Provide Direct Value to Members—Not Just to Your Industry

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

Does your organization exist to serve its members, or to serve the industry at large? Association consultant Ed Rigsbee considers the question from both sides.

Associations are tasked with two roles as the face of a given industry. First, they’re expected to serve their members, who pay annual dues to support their organizations. But additionally, they act as the primary voice of the industry, setting regulations and creating public messaging that aims to raise all boats.

Which role takes precedence, and how do you strike a balance? Ed Rigsbee, principal of Rigsbee Research and author of The ROI of Membership, said that this discussion depends on the shape of the organization and the industry that surrounds it.

“Is it a trade association or a professional society? Is it an association or society that’s in a space that’s heavily regulated?” he asked. “In some associations or societies where there’s not much regulation, serving the industry is kind of a misnomer.”

But associations that have a lot of public-facing work meet a real challenge: If the association loses its focus on members in an effort to care for the community at large, members won’t see the value in paying their dues. Here are some thoughts from Rigsbee on balancing the relationship between serving members and serving the broader industry:

  • Consider the way you structure advocacy updates. Advocacy and industry assistance may go hand in hand, but just because it benefits everyone doesn’t mean that members don’t get something out of it. Rigsbee suggests keeping the juiciest details on legislative updates as a strict member benefit, even if the legislation has a benefit for nonmembers too. “As long as they’re only sending those legislative updates and only making them more valuable for their members, they’re really doing a good job of serving both the industry and their members,” he said.
  • Understand the differences between types of members. People who join your association at the start of their careers are going to want something different than what people later in their careers might want. And those greener members might not be in it for the mission—at least, not at first. “Most people join the trade association not just for their industry, but to grow their business, to grow their career, to grow their finances—because this is where the knowledge is, this is where the players are,” Rigsbee said of younger members. But those who have been with the organization for longer periods? “Now they’re in a place in their life where they want to transition from being just merely successful to being significant,” he said. The result is that creating broader initiatives means more to those classes of members—and that can impact how they value public-facing work as a part of their membership.
  • Embrace the role that certification can play in your industry. Outside of advocacy, associations can directly impact the industry by building standards-based approaches to certification. Speaking from his experience in the roofing industry, Rigbsee highlighted the challenges the field has faced with unlicensed roofers. “They don’t really have a business; they have a pickup truck, and they have a few tools,” he said. By regulating the industry to encourage basic standards and certifications for roofing, it helped the industry maintain a reputation of quality—which has a positive effect on legitimate roofers and those getting their services. “It helps the residents, it helps the industry, but it really helps the members to thrive,” he said.
  • Take care in not leaning too hard on advocacy. Associations may want to move the needle on important legislation, but if their members are more concerned with other benefits, such as professional development, it might be hard to convince those parties to join or renew if there aren’t enough direct member benefits to provide value. Rigsbee pointed to the work of the Associated General Contractors of Georgia, which offers workers’ compensation insurance for its members, as an example of direct value. “We’ve got to do something to create value for our members so they’re going to be members, so now we can have the money and the numbers of people to do the advocacy work we want to do,” he said.

Ultimately, when it comes to advocacy and mission, Rigsbee said that membership matters most—because it makes advocacy more powerful in the long run.

“I think about it from the perspective of, if I go to the state house and I have 100 members, they might listen to me,” he says. “If I go to the state house and I’ve got 10,000 members—that’s 10,000 constituents, 10,000 voters—they’re going to listen to me, because I represent a big voting bloc.”

But without that voting bloc, your influence just isn’t as bright.

“If you’re too focused on the advocacy work, then you’re not gonna have the members,” he says.


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The Ultimate Benefit: Giving Members to Power to Problem-Solve In Real-Time

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

The pros at the Association of Public Health Laboratories reveal how tech is serving both its members and the association.

Helping members achieve career success through content, education, and networking is the goal of all association professionals. But for communication and membership experts David Fouse and Drew Gaskins at the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL), enabling their members to collaborate and problem-solve in real-time during the pandemic has given their roles a new sense of urgency, and an incredible amount of fulfillment.

