Should Your Association Consider Adding a Gen Z Membership Tier?

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With a recession, a pandemic, and a tough job market, some associations are looking to target Generation Z with new member offerings. It can work if you prioritize their engagement, one expert says.

We’re starting to get past the point where millennials are at the center of the discussion around younger members. The focus is shifting to Gen Z—but how can you convince people born after 1996 to join your organization? Is a new membership tier worth discussing?

Sarah Sladek, CEO of XYZ University and a generational engagement researcher, says yes—in part because of the current environment, driven by a recession and a pandemic. And Gen Z is feeling it more than most.

That might be why discussion of member tiers is picking up again. Sladek compares this period to the 2008 recession, when associations created low-cost tiers for younger members.

“In many ways, we’re seeing a repeat of that market environment now, as associations are scrambling to figure out ways to appeal to young people,” Sladek says, adding that retirements and career changes among older members might also be a factor.

New Generations, New Habits

However, 2020’s younger members aren’t like those of 2008.

For one thing, everything is virtual at the moment—which could be a virtue for omnivorous content consumption that drives many in Gen Z, but that requires a more open-minded approach to content creation that emphasizes visuals and user-generated content.

“Gen Z actively consumes and creates content in a variety of forms on a variety of platforms. Associations need to do the same,” Sladek says.

Another, more fundamental problem? In a world where people spend heavily on monthly subscription-based services, annual memberships may be going out of style.

“This points to a bigger issue for associations, which likely need to reconsider their dues structures,” she says. “In addition to price being a common barrier, young people are also more accustomed to having the option to pay bills monthly rather than annually, yet few associations offer this option.”

Younger generations may also want more purchase options. For example, think of how streaming services offer an à la carte alternative to cable bundles. Likewise, younger members may want flexibility to pick and choose their services. For associations, the forthcoming generation offers a reset opportunity.

“The time is now to be rethinking dues as well as value,” Sladek says.

Gen Z’s Shifting Values

Sladek says that Gen Z has a unique perspective compared with other generations. She notes that Gen Z-ers tend to be highly informed visual learners with a strong focus on creativity and an eye toward broader horizons.

And there’s a distinct focus on advocacy that hasn’t been as pronounced in older generations. That means younger members want to speak up—and if they aren’t being heard, they might not renew.

“Gen Z has been raised in a world where everyone is treated equally and everyone has a voice,” Sladek says. “When the reality is different, they disengage. They will expect a seat at decision-making tables, and for your association to be intentional about outreach and giving a voice to the marginalized voices.”

The Risk of the “Summer Camp” Tier

These changing habits might lead some associations to build membership tiers with a distinctly younger focus. But Sladek warns against separating the tiers too much, as it may create a declining value proposition over time. It’s a situation she likens to a summer camp.

“The student and young professional chapters tend to be more focused on fun, led by peers, and there is a feeling of inclusion as well as responsibility,” she explains. However, when young members move into regular membership, this inclusive environment can be lost. “As a result, the young members ‘graduate’ into an organization where their participation is overlooked or minimized.”

Instead, Sladek suggests that member tiers be in tandem with the organization’s goals while also taking Gen Z insights into account.

“If an association wants to engage young people, it has to be a real commitment throughout the entire organization,” Sladek says. “The associations which struggle to engage young people tend to be those which don’t prioritize engaging them.”

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Virtual Events: Make Your Sponsor the Star

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It can be challenging for sponsors to extract the same value from virtual events as their real-world equivalents. But a little flexibility can go a long way to change that.

In-person events naturally offer lots of opportunities for bringing attention to sponsors, whether a prominent banner, a sizable floor space, or a spot on a stage. But how can you give sponsors the visibility they paid for in a virtual context?

Simply put, the old strategies don’t work. A recent white paper [registration] from Ricochet and Bruce Rosenthal Associates suggests that the conventional sponsorship model for meetings may need to be thrown out.

“During the pandemic, the traditional benefits offerings repurposed for virtual events are not likely to be of interest. The old way of courting sponsors has likely come to an end for most events and associations,” states the report, titled “The New Sponsorship Model for Virtual Events.”

So what can be done to ensure sponsors get the value they’re after? Perhaps the new play is to position your sponsors as thought leaders, giving them a way to raise their voices, rather than just their logo on a banner. Here are a few ideas on what form sponsor thought leadership could take.

