3 Big Ideas from the 2019 ASAE Annual Meeting

When you keep hearing conference speakers and attendees talking about the same topic, then you know it’s no longer just “on the radar,” it’s “business as usual.” After the 2019 ASAE Annual Meeting (ASAE19), Erin Pavane, business development manager for WBT Systems, compared notes with three association technology colleagues. In a webinar last week, Game-Changing Trends from the 2019 ASAE Annual Meeting, the four of them talked about the buzz-worthy topics at ASAE19.

Liz Palm, marketing director at Protech Associates, moderated the webinar. Lori Ely, chief revenue officer at Results Direct, and Joel Hinton, senior territory channel manager at ClickDimensions, joined Erin and Liz for the discussion.

#1: Giving power to the member voice

The opening keynote at ASAE19, The Future of New Power, was given by Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, authors of New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World—and How to Make It Work for You. Timms and Heimans talked about the democratizing of power—how power is shifting from the old top-down approach to a new bottom-up approach. The keynote mentioned a few examples of this new power: the #MeToo movement, and popular collaborative video games like Minecraft. We’ve seen this new power in companies that have democratized their organization by flattening the hierarchy and encouraging employees to drive decisions.

Associations must also adapt to this shift in power. You can embrace this new cultural mindset by giving your members a bigger voice and providing more opportunities for collaboration and participation in program design and decision-making.

A shift in power gives members more skin in the game, and more ownership of their membership experience and the direction of the association. In an Associations Now article, Heimans described this new power as “the ability to get bright things out of people you engage with and spread their light around the world.”

2019 ASAE annual meeting

Some of the concepts the keynoters discussed have been around since the dawning of the social media age, for example, crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. Associations that were earlier adopters of crowdsourcing used it to encourage members to suggest and vote on conference session topics.  

Crowdsourcing is not a passing fad. You can use it to find out about emerging educational needs. For example, convene members regularly in virtual town halls, focus groups, and roundtables. Crowdsourcing taps into powerful emotions: people want to contribute and be part of something. When you involve people in decisions, they’re more likely to buy into an idea.

Eliciting the voice of the member, customer, or learner isn’t just trendy, it’s a smart business practice. In an earlier blog post, we shared seven ways to get student feedback on online learning programs.

Another example of shifting power, in this case, learners taking over the reins of instruction, is learning communities or circles. They’re also known as professional learning networks or communities of practice. These goal-oriented groups of professionals are committed to analyzing and improving their professional practices, solving problems, and creating solutions.

#2: Data analytics

Erin and her webinar co-presenters also noticed a growing awareness of how important it is to get data out of silos. When data is siloed, associations can’t analyze it effectively. They can’t leverage their data to make the decisions that help them serve members and protect their future in a changing workplace. Integration helps associations get their data out of silos.

ASAE19 attendees who visited the Results Direct booth during show hours had more questions about integration than almost any other topic, according to Lori. Associations are craving a 360-view of their members, customers, and prospects. You need real-time insight on how members are engaging, volunteering, purchasing, etc. When you have the whole picture of a member’s engagement, you can better tailor the membership experience to their needs.

The webinar presenters are seeing associations embracing the need to have integrated technology that supports analytics. However, if you don’t have the integrations you need, many new companies have entered the association space and can help you consolidate, analyze, and put your data to work.

If you plan to select an LMS or other technology, you must have discussions with staff from across your association about the type of data they need to gain insight and make decisions. What types of reports do they need to help them better understand member, customer, and prospect needs and behaviors?

Identify these reporting requirements before you start meeting with vendors so you can choose the system with the best reporting and integration functionality. You should also start thinking about other decisions, such as which system to use as your system of record, and where to host your e-learning catalog and eCommerce functions.

2019 ASAE annual meeting

#3: Artificial intelligence and personalization

AI takes data analytics to the next level. We heard lots of talk at ASAE19 about using Artificial Intelligence (AI) for personalization.

AI is already here. A few vendors in the association space offer a smart newsletter service that increases subscriber and member engagement by providing content curated by AI. In fact, ASAE is doing this now with their Associations Now Daily News. AI monitors the behavioral patterns of readers, and makes intelligent predictions about their reading interests.

These days, the expectations of members and subscribers have changed. They expect relevant, tailored content. Results Direct has seen a big surge in association clients using AI to analyze website visitor behavior and implement personalization on websites.

Many of the learning management system RFPs we receive at WBT Systems ask about AI capabilities. However, we’ve found that many people don’t know what AI is really all about, they’re just caught up in the buzz and think AI will help future-proof their technology.

When we delivered the keynote at the ASAE Spark virtual conference earlier this year, we talked about the “hype vs. reality” of new learning technologies. Do you really need a new technology like AI for your education programs? We relayed the words of David Wentworth, a learning analyst at Brandon Hall, who said, “This is the year when companies will stop overstating the promise and peril of artificial intelligence (AI) and recognize its real-world applications, and they will realize that fulfilling its true potential remains a few years away. The relentless over-hyping of AI has prevented many companies from embracing and exploring it.”

Today, from an LMS perspective, AI can be used to provide features such as recommended content, for example, online courses, webinars, or other learning programs that would interest a customer. Associations can also take advantage of tools that drive backend analytics for surveys, test items, content usage, and advanced data analysis.

In the future, you will start to see AI used for skills gap analysis. For example, upon entering the LMS for the first time, a learner will take a self-assessment. An AI-powered recommendation engine scans data, such as the required competencies for the learner’s career or learning pathway, their training history, and the content catalog. It identifies skills gaps and makes personalized recommendations for courses or resources the learner can use to achieve their learning goals.

What used to be merely a great idea or hype—giving members a bigger voice, data analytics, and AI—is now becoming an everyday reality for associations. Imaging what we’ll be talking about ten years from now at ASAE29!

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ASAE Annual Conference
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