Over the last year and a half, APHL’s online community ColLABorate has provided invaluable connections between​​ institutions and individuals dedicated to public health surveillance and testing. “Watching the conversations unfold in our lab director community in the early days of the pandemic was incredibly inspiring,” says Fouse, director of marketing and communications. “They were sharing best practices, offering support to one another — it was really rewarding to be able to provide such a vital service during this public health emergency.”

In 2017, APHL had upgraded from its listserv to online communities supported by the Higher Logic platform. “It brought much better functionality for networking and information sharing, which was and continues to be essential for public health laboratory professionals,” says Gaskins, APHL’s senior membership specialist. “This is a tight-knit community, and they readily share resources and guidance based on what they see in their lab and in their community.”

As one would imagine, engagement on ColLABorate exploded during the pandemic. “To give you some perspective, in 2019, we had 329 discussion posts. In 2020, we had 1,504,” notes Gaskins. The fever pitch has calmed a bit, but in member surveys, users continue to rate this platform as one of the top benefits of APHL membership. “Our online community is right up there with our magazine and our weekly e-blast — it has become an essential reason to be a part of the association,” adds Fouse.

The conversation threads are a great benefit to members, but they also are incredibly useful to the team at APHL as well. “The community discussions have really helped us keep our finger on the pulse of the community,” says Gaskins. “It helps us to know their concerns and formulate helpful plans of action. So, for example, a conversation may help us realize that we need to publish a new fact sheet or a one-pager on a procedure. Or it may prompt us to connect with our federal partners to say, ‘Hey, this is what our laboratory members are saying, what can you do to help?’”

Fouse and Gaskins agree that the true sign of success for their online member community is seeing members take ownership of it. “When it comes to the number of posts and conversation threads, the baton has passed from staff-generated to member-generated content,” says Fouse. “It is so gratifying to see members taking this tool and owning it—sharing thoughts, questions and content that they feel this community needs in order to continue their incredible work in the name of public health.”


Higher Logic, the industry-leading, human-focused engagement platform, delivers powerful online

communities and communication tools to engage members at every stage of their journey. Higher Logic provides a robust engagement platform and strategic services with over a decade of experience in building personalized and scalable community engagement programs. We serve more than 3,000

customers, representing over 350,000 online communities with greater than 200 million users in more

than 42 countries worldwide.


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Five Ways to Level Up Your Virtual Event Moderation

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

Depending on how it’s used, the chat feature at a virtual event can improve engagement—or simply distract attendees. Use these tips to help create chat spaces that will elevate the experience of your attendees.

Since the pandemic began, organizations have tried to hold virtual events that match the level of engagement and participation you would see at in-person gatherings. Solutions have included using the right event platform, welcoming first-time attendees, offering breakout sessions, and recruiting interesting guest speakers.

But there’s another element that can be just as important: good chat moderation. An engaging chat space can be the difference between a ho-hum virtual or hybrid event and a memorable one. That doesn’t always happen on its own—but a skilled chat moderator can help.

“Chat is the second most powerful tool on virtual—the first being talking on video,” said John Chen, author of Engaging Virtual Meetings. “If you get somebody who’s disengaged to reengage with your association, that’s super valuable. That to me is the value of a well-moderated chat.”

Consider these tips from Chen to enhance your virtual event’s chat.

Assign a Dedicated Event Ambassador

When holding events, don’t just hand off moderation duties to the person who’s hosting the gathering. Instead, assign an event ambassador whose main job it is to facilitate positive attendee experiences by monitoring the chat, encouraging discussion, and troubleshooting.

“Somebody who can moderate the chat well may or may not be the person who can vocally emcee the place well, so split the roles up,” Chen said. “Ambassadors are skilled trainers and facilitators themselves, and they’re just lending their skills to help attendees.”

Encourage Consistent Participation

Have things gone quiet in the chat? Add prompts and thought starters into the chat periodically to spark interaction. Drop in questions, use polls, and invite attendees to throw questions at speakers.

“​​There’s so many tools to do that here on virtual,” Chen said. “And it gives you a feeling of how many people there are, because that’s the hard part with virtual. In a live audience you look around the crowd and you’re like, ‘Holy cow this thing’s packed.’”