Work sponsors into your virtual event sessions. As the virtual event platform Socio recently noted, many in-person event tactics translate to virtual. Sponsors can help moderate or take part in panels and even be given a speaking slot where they can talk about issues relevant to the sector. Just make sure your sponsors are well versed in how to moderate or present. “Speakers need to be able to run their own tech, switch slides, and roll with the technical glitches as they come up,” Socio’s Corey McCarthy writes. “Training your speakers on strategies to keep the audience engaged wouldn’t hurt either.”

Focus on presenting provocative ideas. Thought leaders present ideas that challenge the status quo or question traditional thinking. And while there’s often a lightning-in-a-bottle aspect to how provocative ideas reach an audience (example: what happens on Twitter basically every day), associations can plant the seeds for thought leadership to flourish, writes the Bizzabo blog. Start by picking hot topics with the potential to drive thought-provoking responses that will raise a sponsor’s profile. Contributed blog posts and other engagement strategies could have a higher chance of catching fire with a perfectly selected topic.

Adapt digital marketing tactics for sponsors. While you may not be able to re-create the impact of an in-person appearance, digital events put different tools at your disposal—whether it’s short interstitials between virtual sessions, email marketing campaigns, or sponsored chat messages during livestreams. With a little bit of workshopping or the right links to the right places, these can be effective messages for trustworthy voices. That said, virtual events differ greatly from physical ones, and that should inform how you roll out these messages. “Treat virtual events as something new. You have the framework of what you are used to doing, but think outside the box and reimagine as you go,” Cvent’s Madison Layman writes.

Consider the value of your event data. While attention can be a major benefit for sponsors during virtual events, a bigger win might be the additional access to data that events offer. Using data from your meeting, sponsors can better target their efforts for future events. “Companies need associations to provide the type of marketing data and prospect access they receive from their own digital marketing efforts,” Ricochet white paper authors Christopher Gloede and Bruce Rosenthal write. The secret isn’t just giving sponsors access to the data, but also helping them interpret it so they can put the right kinds of thought leadership in front of the people they want to reach.

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Virtual and Hybrid Meetings: Bridging the Gap and Driving Connection

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Here’s how Phoenix’s event business has adapted deftly in the pandemic.

While association meeting planners have long-been creating “virtual” or “hybrid” events, these terms might have once seemed jargon-y or even foreign to the casual attendee. But when the coronavirus pandemic changed the landscape of traditional face-to-face events, the general public suddenly understood the notion of both types of events as practical ways to connect, communicate—and keep doing business—even amid the most challenging of circumstances.

Hybrid events (with both live and off-site audiences) and virtual events (those with only online audiences) are not new formats—they’ve been especially popular as a way to connect large constituencies of employees, clients or members spread across the country or globe. But the COVID-19 crisis only expanded these formats’ utility.

“Before COVID, 50 percent of our clients had their events broadcasted live to create a hybrid event—we even brought in keynote presenters remotely,” says Ross Snyder, president of the Phoenix-based production company White Tie Productions. But now, he says, “We’ve seen an increase in 100-percent virtual events over the past few months, and are starting to see a comeback of hybrid events with smaller in-person audiences as cities start to relax restrictions.”

The key to making these events work well for the audience, Snyder adds, is allowing for two-way communication throughout the course of the program—not just blasting out content without the possibility of meaningful engagement and interaction.

“Answering questions from the audience in real time, using polling functionalities to get the audience’s opinion, creating engagement activities that the audience can do while watching, and facilitating small group breakout-style meetings are all great ways to keep your audience connected when they can’t be together,” Snyder says.

Being creative also opens the door for many new possibilities, says Rob Hill, CEO of Merestone, a full-service, Greater Phoenix-based production company that has specialized in streaming events for 15 years. By adding in a cooking class, a virtual happy hour [or] virtual entertainment for excitement and the ‘wow’ factor, he says, you provide attendees with an opportunity to experience the flavor of a destination.

“The challenge of these events will always be trying to recapture the excitement and energy of a live, in-person event,” he says. “To truly engage audiences in this new highly competitive, digital landscape, you need to deliver a top-notch, virtual event experience that offers superior production value to its audience.”

