a top-notch experience for attendees—without de-emphasizing the importance of safety measures.

VO: As one of the largest amateur sports organizations in the world, AAU runs mega-events that attract thousands of sports teams, families and spectators. How do you capture and keep the attention of so many different audiences and age levels?

RB: We prioritize opportunities that are good for the kids, good for the parents and good for the economy of Orlando and the state of Florida. Parents who work 50 weeks out of the year will gladly take a two-week break to bring their sons or daughters to participate in an organized activity that’s well-run and well-managed. If you’re going to take your kid to an event, why not see all that Orlando has to offer? We partner with Disney, and we run a large number of our events in cooperation. Putting on a quality event in the number one tourist destination in the world is simply a win for Orlando, the AAU and the families that we represent.

The Orlando experience is unique and one that people will remember for all of their lives. We’re excited that most of our kids have an opportunity to experience it at some point during their playing careers with us.

VO: How do you define innovation and how do you infuse it into the events that you plan?

RB: Our last two years have been nothing but innovation due to pandemic guidelines. Thankfully, we have strong partners who have helped us navigate the situation, keeping in mind that our mission is to create a good experience for kids and maintain a comfort level of parents.

We have a very good relationship with the team at Visit Orlando and they work hand-in-hand with the Orange County Convention Center staff. What we have been able to do this summer literally could not have happened in any other place in the country. Orlando just has such a nice marriage of partners and opportunities, with everybody stepping up to make quality events happen.

VO: The AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships is AAU’s largest—and, at 12 days, longest—event. What key changes did you make to the lineup this year, and how well did they pay off?

RB: This summer was a little different because of COVID-19. Like many sports organizing bodies, we faced several challenges. How do you address a safe return to sport? Are the teams going to travel? Are the kids going to come? Can we keep everybody safe? It was a bit of a roll of the dice. We made some very difficult decisions. For example, we moved the entire event to the Orange County Convention Center. We took a little bit of a gamble, hoping that the teams would show up. And they did—in indescribable fashion. This year, we had 3,445 teams, 56,000 participants, and 135,000 spectators. And the Convention Center estimated that the one event generated over $173 million in economic impact.

VO: The past year has forced planners to be more creative to deliver a seamless experience. What have you learned this year that you want to bring to future events?

RB: The phrase I’ve repeated over and over to our staff, volunteers and organizers has been: I don’t want 10 people to tell me why I can’t do something; I want one person to tell me how I can. Let’s think differently. Instead of coming up with all the reasons that we can’t, let’s find a way that we can. And we’ve been able to do that. We found a collaborative way to make things happen. It was all new, out-of-the-box thinking because we had to work so closely with our health departments and medical officials to ensure that we were as safe as possible while offering kids an opportunity to compete.

We have learned a lot in the past year about how to ensure that the safety of our participants is first and foremost. The second part is the experience. How can we separate ourselves from event operators that are simply trying to throw an event together? The takeaways are: 1. Offer your customer a sense of, “We are consistent, we’re dedicated, and we want a good customer experience.” And, 2. The athlete comes first.

VO: What advice would you give to peers about managing attendees’ expectations—and continuously surprising and delighting them?

RB: For me, it’s about making sure that we focus on the experience for the kids and the consistency of our platform. The rest will come—the parents will be wowed, thousands of teams will attend and we’ll fill the hotels. Everyone will have a wonderful experience since we’re in Orlando. As long as we stay true to our mission, we can be successful.

This article has been provided by Visit Orlando.

When it comes to productivity, innovation and unique attendee experience, Orlando tops the list. With fantastical backdrops you won’t find anywhere else, only Orlando can offer incredible once-in-a-lifetime experiences that your attendees will be talking about for years to come. Tapping into the heritage of creative thinking from its first-rate theme parks, Orlando offers a wide range of creative resources to help transform your meeting or event. From unique team building activities, exclusive dine-around options to immersive private events inside its world-renowned theme parks complete with a fire-breathing dragon, you are sure to wow your group in Orlando. Discover the many resources available to you to help make your next meeting or event unforgettable at


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Technology Pro Tip: Save Time By Automating Your Emails

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Rather than reinventing the wheel every time you send a message to a member, consider using a text-expansion tool that can save you time with the help of a template.