Create a Safe Space for Conversation

Professionals thrive when they feel they have room to voice their thoughts. In fact, research from Google’s Project Aristotle found that the most important dynamic of a successful team is members feeling psychologically safe. This occurs in environments where no one else will embarrass or punish others for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea.

Injecting the same atmosphere into your event chat will break down any barriers of intimidation and invite all to participate. Chat moderators can establish this trust by opening with an announcement that the chat is open and attendees can say what they want, so long as it doesn’t break the rules. As soon as you see one person attacking another in the comments, delete or address the inappropriate comment and talk privately with that user.

You could even use term filters for certain offensive words to nip problems in the bud preemptively. Another preemptive move: Explain the rules upfront before opening the chat at the beginning of the session.

“You set the culture of the meeting. And if your culture is to allow bullies to say bad things, you have the power to fix it,” Chen said.

Use Private Chat to Handle Disruptions

The main chat should be used to add comments and questions that are relevant to the event and lead to group-wide discussion. It shouldn’t be used as a place to hash out technical difficulties or have one-on-one debates. So if you notice an attendee is having trouble getting their camera to work or can’t hear the presentation, use private chat to reach out to that particular person directly. And use it to speak with attendees who are breaking rules and remind them of the event’s guidelines.

If you’ve found yourself in the situation where Zoom bombers have completely derailed the entire chat, you can pause comments to restore order.

Three Strikes, You’re Out

While warnings in private chats might be enough to mitigate most inappropriate behavior, don’t be afraid to remove repeat offenders who continue to provoke arguments, insult others, use hateful speech, or post spam and malicious links. After all, good chat moderation means ensuring the conversation remains valuable.


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Highlight New Products To Up Excitement at Events

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

To continuously improve events, VP Blake Swango incorporates feedback from all American Sportfishing Association members and exhibitors.

Our seventh planner of productivity is Blake Swango, vice president of trade and membership for the American Sportfishing Association. Established in 1933, ASA includes more than 900 member organizations representing all aspects of America’s $50 billion recreational fishing industry.

Swango, who has a background in both political science and environmental studies, joined ASA in 2016 to direct the organization’s premier event: the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, better known as ICAST. ASA is based in Alexandria, VA, but since 2014 has chosen to host ICAST at Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center.

This past July, more than 10,850 exhibitors and members attended the event, creating an estimated economic impact of $27.9 million. Attendees participated in new product launches and networking, as well as virtual product demos and webinars. Partnering with Visit Orlando, the Convention Center and Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission allowed Swago to pull off a safe event. Swango also had peer support as well: when he attended an event in Orlando in January 2021, the Visit Orlando team connected him with the planner who had learned the ropes and shared key insights for how they held a safe event. Leaning into this network of support, along with listening to feedback from the exhibitors, ensures ICAST 2022 will be just as memorable.

VO: This year has brought a lot of change. How do you define innovation right now and what are you doing to infuse it into your trade show plans for 2022?

BS: This year, we decided to hold our trade show as an on-site, in-person show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Our industry thrives on face-to-face business, and our community told us they would support the show’s live format.

One of the reasons is that ICAST is all about what products will excite the community. For us, that means the New Product Showcase. ICAST is THE place where our member exhibitors debut their new tackle, gear, apparel and accessories for the entire sportfishing community. In a “normal” year, there would be more than 1,000 innovations shown to the sportfishing community. Each of the exhibitors hopes that their product will be chosen as “Best in Show.” We are always looking for ways to up the “excitement factor” for the showcase and our other events.

VO: What advice would you give to peers about meeting show attendees’ expectations?

BS: For ASA, we decided to produce an in-person show, and it worked for us. Every organization is different, so I suggest listening to your exhibitors about what they want. Assess the venue and location to see if it will work for them and make plans from there.

VO: Why did you select Orlando as the sole host destination for ICAST?

BS: Florida is known as the sportfishing capital of the world and the Southeast is, by far, the part of the U.S. that supports the most recreational fishing. Orlando is a natural fit for the largest recreational fishing trade show in the world. So, it’s hard to say if we picked Florida or if Florida picked us.

