“What if your association were an app?”
This is a relevant question because what we come to expect in our personal lives we expect in our professional lives. Everywhere new apps are being developed. These apps are products, services, platforms, and they are becoming part of our lives. Products and services that did not start off as apps have built apps.
We decide what to wear using apps. We get where we are going using apps. We entertain ourselves, and teach ourselves, and connect with others using apps. Apps are everywhere, and there will be more and more of them in the coming years.
Given the power and prevalence of apps, it is not so far-fetched to wonder what your association would be like if it were an app? Sure, right now you might use apps to deliver content or as an add-on to the conference experience. This is different. Imagine if all the value of the association was delivered through an app.
Are you finding this idea difficult to imagine? Me too.
But we should be asking ourselves this question now because this is the future. Most likely we are not ready to dump everything we are currently doing in the trash and start over again, but we can start preparing.
We can start to run experiments. Experiments were we take something from the physical world and move it into the digital world and make it as good or better.
One of these tests could be your annual conference. Likely only 10% of your membership goes to the annual conference. A digital version of the conference could get a ton of value into the hands of the other 90%.
Technology has come a long way in just the last year. Right up until, well right about yesterday, an online conference inherently meant a bunch of webinars running consecutively. They were a pale imitation of an in-person conference, indeed not all that engaging for attendees. That’s not the case anymore. Now an online conference can do much of what in-person conferences can do including speaker and participant interaction and participant to participant interaction. Sponsors can contribute not just dollars but also valuable content. Sessions are so unexpectedly engaging participants do not multi-task.
Online conferences will continue to become better and better; we are just at the beginning. Technology is advancing so rapidly we are going to see online conferences extend and expand in ways in-person conferences have yet to achieve. I imagine more participant engagement all year around. Accountability groups will help participants put what they learned into action.
There is one group in the association community who is exploring what is possible with online conferences, and that is Association Success. In two weeks they will unleash SURGE Spring 2018, a free online summit for association professionals. I spoke at and participated in last year’s summit and was fascinated watching the experiment in action. The hosts tried new technology and new formats. They moderated, and shared, and amplified important and popular ideas. They curated conversations and extended the content. They sourced new speakers and identified a team of beta testers.
I encourage you to register. Not only for the great content (the content is great, without question) but, also to experience what is possible with online conferences right now.
Notice all the points with which you can connect with others before the summit. During the summit check out the format and all the opportunities to connect with others. Watch how they extend the learning afterward.
Let your imagination grow as you think about what it would take to make your association an app. How can you take an in-person experience into the digital world? Maybe, the first place to start is with your conference. Create a wonderful conference-like experience for the other 90% of your members.