In addition to engagement, maintaining a visually interesting environment is key. To keep things stimulating and eye catching, Snyder suggests presenting from a unique venue or backdrop.

Phoenix remains competitive in the meetings market, thanks to its abundance of unique venues and expert event professionals. “We are fast growing with more and more talent choosing Phoenix as home,” Snyder says. “Most importantly, we are a big city that feels like a small town.”

With a significant spike in confirmed U.S. coronavirus cases since Memorial Day, it seems clear the pandemic is likely to remain a concern for the country, and certainly the live-event industry, into the future. But it’s through creative solutions, like the rise of innovative virtual and hybrid meetings, that association planners can help their memberships remain informed, connected and mobilized.

“The key to getting through this is working together and being adaptable. Everyone is ready to get back to it, but recognizes that the packed meeting spaces we are used to aren’t an option just yet,” Snyder says. “The audiences are itching for content, and even though we can’t all be together in person, groups still need to get their messages out.”

Indeed, the restrictions on gatherings have provided plenty of opportunities and incentives to innovate with virtual or hybrid components. And even—or especially—when innovative ideas come out of a crisis situation, the attendee experience can be overwhelmingly positive. “Although they’d rather be there in person, they appreciate that we just didn’t toss in the towel—and got creative [instead],” Snyder says.

For more information on how to plan your next meeting in Phoenix, contact Visit Phoenix at

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5 Ways to Make Your Virtual Event More Accessible

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Many attendees have cognitive, hearing, or visual disabilities that could keep them from getting the full virtual event experience. Use these strategies to ensure that your association offers an inclusive event that accommodates all participants.

Virtual events may seem to be the ultimate in accessibility: Open your laptop, click on a meeting invite, and you’re there. But the digital divide means that people with disabilities are less likely than other adults to have high confidence in their ability to fluently navigate technology.

About 61 million adults in the United States have a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So it’s likely that a portion of your audience is part of the disabilities community. When you plan your next virtual event, keep these five tactics in mind to ensure that everyone in your audience can fully participate in the experience.

Ask about accommodation needs in registration materials. You won’t be able to provide necessary resources for all participants without understanding their needs. Cornell University’s guidance on event planning recommends including a disability accommodation statement in preregistration materials that invites participants with disabilities to request accommodations.

ASAE’s Meetings Accessibility Policy offers sample messaging so your organization can get started on making its own. Another useful resource, Arkansas Tech University’s Event Access Statement Guide, points out that event hosts should not require participants to provide documentation about their requested accommodations, nor should they be asked about the nature of their disability.

Give clear, step-by-step instructions for joining. How attendees join a videoconference varies by platform, so it’s essential to provide detailed, easy-to-understand instructions. For its 2020 International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers provided a detailed instruction manual with images showing participants where to go, what to click and when, software to download, and how the event homepage should look.

Support attendees who can join by telephone only. Make sure attendees have the option to dial in by phone. Popular videoconferencing software, such as Zoom and Google Hangouts, has dial-in capabilities built in. Not only will this help people with visual impairments, but it will also help those who can’t afford other devices, which could be the result of a disability.

RespectAbility, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, recommends that all hosts and speakers say their names when they begin speaking, describe any charts and other visual elements they reference, and read aloud any attendee comments submitted through a live-chat platform. Moderators should also make sure that anyone who is not speaking is on mute; this clarity is particularly important for audio-only participants.

Avoid flashing effects in presentations. To assist attendees who have light sensitivity—such as those with photosensitive epilepsy—do not use videos, GIFs, or effects with strobing, high-intensity lights. In addition, the World Wide Web Consortium, the main international standards organization for the web, recommends that visual presentations have:

  • clean, readable fonts; the Bureau of Internet Accessibility suggests using Arial, Helvetica, Lucida Sans, Tahoma, or Verdana
  • sufficient color contrast of text and images of text—dark text with a light background, or vice versa
  • text that is not fully justified, with line spacing at least a space-and-a-half within paragraphs, and paragraph spacing at least 1.5 times greater than the line spacing

Provide closed captioning. Closed captions are key for people with hearing loss. Yet in RespectAbility’s survey of nonprofits, only 14 percent reported using video captions.