I enjoy all the amenities that the area offers to me and my family as well. The Orlando area—and Florida itself—has a lot of appeal for both our domestic and international trade show attendees. Not only is it a natural fit for our industry, but it’s within driving distance to many retail outlets in Florida and throughout the Southeast. The Orlando airport is a hub for both domestic and international flights making travel easy. We hope that in 2022, most air travel will be back in full swing.

VO: What’s your favorite experience there?

BS: We convinced our Orange County Convention Center partners to let us stock the ponds located behind the buildings with fish so that we could debut our popular “On The Water” fishing tackle demo day. The convention center staff worked with us and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to ensure that the catch-and-release fishing during ICAST (and in between my site visit meetings!) was the best. My thanks go to their staff for storing my fishing rods in their offices!

VO: What is your relationship like with Visit Orlando? How did you first get connected?

BS: I inherited the relationship with Visit Orlando when I joined ASA in 2016. Since that time, I believe our relationship has grown stronger as we’ve worked together to make ICAST a bigger and better overall show experience. There are many bigger organizations and trade shows that work with Visit Orlando, but they never let you know it.

Visit Orlando was there every step of the way to provide updated communications about what was going on at the Convention Center. The team even produced a short video specific to ICAST for us to share with our membership.

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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Five Ways to Rethink “Professionalism”

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

Professionalism isn’t just about choice of attire—it encompasses diversity and personal discussions too. As people return to the office, the topic promises to get complicated. Here are some tips on how to navigate.

After a year and a half of people regularly wearing dress shirts with sweatpants, you weren’t expecting everything to go back to the way it was in the office before the pandemic, were you?

The pandemic and other major events over the past year shifted expectations for what professionalism means. As offices reopen—and as some workers stay remote—this multidimensional issue gives leaders a lot to think about. Here are some considerations for organizations trying to discover what “professional” means to them now:

See professionalism through the lens of DEI. Being professional in a work environment might be seen as a basic requirement, but the guidelines of what exactly constitutes professionalism have traditionally forced people to behave in a way that caters to the dominant culture. In recent years, however, some cultural observers, such as Stanford Social Innovation Review contributor Aysa Gray, have questioned professionalism as forcing a culture that “explicitly and implicitly privileges whiteness and discriminates against non-Western and non-white professionalism.” With that in mind, now might be a good time to consider whether professional standards are serving all of your workforce.

Make room for discussions of family and personal challenges. Millions of people contracted COVID-19, and there’s a good chance that the virus directly affected some in your office. But even if they remained physically healthy, your employees may have suffered in other ways—mental health and substance abuse issues were heightened during this period, and those concerns don’t necessarily vanish with a vaccine. Traditionally, “professionalism” has discouraged these discussions, based on a theory called Protestant Relational Ideology, which sets aside personal concerns to focus on the work at hand. But after a tough year where many families had to manage Zoom calls around children stuck at home, there may need to be more room for personal discussions when they emerge in the workplace.

Accept that difficult discussions might happen. Perhaps it was inevitable that a company like Basecamp would run into a conflict over political discourse in the workplace (ironically, this unfolded on the platform the company developed to boost productivity). But the conflict resulted in something that was not inevitable: mass resignations. Perhaps the key for associations hoping to avoid this is to build a culture that can handle those discussions in meaningful ways—and to avoid banning political discussions.

Let your employees get a little more casual. Businesswear often took a back seat over Zoom (sweatpants and button-down combos aside). As people head back to the office, they may buck against a return to business attire. This might be even more of an issue for offices operating in a hybrid model: With recent studies finding that most people working remotely don’t adhere to a dress code, enforcing a strict dress code for in-office workers sets an inconsistent standard. (Luckily, clothing makers are adapting, according to The Wall Street Journal [subscription], with some retailers offering “hybrid dressing” that combines professional with casual.)

Embrace a diversity of emotions. Diversity isn’t limited to demographics. It can also be about how employees feel and react to things, and that not everyone sees eye to eye on everything. As Associations Now blogger Mark Athitakis wrote in January, the pandemic offered us a reset on emotional diversity, allowing leaders to shift away from attempting to emotionally align teams. “Perhaps a better place to start is to double-check that you know where your people are emotionally in the first place,” he wrote. “And if there’s a silver lining in 2020 when it comes to management, we’re doing a better job at prioritizing that.”