Find that you’re repeating yourself in your inbox a lot? Or perhaps you always start your letters the same way?

If so, why are you writing out the same basic message, or copying and pasting what you previously wrote, over and over? It can be frustrating—and a waste of time that’s taking away from more pressing matters and putting you at risk for lizard brain.

With that in mind, using a text-expansion tool that can cull common phrases might just be a lifesaver.

What’s the Strategy?

A number of tech tools exist that can help to solve this problem, both in the form of desktop applications and web browser extensions.

These tools—including the Mac-based Rocket Typist, the browser-based Briskine, and the cross-platform TextExpander—help to cut down on the amount of typing. They pull up a predefined template after you type in a short command that the tool recognizes—say “note” followed by the tab key.

The template can contain exact formatting and images. These templates can be modified or tweaked to add individual names and time frames, so you can maximize the personal touch even as you minimize the time it takes you to get there.

After downloading these tools (which vary in price from free to $10 per month), you can set up a template, then use the application to autofill a message, whether in an email, a Word document, or something else. You could even use it to build your social media posts.

Why Is It Effective?

You may be aware of the concept of automation, which is believed to have benefits at the organizational level. As an example, take marketing automation, which holds much potential for member engagement.

But automation can offer benefits at a personal level as well, and using a type-filling tool can speed up what’s usually a repetitive manual process, allowing you to complete a common task in less time. Consider it a life hack.

What’s the Potential?

According to one study by the technology company Adobe, the average person spends 209 minutes per workday checking email. Text expander tools, which simplify the process of building individual emails, can help cut down on that time by taking repetitive tasks and minimizing their complexity.

And with email often a source of stress even after the workday is over, any tactic to rein it in can benefit stressed professionals.

There are also use cases for such tools outside of the inbox—for example, when updating website content. It’s a weapon against empty-calorie busywork.

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We’re All a Little Introverted Now—So Plan Your Meetings Accordingly

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After more than a year of virtual meetings, it’s going to be a little tough for people to readjust to in-person events—even those who identify as extroverts. Read on for some planning tips that can make the transition easier.

The in-person meeting has traditionally been seen as the realm of the extrovert. Between the happy hours, the hobnobbing on the expo hall floor, and the spontaneous gatherings, it seems designed to let extroverts thrive.

But after a year of lockdown in which Zoom happy hours were often pushed aside, expo halls were replaced with web-based equivalents, and on-the-fly connections were more likely to take place on social media than a private chat, the equation has changed sharply in favor of the introvert.

Perhaps a turn toward introversion is as it should be. Last year, the Myers-Briggs Company—the firm famed for its personality tests—pointed out that about 57 percent of those surveyed preferred introversion. And after all those Zoom calls, even extroverts may feel a little stressed about returning to in-person meetings—reentry anxiety is real.

So how can associations make their meetings a little more introvert-friendly? A few ideas:

Create a spot to take a break. In normal times, associations often created meeting areas for different kinds of attendees—first-timers might get a space, or maybe an area would be set aside for vendors to nail down deals with potential clients. But Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs may have shifted during the pandemic for attendees, who likely want a spot to relax and potentially (based on local ordinances) take off their mask. The American Association of Feline Practitioners is offering just that to its attendees. “We wanted to make sure that we accommodated everybody’s comfort level,” AAFP CEO Heather O’Steen, CAE, recently told Associations Now.

Use cringe-free icebreakers. Traditional icebreakers aren’t exactly introvert-friendly. But fear not, there are plenty of ideas for making meet-and-greets accessible to introverts, including building icebreakers around activities such as trivia games. The website Team Bonding makes the case that games can be a great choice for getting introverts on board because of how they demand a common focus. Just be careful not to force it. “With their lower threshold for stimulation, some of your introverts will not enjoy rowdy, chaotic activities,” the website states. “To manage this, balance your program and build up to games that are more exuberant. Don’t force this kind of energy on a ‘cold’ room.”