Videos can be closed captioned for free using tools such as Amara and Subtitle Horse. But don’t stop at prerecorded materials: Live transcription services, also known as communication access real-time translation, can help people with hearing loss better experience a live presentation. RespectAbility recommends companies such as 1CapApp, StreamText, and Transcription Star, which provide live transcription services. Unlike automatic speech recognition, a live captionist can provide context and understand complicated or industry-specific terms.

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Membership Tips for Challenging Times: Keeping Connections

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Members need their association when times are tough, but they may be facing hardships or other impediments to staying connected. Here are three ideas for keeping your members close and engaged with your community.

Associations are based on connections. It’s why people join: to find their people and their place, and to benefit from being with like-minded individuals who share a common purpose and interests. COVID-19 threw a major wrench into togetherness, as we all know. It also magnified how important community—every aspect of it—really is.

Last week, I shared some ideas from a small-staff association executive whose organization was finding creative, low-cost ways to engage and retain members. Continuing the theme of membership tips for challenging times, here are three more membership strategy ideas, with a focus on staying connected with members.

Virtual Connectivity

Recognizing that its members and nonmembers need a sense of community more than ever, the Council on Undergraduate Research opened up its online member community from April 1 to May 31 to nonmembers so they could participate in sharing information, asking questions, and learning from each other during a critical period, especially as campuses were switching to virtual teaching.

“We converted a high percentage of those members from people who were leveraging the community at that time,” said Lindsay Currie, CAE, CUR’s executive officer. “They got behind it and saw the value and were able to connect with the community.” It didn’t cost any money, and it was an easy lift technologically.

Extended Grace Periods

In March, the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research experienced a lag in membership renewal. Instead of dropping members, ISPOR allowed members to remain, even after the 60-day grace period expired. Staff continued to reach out to let members know what they were doing for them in light of COVID-19 “to foster that sense of connectivity and a sense of loyalty,” said Jason Cohen, ISPOR’s senior manager of member services.

Rather than sending out typical renewal notices, Cohen worked with the membership team to tailor their messaging to show that ISPOR was mindful of the times and aware that members were struggling and wondering how they would pay their dues.

“Understanding who your members are and making sure you are tailoring your messages is part of building loyalty to the organization,” he said.

That extra few months of grace period helped stabilize ISPOR’s membership. “It also showed good faith,” Cohen said. While ISPOR offers a fee-waived membership option for those residing in a qualifying country, it is not otherwise waiving membership dues. ISPOR is exploring changes that would address the concerns of members who want to keep their memberships but who have budgetary constraints.

A Pandemic Field Guide

The National Business Officers Association was able to hold its in-person annual meeting in February, before the storm really hit, and dues renewal began July 1, so the organization was lucky financially—this year.

Knowing that challenges will continue next year, NBOA—whose members are business officers in independent schools—decided to invest in member resources, specifically a 150-page pandemic field guide, “Operating Guidance for Independent School Pandemic Management.” NBOA developed the guide with an engineering firm that has done a lot of research on how schools can operate safely amid COVID-19. The guide is free to members, but nonmembers have to pay a fee. It was released on September 1 and has already been downloaded 700 times.

NBOA announced the upcoming release of the field guide in a renewal email at the end of its grace period, August 31, as a powerful and timely reminder of the value of membership.

“During times like these, associations need to show their value,” said Barry Pilson, CAE, NBOA’s vice president of membership and marketing. “This new environment pushes people to do things we should have been doing and never did.”

What is your association doing that is working right now to engage, retain, and recruit members? Share your thoughts in the comments or send me an email.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to clarify that ISPOR offers a dues waiver for members in qualifying countries.

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Member Dues Installment Options Are a Win-Win

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The pandemic has forced associations to reevaluate lots of processes, and that includes how they collect membership dues. With no one in offices to receive paper invoices, online installment payment options look like they are here to stay—which is a good thing.

A lot of associations are discussing the pros and cons of installment payments for membership dues, especially given the current climate of economic uncertainty. I followed up with Melody Jordan-Carr, vice president of membership at the American Trucking Associations—who gave some great advice on Collaborate [ASAE member login required]—to find out why monthly dues installments work at ATA.