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Will Use-It-or-Lose-It Budgeting Negatively Impact Expo and Sponsor Revenue?

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

Our crystal balls are pretty foggy when it comes to predicting the return of in-person expo and sponsor revenue. Three of the big questions are:

  1. With the advancement of digital demos, will exhibitors opt for smaller booth spaces?
  2. If marketing budgets intended for show participation in 2020 or 2021 were reallocated, or not spent, will corporations recall the good days and include your show in the 2022 marketing budget?
  3. Will poor ROI from virtual shows negatively impact future spend decisions?

For larger shows, advance deposits for booth space are often paid nine months in advance. This means show organizers who postponed in 2020 had already received 50% or more of booth fees. For many shows, those funds were carried forward to the virtual and/or next live show. This means that exhibiting companies have not allocated and spent their marketing dollars on live expos for nearly two budget years. Use-it-or-lose-it budgeting is alive and well in many corporations and is a real threat to near-term show revenue.

Three Strategies for Protecting Expo and Sponsor Revenue

1. Organize around your top customers, not your products.

Exhibiting companies despise multiple and competing asks. If you have multiple team members, or vendors, soliciting your exhibitors for booth space, sponsorship, and print and digital advertising, this is the year to bring it under one account manager. Do this for the top 10% or companies by total investment. If you have 200 exhibitors, build an account management plan around the top 20. Retain them, and others are likely to follow.

One of the keys to growing sponsorship is to have senior leadership open doors. The same holds true when you are building a plan to proactively retain your largest or anchor exhibitors. Assign senior executives to each company and schedule calls with your top investors to discuss your plans for returning to face-to-face.

2. Double down on sponsorship.

 Now is the time to diversify your expo and sponsorship revenue mix and reimagine your sponsor menu/offerings. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Eliminate most sponsor items that are promotional or advertising. These usually include bag inserts, print advertising, banner ads and room keys.
  • Eliminate sponsor inventory that was not purchased during the past two conferences. If two-thirds of your inventory is not being sponsored, you have a problem.
  • Add new inventory that allows sponsors to be viewed as thought leaders. Also add inventory that improves the attendee or VIP experience.
  • Organize your sponsor menu like a restaurant would: Appetizers = Attendee Experience, Entrée = Thought Leadership, Dessert = VIP Experiences.

3. Create comprehensive, bespoke packages.

Most exhibitors and sponsors prefer to write a single check. Help them get the most bang for their buck by creating packages that provide exposure before, during and after the show. Include visibility and activation through all of your channels, including any used for virtual participation. Comprehensive and customizable packages should be organized using these buckets:

  • Home base/Presence – Where can sponsors meet-up with existing clients or prospects? This can include a booth, private meeting room or sponsor activation area.
  • Access Passes – How many conference badges are included? What VIP events can they attend? What special access can they provide to their clients and prospects?
  • Content and Experience – speaking or panel slot, keynote sponsor, webinar, session rebroadcast, track sponsor, featured article. Reception, charging stations, wellness programs, mobile app.
  • Advance/Post Recognition – promotional and registration emails, website, newsletter, social media mentions, company description on website/mobile app
  •  Onsite Recognition – main stage, signage, mobile app, virtual access platform

 What are your predictions for 2022 expo-and-sponsor revenue recovery?

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How the Great Outdoors Can Lead to Great Meeting Outcomes

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

Scientific research underscores the power of open-air gatherings to boost mental health and inspire creative thinking.

When the pandemic radically altered the landscape of face-to-face events, many meetings moved as much content as possible outdoors for safety’s sake. And while outdoor programming certainly reduces the risk of virus exposure given what we know about COVID-19 transmission, it’s valuable for attendees and organizations alike in many more ways, too. With beautiful, fall weather right around the corner, many are taking advantage of the transition outdoors.

As one example, Greater Palm Springs naturally supports outdoor gatherings with a diverse array of outdoor venues and active offerings, such as hiking, biking, and ATV tours, along with warm weather that allows for open-air events throughout the fall, winter and spring. These events get attendees’ blood pumping, clear their minds and generally support mental and physical health.