Make name badges multitask. They’re not just there to display your name. Speaking at an IMEX America meeting in 2018, Sharon Fisher of the experiential meeting design firm Play with a Purpose suggested making name badges more functional, including offering notes about what a person likes to do, as well as what they’re looking for at an event. “It’s a very easy way to make a connection,” Fisher said, according to MeetingsNet. “If two people with ‘dog-lover’ buttons meet, there’s an instant connection and conversation topic.”

Slow down. One of the reasons introverts excelled during the pandemic is the slower pace of a remote schedule. “They have more time to reflect, and then when they offer something, it’s meaningful,” career coach Beth Buelow recently told the BBC. This is a point that could translate to your event, by creating structures that specifically allow attendees to slow down and pace themselves so they can parse information over longer periods of time.

Rethink meeting formats. Of course, the hard part for planners is figuring out what event formats make sense when trying to balance structure with flexibility. Choosing a format that is not a match for introverts’ style, for example, could make meetings tougher than they need to be. But one simple way to make things easier is to develop a schedule with more exploratory time or recharge periods. “If we were more willing to go to a conference feeling entitled to take the recharge breaks we need, the entire experience would be more comfortable,” author Susan Cain noted in an interview with Harvard Business Review in 2015.


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A Realistic—and Achievable—Approach to Revamping Membership Levels

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How do you take a time-consuming process like updating membership models and make it manageable and simpler to accomplish? One association found a way to streamline the process and get it done.

It’s no secret that updating membership level structures is a complicated process with lots of moving parts. The American Library Association’s membership team came up with a way to make it more manageable—and achievable. They decided to take a phased approach.

Right now, ALA has 11 membership types which are “very complex and very confusing,” said Melissa Walling, CAE, ALA’s director of member relations and services. “Now is really the time to make membership as easy as possible for people to get in the door and start enjoying membership,” she said.

Lots of companies are offering membership models now—e.g., Netflix, Amazon, Walmart—and they are very easy to understand, with one or two levels. “You clearly know what you get, when you’re going to get it, and you can just pay and join,” she said. “People look at membership differently now, so we need to be nimble.”

In the first phase of the work, Walling’s team is focused on simplifying and consolidating categories. They are collapsing ALA’s 11 membership categories down to five and renaming some to make sure they are correct and have up-to-date terminology.

In the second phase, they will look at basic and enhanced membership models where people can upgrade their membership each year by bundling some additional membership benefits. “We felt like we weren’t ready to tackle that all at once, so we decided on a phased approach,” she said. They are hoping to roll out the first phase early next year.

Redefining Membership Types

The current dues structure is based on who members are and where they work to define the membership type. For example, non-degree holding librarians historically were referred to as “library support staff” and that is no longer the correct terminology, she said. In the updated membership models, there will be a professional membership category, one for library directors and master’s degree holders, and a category for all other library workers and international members.

The membership team is also focused on engaging the library community, whether someone is a formal volunteer at a library or someone who just generally likes libraries and their mission. Those kinds of disparate membership types will be rolled into one category: advocate. Walling said the term “advocate” reflects those members’ commitment to advocating for ALA’s mission even though they are not library professionals.

Communicate Member Value

For the beginning stages of the work on the first phase, they worked with a consulting firm to recommend some of the models along with financial modeling. A couple of the memberships will increase in price, and they will have to account for some loss, but also some gain in membership. They are in the process of determining what affordability looks like for members and are looking at other library associations and some of their state chapters to see how others are pricing.

Streamlining membership levels “helps us better explain and communicate the value of membership,” Walling said. And that makes it easier and quicker for members to join.

The phased approach also adds a layer of realism to the process, and Walling credits ALA’s membership committee for understanding that it does need to be an iterative process for something as complex as updating membership types—it doesn’t have to be everything all at once.

“We acknowledged where we want to be, but recognized we couldn’t get there in one year,” she said. “But we can’t afford to keep waiting.”

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Top Pandemic-Inspired Meeting Trends to Maintain

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These best practices should remain as we return to in-person events.

As a sector defined by mass gatherings, handshakes and cross-country travel, the meetings industry was one of the first to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and one of the last to rebound. After spending the last year and a half in front of our screens—business on the top, party on the bottom—the shutdown validated that what we do is important and truly matters in the lives of our attendees. Now that we’re rebuilding our wardrobes and clamoring to return to in-person events, there are a few new, important practices that we should consider keeping around.