ATA is a trade association and so dues amounts vary. It offers monthly dues installments in addition to quarterly and semi-annual options. For smaller company members, who are really focused on their quarterly revenue, having a monthly payment means they don’t have a big expense up front when they join or renew.

“It allows them a little bit of room to breathe,” Jordan-Carr said. It also gives them flexibility to align their payments based on their fiscal year without having to take the hit from a big invoice all at once. “It’s what’s best for them. It gives them options,” she said.

Marketing General Incorporated’s 2020 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report offers some good news on installment options. Twenty-five percent of all respondents in the survey said they use an installment option; among trade associations, 32 percent offer installments. This method works well for automatic renewal programs, said Tony Rossell, senior vice president of MGI and the report’s coauthor.

“We typically see a 10 point higher renewal rate for members who participate in them compared to those who do not,” he said.

Communicating Value

An added benefit of installment dues payments for ATA is that they provide an opportunity to communicate with members more often, Jordan-Carr said.

ATA’s regional sales representatives have been checking in on members more often during these past few stressful months, reinforcing what ATA is doing on a daily basis to support them. They remind members about industry-friendly legislation that ATA is pushing to get passed and other work being done on their behalf, instead of just asking for their dues payments. The sales team is usually focused on recruitment, but this year has concentrated much more on engagement and retention, Jordan-Carr said.

“We’re cultivating the relationship so we can have that chance to talk with them, to engage with them,” she said. “It is all about how we can make it easier for the member.”

Meanwhile, the membership team is paying especially close attention to where members are in their renewal process. If they know a member is usually late with payments, often because their fiscal year is different, the team doesn’t have to “sound the alarm,” she said. But for members who joined recently, who they don’t know as well, Jordan-Carr’s team watches more closely to determine if they need to devote a little more time and energy to them.

Some associations fear members will only join for certain benefits, like an in-person meeting, and then drop off if there is a monthly installment plan. Jordan-Carr said ATA has not experienced that kind of attrition. “If we do see that fall-off,” she said, “it is usually because there’s a tremendous budget issue with that company.”

Do you have membership dues installment strategies that are working well for you, especially in the pandemic? Share your experiences in the comments or send me an email.

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Three Questions to Ask When Planning a Website Redesign

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A good online experience could be the difference between retaining new members and driving them away. Tackling a few important questions before you start your website redesign will help you create a roadmap to success.

An association’s website is a window into the soul of an organization, its people, and its mission. It’s where people go to learn about you—but they’ll leave quickly if your site is poorly designed. An Adobe survey reported that 39 percent of people will stop engaging with a website if images won’t load or it takes too long to load, and 38 percent will stop engaging if it’s unattractive. On top of that, 88 percent are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience.

To get started on your redesign journey, ask these three key questions.

What Is Our Main Goal?

Narrowing down your goals and objectives will help inform your design decisions. Are you redesigning for easier navigation? Is the site too slow and in need of a performance boost? Does the redesign reflect a larger change of direction within the organization?

For the California Speech Language Hearing Association, a website redesign came as a result of a brand refresh. After CSHA approved a new vision statement, mission statement, logo, and tagline, it began redesigning its website. In addition to its improved overall functionality, the new website now tells the story of where CSHA is today and puts more emphasis on its members and their stories.

In addition, its new tagline, “Human Lives. Human Connection,” is prominent, and CSHA’s revamped position as a thought leader in the industry is right on the homepage, with links to a resource library and education opportunities.

What Do Users Need Right Now?

Internet browsing habits and expectations have changed over the years, so what your website offers might not be the kind of web experience people are currently looking for. Nowadays, users want to find new information immediately—and from the palm of their hands.

The Lung Cancer Research Foundation tapped into these needs and redesigned its website for easier navigation and mobile optimization. Now, the site’s homepage contains three categories—patient or caregiver, researcher, and supporter/advocate—so visitors can quickly access the information that is relevant to them.

To keep visitors abreast of what they need to know right now, the organization regularly updates its site with new content, including the latest advances in lung cancer treatment, upcoming events, and updates on foundation programs.

Does Our Team Have What It Needs to Run Our Website?

It’s easy to think of a web redesign as something for members and other visitors, but just as important is how well your website works for internal users who are responsible for managing security risks, handling sensitive data, and creating content that will live on the site.