“Remember recess? You couldn’t wait to get outside of the classroom, and the mere thought of it made you excitedly smile,” says Lauren Del Sarto, the founder and publisher of Desert Health, a leading health and wellness resource in Greater Palm Springs. “The same thing can happen when you announce to your team that today’s meeting will be held outdoors under a big tree or in chairs on a grassy lawn. That’s because being in nature naturally reduces stress, promotes wellness and energizes creativity.”

Consider the practice known as forest bathing, inspired by a Japanese concept born out of necessity amid a national health crisis in the 1990s, according to Harvard Medical School, and now embraced widely in the U.S. It’s all about getting outdoors, listening to bird songs and otherwise embracing a mindful, multisensory experience of the outdoors.

The benefits are straightforward and supported by science: Levels of the hormone cortisol decreased in test subjects after a walk in the forest, compared with people who walked in a laboratory setting. Stress raises cortisol levels, and elevated cortisol can contribute to wide-ranging health issues over the long term, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and headaches.

Being outdoors—not simulating the experience—yields these benefits.

Among the many reasons outdoor environments support successful meetings — especially when coupled with physical activity — is that such programs require mindfulness from attendees. That is to say, these facets, by definition, require attendees to engage and focus on the present moment rather than allow their minds to wander to yesterday’s email or tomorrow’s bottom line. According to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness has wide-ranging benefits, including increasing cognitive flexibility and insight, both key to meetings that drive results and build relationships.

“Creating an outdoor activity for your team not only enhances camaraderie but also oxygenates cells to bring fresh, revitalized minds to the table,” Del Sarto says. “Getting blood moving is always positive for mind, body and soul, but the activity doesn’t have to be strenuous. Connecting with the earth or practicing breath work also enhances oxygen intake—and mood—and can have a similar effect.”

Note that the mere practice of “earthing,” or physically connecting the body to the earth through bare feet, also has proven health benefits, according to research published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

It all comes down to this: The benefits of outdoor meetings are well established, they’re wide-ranging—and they’re real.

“[Greater Palm Springs] attracts people from all over the world who come here for health, healing, wellness and relaxation,” Del Sarto explains. “Since the 1920s, doctors have ‘prescribed’ the desert’s dry, warm climate for those with breathing and other chronic conditions.”

She notes that groups in the area have access to a range of offerings, including rustic desert retreats, healing hot springs, golf galore, world-class spas, and even bird sanctuaries. Specifically, The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, the vast Empire Polo Club, and the heart-pumping Palm Springs Aerial Tramway are among the region’s unique offerings.

Additionally, Greater Palm Springs offers uncommonly rich access to a wide range of expert health-and-wellness practitioners who can lead meditation, yoga, breathwork and fitness classes. Options for team building programs and activities abound, like horseback riding, biking, hiking, and Jeep rides, such as via the area’s Red Jeep Tours attraction.

Whatever the specifics, outdoor environments coupled with physical activities offer science-backed boons to mental and physical health. When attendees are primed for clear, present and engaged creative thinking, meetings are most successful. And when meetings succeed, organizations win.

This article was written by Visit Greater Palm Springs. Our team is ready to assist you in creating inspirational, unforgettable—and safe—meetings. With year-round sunshine and unlimited outdoor space, the options for your next Southern California meeting or event are endless. Book with confidence, knowing the safety of your attendees is a top priority for our destination.


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Five Ways to Maximize Your Event Apps

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

If your association has an events app but no in-person events these days, all is not lost—as long as you utilize them for ongoing engagement.

This state of affairs might sound familiar: A few years ago, you spent thousands or tens of thousands of dollars on a mobile application intended to boost engagement at your in-person events. It was used for a few days during the gathering, then forgotten until the next event.

But now, you don’t have any in-person events, or those events are hybrid and taking place over a time delay. What are you supposed to do with your investment?

Mark Wallach, manager of mobile business development for Results Direct, which produces websites and mobile applications for associations, agrees that events are often the bedrock for app uptake.

“We believe that engagement begins with events,” Wallach says.

Wallach says that the challenge is that some associations only see apps as useful for events. “It’s almost like they get everybody in their house, and then they kick them out of the house afterwards, so they’re missing opportunities between,” he says.

