4 Takeaways from the 2015 ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo

City of Detroit skyline

As a Michigan based company, we were thrilled when we heard the “Super Bowl of trade shows” was coming right to our city of Detroit. If you couldn’t guess, I am of course referring to the ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo where over 5,000 association professionals gather for networking, education, and business solutions.

Described as the nation’s Comeback City, Detroit is sure to benefit from this national event. As stated in the Detroit Free Press, this event could potentially bring $500 million in convention business for the city over the next five years.

For those who were unable to attend like myself or just want a refresher, here are 4 takeaways from the recent ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo.

1.) Members Define Engagement, Not the Association

Tuesday’s Learning Lab presented by the American Nurses Association and Culture That Works was titled “Engagement Is More Than a Buzzword.” We’ve all heard the term engagement, but what it really means is another story. And that story can only be defined by members rather than the association.

As the article states, “In other words, each and every member has individual and unique reasons for engaging in an association and preferred methods for doing so… The association must work to understand what those definitions are and aim to serve them, but it doesn’t get to determine the stakes of the game.”

Books2.) Content Strategy is More Important Than Ever

Clarke & Company’s session “Using Content Marketing to Engage Members and Grow Your Organization” drew in quite the audience size. Meaning, associations are well aware of the importance of having a content marketing strategy. However the struggle isn’t creating the content itself, it’s using it to influence member engagement.

One thing to keep in mind, “As consumers absorb content on the web more and more through third-party apps and not dedicated niche sites (like association websites), that challenge will grow more complicated and require more sophisticated tools, skills, and measurement.”

3.) Trade Associations and Individual Membership Organizations Can Learn a Lot From Each Other

A recent membership benchmarking report by General Incorporated found associations who offer both company and individual membership models doubled between 2011 and 2015.

One trade association by the name of CompTIA shared how they created an open-access model to their content. In just one year, this change added over 50,000 people to its community of 2,000 member companies.

Also, the author mentioned ASAE’s announcement of introducing an organizational membership option starting in 2016. As an organization that traditionally follows an individual membership model, this change will hopefully pave the way for other associations to broaden their membership models.

Lock on Keyboard4.) Data Security

Although we hear about them in the news on the regular, many associations don’t consider themselves at risk to a data breach. The presenter of the Learning Lab “Help! I’ve Been Hacked!” explained how associations can’t live under this false assumption. “Everybody’s going to have a breach. Everybody’s going to get hacked,” he said. “Associations are not immune to this problem.”

Even more so, associations consider data security an IT issue. But when you consider the devastation behind a data breach, is it fair to assume it’s only an IT issue? Instead, associations should take an organizational approach to protecting their information.

Did you attend the Annual Meeting? If so, do you have any thoughts or ideas to share? Maybe even some different takeaways of your own? Drop them in the comments below and let us know!