Sure, Choose Chicago’s website redesign aimed to improve the user experience by offering more immersive content experiences. But the organization also offered more versatility for internal users by moving from a licensed content management system to an open-source solution, which allows developers to modify a piece of software’s source code to suit their needs.

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How to Handle Language Interpretation for Virtual Meetings

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As associations shift their events to all-virtual formats, there are several elements to rethink, including how to manage language interpretation. Some tips for breaking down language barriers in remote meetings.

Like a lot of organizations, the financial association Million Dollar Round Table shifted its meetings and events to all-virtual formats for 2020. That required MDRT to rethink how it was handling language interpretation for its membership, 80 percent of which is located outside the United States. Where before, interpretation might be managed in person and case by case, MDRT now needed a more efficient and dynamic solution.

As in many other situations this year, Zoom proved to be a life-saver. Through the platform, conference and webinar leaders can assign interpreters and give participants the option to access interpretations through their preferred audio channel. (Zoom sets the native language at a lower volume to allow the listener to grasp tone and intonation, and interpreters can see the people for whom they’re interpreting.) In 2020, MDRT has used Zoom this way live for leadership meetings and webinars, according to Eryn Carter, CAE, MDRT’s senior director for global markets.

“Some of our members in different countries who are used to engaging with our association in person were quite skeptical of using virtual platforms, but the feedback has been very positive,” she says. “It’s almost been a 180 for some of the markets we work in, in terms of changing their minds about how effective those platforms can be, even with interpretation.”

Part of that success comes through advance planning. Carter recommends prepping interpreters with information about the event, speaker, and technical issues. Wi-Fi strength can make conversations lag uncomfortably even when everybody is speaking the same language; introducing interpreters can exacerbate the problem.

“I would suggest doing a dry run without the audience, to get the speaker, interpreters, and staff the support you need,” she says. “The risk of doing these things live is that it’s dependent on each person’s connectivity, and obviously that impacts the experience for the audience.”

MDRT delivered multiple interpretations of its recorded sessions for its virtual annual conference in August. For live events, though, it tries to mitigate technical issues by including interpretations for no more than two languages at a time. To that end, many conversations are regionally grouped—Spanish and Portuguese for South America, Mandarin and Cantonese for China.

“Trying to bring all the parties involved and then adding a language just brings complexity to the equation,” Carter says. “And we’re trying to minimize that as much as possible.”

She says using such interpretation functionality will be essential for associations, not just as a practical matter but a cultural one.

“We try not to limit participation in any aspect of our organization, whether it’s a leadership position or attending a meeting, based on someone’s language abilities,” she says. “We feel that we’re responding to the expectations of the broader marketplace in addition to the cultural expectations of the identity of our organization.”

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Can YouTube Help Associations Better Communicate with Members During the Pandemic?

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COVID-19 has made face-to-face communication with members nearly impossible. The American Forest and Paper Association is thinking outside the box and upping its YouTube game to reach members and other stakeholders.

While YouTube has been around for many years, it hasn’t always been high on the list of tools that associations use to communicate. But one group is turning that notion on its head. As the pandemic has stopped most face-to-face interactions, the American Forest and Paper Association is leaning into its YouTube channel to make video a stronger part of its communication strategy.

“AF&PA has maintained a YouTube presence for several years, highlighting the industry, our members, and our advocacy efforts, but we’ve been pushed to use video in new ways more recently,” said Heidi Brock, AF&PA President and CEO. “Since we cannot be with our members or stakeholders in person, I wanted to find a way for people to see and connect with me and the great work of our association virtually. Video helps fill this void.”

To do that, Brock has been recording videos from her home office since the pandemic began. “It doesn’t replace face-to-face engagement, but these videos, I believe, deliver a personal touch, emphasize a key message for a particular point in time, and offer support and reassurance through what, I think, has been a very challenging time for many people,” she said.

The videos have been used showcase both short-term messages and long-term projects, like AF&PA’s Better Practices, Better Planets 2020 sustainability initiative.

“My recent video address reported on the progress we’ve made on our comprehensive set of sustainability goals,” Brock said. “It was a moment to reflect on accomplishments and goals we’ve either met or exceeded, including reducing workplace injuries, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, and improving energy efficiency in manufacturing facilities.”