But at a time when people are experiencing so much virtually, your app actually has potential to be more important than ever—even if its use case has shifted. A few tips from Wallach for helping your app make the leap:

  1. Build a moment that drives people to your apps. Even if your association doesn’t have a traditional in-person event to promote, it’s still important to convince people to jump into the application, with the hopes they’ll stick with it. This might take the form of a content package that’s sponsored and that can only be accessed through the app, or a virtual event. “Now, is that ideal? No,” Wallach says. “But if you’ve paid for it, you’ve got it. Here’s an opportunity to use it.”
  2. Treat Google and Siri as your competition. Your content might show up in search engines, but you’re not the only industry resource for that information—making search engines a risky gamble if you make that the primary way users find your content. “You go to your phone and you say, ‘Hey Google what’s the latest XYZ,’—unless that association has phenomenal SEO and they’re the top three rankings there, their content isn’t given to the person,” Wallach says. “Somebody else’s content is, and ultimately somebody else is monetizing that.” He suggests that associations treat their applications as one-stop shops for resources. This can be especially important if your association offers specialized information, as you can use apps to limit or gate access to niche information that you hope to keep as a member benefit.
  3. Build with integration in mind. Associations with complex tech needs may use application programming interfaces (APIs) to coordinate their many tools, especially when it comes to their association management system (AMS). Apps rely on those connections. Wallach says that Results Direct has opened APIs for some of their pIatforms, and that plenty of other vendors do the same. “We make the APIs available, but I recommend that they integrate with—if they have their choices—their AMS, anything that identifies what types of members like they are, and anything that handles their registration,” he says. Another important area of integration, Wallach says, is with your content management system (CMS). He cites one association that decided to build a deeper app integration with their existing CMS because 90 percent of their members were accessing the CMS-based content in mobile settings. “They figured, if they’re using their mobile device, we should be on the phone,” he says.
  4. Leverage what your industry peers use. Between vendors, open-source, and in-house creations, the app landscape is crowded. Looking at what others in your industry are doing—such as state or local groups, or fellow niche organizations—can help you land on the right solution. Wallach says that many app makers specialize in specific markets and recommends identifying which option fits your industry’s needs. “Then convince your friends and neighbors, if they’re looking to go this route, that maybe we should all be going in a similar route.”
  5. Consider who owns the app internally, and in what portions. Shifting a little-used app into a more prominent platform creates a new set of tasks. Wallach says this might be a situation where one staff member decides who does what—perhaps the communications or membership team owns a portion focused on engagement, but the meetings team continues to manage the meetings portion of the app. However the work is divvied up, putting someone at the center who can manage the process can be helpful. “That manager doesn’t necessarily know everything about the organization, but they can interact with the various silos of the organization,” he says. “They can be the resource, or the conduit across all those silos.”

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The Elements Behind a Successful Nine-Day, Multi-Association Virtual Event

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

The Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences typically holds an annual in-person congress that includes events for dozens of its member associations. This year, FHSS helped the groups shift to virtual, welcoming 6,200 attendees over nine days.

The Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences (FHSS) is in a unique position. It helps its members—Canadian national associations in the humanities and social sciences—plan and host their conferences over several days at a single location.

Pre-pandemic, the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences took place at a large venue where members from around 70 Canadian associations would attend one or more conferences over seven to nine days. But for 2021, FHSS shifted the Congress to virtual, found a platform to host all the events, and ended up welcoming more than 6,000 attendees at 1,700 sessions over nine days.

Laura Chajkowski, FHSS director of congress and events, shared some successful strategies for other groups to consider as they plan and execute virtual events.

Post-session networking lounges. At in-person meetings, if a session was great, people will linger in the room and engage with the speaker or other attendees. However, in virtual sessions, attendees are often tossed from the room by the platform with no way to interact. FHSS created a fix for this by offering participants another virtual space. “As the session was starting to run over or was coming to an end, our event technicians were on the ready to provide links to their networking lounge,” Chajkowski said. “We found that that was a great way to keep the conversation going.”