Don’t overlook the power of hybrid meetings. Though virtual meetings aren’t for everyone, the option to connect digitally makes meetings more accessible to a wider audience. Whether attendees who choose virtual over in-person options are those who can’t get time off from work, don’t have the budget to travel or are simply more introverted and prefer the education to the networking, these are all people who were being left out in the past. Meeting professionals are now skilled in developing virtual events, so consider keeping a hybrid option to grow registration and engagement. Look for destinations with Digital Event Specialists (DES) or convention centers with in-house AV partners to make this process easy.

Prioritize health and safety measures. Everyone from every industry can agree that health and safety must remain at the forefront as we enter the post-COVID world. We can expect to continue to have hand sanitizer readily available and see sanitization signage. There will also be an onus on attendees to ensure they mask up if they’re not feeling well. Planners can also offer the option to move registration to virtual-only as noted in the paragraph above.

Focus on digital-first planning. Digital planning tools will also continue to grow in importance. Options include apps, mobile-responsive sites, digital check-ins and agendas that keep all needed information at the tip of attendees’ fingertips so that they can keep those fingertips to themselves.

The last year and a half have been tough, no doubt about it. Now it’s time to look forward and grow from our experiences using what we’ve learned. Destinations and planners can work together to bring the industry back stronger than ever.

Columbus, the 14th largest city in the United States as well as the fastest-growing city in the Midwest, is a smart and open community with a dynamic convention package that can fit the needs of any group. Located within a one-day drive or one-hour flight from more than half of the U.S. population, Columbus is easily accessible for all. Learn more about Columbus at



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Good Reads You Might Have Missed: Making the Most of Your Volunteers

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News, news-feed

A good volunteer program should benefit both your organization and the people offering a helping hand. Here are a few tips for doing just that from our archives.

The strength of an association’s volunteer program can help an organization, but not all volunteering is created equal. For one thing, staff need to consider more than the benefits they reap from a program—volunteering has to be worth the volunteers’ time too.

And not effectively organizing your volunteers’ resources can be a missed opportunity as well.

With that in mind, here is some guidance from the Associations Now and archives to help you optimize your volunteers:

Five Ways to Boost Your Microvolunteering Resources. This 2020 roundup of microvolunteering tactics gives concrete ways to make the most of your resources. For example, microvolunteering might be particularly appealing to members when they’re stuck in limbo—say, while traveling.

Create a More Engaging Volunteer System. This piece offers highlights from the ASAE Research Foundation’s studies on mutually beneficial volunteer strategies, which culminated in the 2017 report ‌Mutually Beneficial Volunteerism: Opportunities for Enhancing Association Volunteer Management Systems.

Use Virtual Volunteers to Grow Organizational Impact. Allison Reznick, PMP, discusses the benefits and challenges of volunteer management in a virtual setting. “Before committee members can participate virtually, the organization needs to take steps to set them up for success,” she writes. “Parameters, culture, and technology all need to be evaluated and in place before an assignment begins.”

Seven Ways to Engage Remote Volunteers. Wesley Carr of the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society breaks down tips for attracting volunteers online. One important point he makes is that when analyzing the value of a program, associations must consider what volunteers gain from the experience, not just how the organization benefits: “It’s good for us, but what does that really do for them?”

‌Four Ways to Get Volunteers to Engage Members. This piece highlights the work of Women Business Leaders of the U.S. Health Care Industry Foundation, a small-staff association that built volunteer interest with a simple, focused membership committee. “The membership committee helped us provide connections for new members within a month of their join date and contributed to doubling our dues-paying membership in four years,” says Staci GoldbergBelle, the association’s membership and development director.

How to Make the Most of Your Volunteers, No Matter What. Timed to National Volunteer Week earlier this year, this piece from the American Society of Interior Designers’ Jessica Irizarry reminds readers that all volunteers have value, even if some contribute more than others. “Instead of turning a blind eye, let underperformers know their contributions are crucial to the association’s success and ask what support or training they need to better engage,” Irizarry writes.


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