And while the videos are on YouTube, AF&PA also shares them on other platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. “That’s helping to amplify the reach of each video message, and it’s easier for our members to view and share with followers,” Brock said. “These videos also get shared in our member e-newsletter, Topline. Using video in this format is an excellent way to add variation and creativity to member communications you’re sending by email.”


For example, Brock said a video was shared widely that thanked workers at paper plants this spring, as it “came at a time of unprecedented demand for paper products, including toilet paper, paper towels, and tissue products.”

You Can Do It, Too

For those looking to ramp up their video use, Brock had a few suggestions. “I’ll admit there is a learning curve to video,” Brock said. “You want to plan out what you have to say and make sure you—or whoever is in front of the camera—feel comfortable. That might be something you have to ease into and practice before hitting record.”

Associations should also be mindful of how long their videos are. “Many people are short on time and overwhelmed with content,” Brock said. “We try and keep our videos brief to quickly engage members from whatever device they’re on, wherever they are.”

As the videos can help amplify that personal connection during this time of separation, Brock suggested making sure you convey your organization’s heart and authenticity.

“The key to any video you create is to make sure it conveys a human dimension,” Brock said. “I look at each video as an opportunity to engage, but also to connect with peoples’ feelings and emotions. Use words that resonate with your audience and seek to build connection and understanding. Be as transparent and candid as possible, seek to inspire, and layer in a compelling call-to-action to keep your members and stakeholders engaged and energized by the message. The bottom line is to be authentic.”

How is your association using YouTube or other video during this time? Share in the comments.

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Six Ideas for Adding a Tangible Element to Your Virtual Event

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In the age of online gatherings, a physical gift or box of swag can help your association’s virtual event stand out above the rest.

While virtual events might not be able to dazzle attendees in quite the same way as in-person meetings, there is a tried-and-true tradition that can live on in the era of virtual conferences: conference swag.

A tangible gift or box of swag can help create connection and engagement to the virtual event. Plus,they can also benefit your association by boosting its brand presence if attendees show off their new swag on social media.

Want to offer your own swag to virtual attendees? First, make sure you have their current addresses—your records may have office addresses, but chances are attendees are working from home at the moment. Then, consider these six ideas.

Welcome box. A few days before your event, mail attendees a box of items that will either build anticipation—a note hinting at surprise guests or events—or help them get the most out of the event, such as pens, a notepad, and a schedule. For example, Sprout Social sent a physical event kit to the first 500 people who registered for Sprout Sessions Digital 2020. While there are companies that offer kit-making services, this could be a project that’s handled by your own staff as well.

Daily gifts. If your conference is spread out over several days, provide attendees with daily gifts to keep excitement levels high. Send a package containing separate envelopes to open each day—the envelope’s contents can hint at surprises to come or prompt attendees to check your website and social media pages at a certain time to get exclusive offerings.

Shared experiences. Bring attendees together by tying your tangible goodies to a group activity. For example, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers held a virtual wine tasting in June to build excitement around its annual conference in November. Attendees had the opportunity to order a virtual tasting kit, and on the day of the event, a sommelier guided them through a tasting.

Virtual snack break. In-person attendees are often treated to meals and snack breaks to help them regroup. Replicate these experiences with a swag bag full of snacks and refreshments to enjoy during scheduled downtime. For example, the Association of Consulting Foresters has sent attendees “virtual refreshment breaks,” which included small snacks, candies, coffee, tea, and a postcard with a message from a sponsor. “We wanted a special way to recognize a sponsor who went above and beyond, and a fun surprise for our virtual education series attendees featuring break items they’re used to having at in-person events,” said Lucy Firebaugh, ACF’s communications and membership specialist.

Local flair. Virtual events don’t have a location, but you can tap into the unique culture or flavor of your association’s headquarters location. In preparation for its 2020 National Conference—held virtually in June—ACF worked with a local coffee shop in Williamsburg, Virginia, to send small packaged coffee grounds to registrants along with other goodies.

Customizable items. Give attendees goodies that will let their creativity shine. For its two-day Hearsay Summit, Hearsay Systems sent a Summit Supply Drop Box, which featured a lightboard that attendees used to craft their own messages and share on social media. “Guests could not have been more appreciative and excited to receive these boxes,” wrote Senior Event Manager Becky Brewer.

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