Virtual event bags. When people go to in-person events, they typically receive a conference bag to carry their stuff. FHSS created an electronic bag, which was a hit. Attendees could, with the click of a heart icon, add any presenter’s PDF files to their virtual bag. When they went to the exhibit hall, attendees could also collect vendor materials in the bag. Vendors could also pay to get items preloaded into attendee bags.

Tech assistance. At face-to-face conferences, speakers occasionally show up in the wrong room. The same thing can happen in the virtual world. With the virtual platform that FHSS used, they could see who was in all the rooms. “We never lost a speaker,” Chajkowski said, noting event techs could message each other the name of a speaker who wasn’t in a room for a presentation and do a systemwide search for that person. “They would find the presenter somewhere else. They would say, ‘Hey you’re in the wrong place,’ and they would virtually walk them to their session room and make sure they got in.”

Virtual speaker prep.  FHSS offered clinics where speakers could log in to the platform to do tech checks and rehearse keynotes. “I believe it’s important to prepare the speaker for how to present virtually versus in person,” Chajkowski said. “There is a difference. Explain how to better utilize polls or surveys. … Those are really important elements because those are what’s going to keep the audience engaged and interested in more and more of their sessions.”

Time zones. If you’re hosting a national or international conference, Chajkowski said it’s important to make all attendees feel included. If there’s a good mix of East and West Coast attendees, try to offer keynotes a little later in the day, so those on the West Coast don’t have to get up early to participate. With international presenters, Chajkowski said to make sure their sessions align with their time zone—presenters shouldn’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to present.

But no matter what you offer participants, keep in mind that the virtual experience shouldn’t try to mimic the previous face-to-face event. “We tried to convince these associations that what they did in person they shouldn’t try to replicate virtually,” Chajkowski said, but noted that many did try to replicate the in-person feel. Still, she thinks associations should take advantage of some of the perks virtual conference offer, including the ability to space out the event, rather than cram it into the same three- or four-day span an in-person conference uses.

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Leadership Pro Tip: The Case for Improving Thought Leadership Content

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

Today’s glut of thought leadership creates an opportunity to stand out by creating better content—including original research.

For leaders looking to make an impression through thought leadership, your message can guide the way. That’s especially true at a time when people may not be traveling long distances to see you speak at an event.

But since a lot of leaders are embracing thought leadership right now, you need to upgrade your approach if you want to stand out.

What’s the Strategy?

As a recent Edelman and LinkedIn study finds, there is an oversaturation of thought leadership content, with around 38 percent of decision makers saying that the market is producing more thought leadership than they can consume. Despite this, more than half of C-suite executives are reading an increased amount of thought leadership content.

That content, though, is often low-quality. Per the study, more than 70 percent of decision makers say that less than half of the content they consume provides valuable insights.

“Thought leadership remains critical to customer engagement but breaking through the noise is harder than ever,” the report states.

For association leaders, this actually presents an opportunity to kick things up a notch, by raising the quality of your thought leadership—either by deeper research, or by stronger presentation.

Why Is It Effective?

Building content with original research and insights can make your content and capabilities stand out among the crowd.

“Doing your own research rather than relying on previously published data makes your thought leadership distinct, giving you a competitive edge that helps you stand out from the crowd,” Boston Digital’s Samantha Davidson writes. “This is important because visibility is one of the key objectives for many who put out thought leadership content, and establishing a qualitative difference in your work will make it more salient, valuable, and visible, to prospective readers.”

The Alterra Group has a useful list of qualities that associations can follow when building their own thought leadership—including high relevance, strong credibility, a unique style, a persuasive argument, a timely focus, approachable writing, and informative content.

What’s the Potential?

Even with the challenges associations might face in raising their standards, it’s often worth it. Solid thought leadership can help increase awareness of an organization, lead to potential new business contacts, and even encourage the purchase of a new product or service—something the Edelman study says 54 percent of respondents have done after consuming thought leadership content.

It can also raise your association’s platform—64 percent of respondents say that thought leadership is used as a barometer when deciding whether to trust an organization’s overall capabilities.

“It’s no secret that high-quality thought leadership is far less common than attempted thought leadership,” Davidson writes. “With this discrepancy comes an opportunity to distinguish yourself from others, and original research can help you do that by transforming your work into effective thought leadership and you, a thought leader.”


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