As industry and specialized occupations emerged into the market place, it fell to professional societies/Associations to develop methods of testing and evaluation and to assemble their respective bodies of knowledge for future reference. Standards were developed against which professionalism could be measured and degrees of excellence established.

Professional societies/Associations have made a significant contribution over the years as consultants to governments and academia and have played a major role in broadening the scope of the existing body of scientific knowledge. But is this trend changing?

In the “Information Age” we are currently in, all types of information are at anyone’s fingertips which threatens Associations and professional societies alike. Once upon a time these groups were the ONLY place for professionals to obtain their continuing education, which many people need for their professional designations.  These days there are many different ways to get your continuing education credit from associations online or other websites the specialize in online classes.  Once where associations were the only place to hear about top research or product demos, the age of YouTube has filled that gap with an ever-growing number of professionals taking to the small screen and sharing their knowledge with the world.  Not only can you see recorded speeches, but many professional speakers have their own online sessions that anyone can attend without leaving the office or their home.


Some Ideas for CHANGE

So, what is an association to do?  Well that’s easy, they need to look seriously into their events and conferences.  Event Marketing is an area where they can still stay relevant, but we aren’t talking about offering sessions with what I like to cal,l “death by Powerpoint”.

The content has to be what members cannot get anywhere else; it has to be relevant and it has to be engaging; and most of all it has to be worth an attendee’s time out of the office.

I recently managed a conference for first responders.  One of our general sessions was a firsthand account of a mass casualty situation.  Could their members get that anywhere else…NO.  I had another association that put a panel together of top researchers who took questions from the members who attended the session.  Could those members get all of these researchers together in one room to answer questions…NO.  This is where your conferences and events should be heading, you need to spend money on top quality professional speakers or experts and market them accordingly and creating online platforms where you can create a “buzz” around who your attendees will get to network with.

One other component that can be a huge revenue stream for an event or conference is a TRADESHOW.  But not just one where you sell a 100 10×10 booths.  You want demo areas where many manufactures get together that may have a product line that compliments one another.  Let your members who attend see the products working together and make your tradeshow more of a interactive and collaborative experience. Let your attendees get a real touch and feel for what your vendors are selling and what new products are being developed.

Events and conferences can present huge benefits to association’s lifeline. It is predicted that in another 5 or 10 years more than 25% may become extinct. Do you want this to happen to YOUR association? Don’t sit back like the dinosaurs did or you may just find yourself on the same Extinction List.

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