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The Importance of Diversity & Inclusion in the Association World

Posted By Ewald Consulting, Thursday, November 14, 2019

ANDI class of 2019This year, I had privilege of participating in the first cohort of Association’s North Diversity & Inclusion Leadership program. As I applied and checked off the requirements for the application just a year before, I did not expect how much it would impact my career, network and skills.

Each quarter, our cohort met for either a half day or full day for leadership training that revolved around a certain skill. This included communicating, presenting and writing, executive presence and conflict. With a cohort of six, each session pulled you out of your comfort zone — you had to participate throughout. This made the experience much more engaging compared to a classroom style lecture with a bigger group. The content and exercises were really valuable, including a DiSC behavioral profile assessment and presenting in front of your cohort with feedback on your skills. What really made the program valuable was the people. From the first day, our cohort became close and started engaging in the content and discussed how it pertained to challenges we have faced in our professional lives. Knowing our diverse group all have a diverse background and stories to tell, it became easy to open up and gain advice from our peers.

This program has not only given me insight on how to implement my leadership skills to the associations I work with, but it also taught me how to incorporate more diversity and inclusion initiatives within association strategic goals. There is not a standard for an association when it comes to diversity and inclusion and every association has a variety of policies and practices it implements. What is known from current research is organizations that are more diverse and inclusive are more profitable and valuable (https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/delivering-through-diversity).

According to the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Foundation, diversity and inclusion within associations can benefit the organization financially, help generate ideas and give the organization authenticity and an advantage compared to other organizations (Enhancing Diversity and Inclusion in Membership Organizations, page 9). These benefits will only occur if the diversity and inclusion strategy is managed and effectively actionable.  This can be achieved in a variety of ways — whether by a detailed plan, assignments to staff and volunteers, task forces, committees or a combination. The terms “diversity” and “inclusion” are very broad, so organizations must narrow their targeted outcomes – what are some communities that the organization would like to have participate or think would benefit? Does your board represent your member base? How can the association open its door to more communities or partner with other organizations for mutual benefit? Diversity and Inclusion has multiple layers within an organization — board and volunteers, staff, member base, workforce and more.

When associations talk about diversity and inclusion, there is usually an emphasis on diversity more than inclusion (Enhancing Diversity and Inclusion in Membership Organizations, page 15). It is beneficial to look at both diversity and inclusion when determining these goals and to not assume one means the other. They go hand in hand, but increasing a certain area does not mean all may feel included in the organization. It is no surprise that each field is different in its diversity – age, gender, location, etc. — so the organization must look at not only its members, but the field to determine what to focus on.  A common way associations can expand their community is looking at schools or educational programs that train in the profession and partnering with them; this can be determining a student rate for membership or event attendance to expose the community to the organization, creating a student competition, or teaming up with schools to host events. It is also important to think about the organization’s target workforce and look to improve the field along with the organization. A common misconception is because the field is not diverse, the organization does not have to be diverse; but there are ways the association can help diversify its workforce.

It is important to understand that being a truly diverse and including association is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Each organization must look at its field and determine its priorities. Diversity and inclusion initiatives are also never “one and done.” It is critical to consistently analyze the programs and reevaluate if needed. There is a lot to unpack with the terms diversity and inclusion when it comes to organizations — but be sure to incorporate the values of the organization, define the needs of the community, and then put words into actions and priorities of the association. As D&I initiatives become a more frequent conversation in the association world, a forward-thinking organization looks toward embracing inclusivity and heterogeneity to truly thrive in the future.

Sources: ASAE Foundation - Enhancing Diversity and Inclusion in Membership Associations https://foundation.asaecenter.org/research/diversity-and-inclusion.

2018 McKinsey Report - Delivering through diversity  https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/delivering-through-diversity

Tags:  engagement  member value 

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Trends in Conference Management

Posted By Ewald Consulting, Thursday, October 17, 2019

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Millennials are now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. As of 2017, there were 56 million Millennials (ages 22-37) working or looking for work — over one-third of the workforce.

Chart displaying growth of millennials as a segment of the workforce

With a growing need for our workforce to be trained and upskilled, conferences can play an important role in employee development.

To get Millennials to attend conferences and join our organizations, we must create more engaging and technologically focused offerings to meet this market segment who are interested in experiences, involvement and engagement.

7 Conference Best Practices

  1. Define and communicate the purpose and mission of the event to prove ROI. Create downloadable “Convince Your Boss” letters.
  2. Personalizing strategies – who are the sessions designed for? Are they interactive to engage attendees? Is there time for connection and conversation? How can attendees connect with other attendee segments and interests onsite?
  3. Purposeful experience – well-being activities, social impact days to give back to the community.
  4. Performances and offsite events at museums or local attractions.
  5. Enhanced conference technology including chatbots, 5G internet, wearable technology, real-time data, creative room design with technology access and charging stations, mobile apps.
  6. Nutrition, mindfulness and wellness: planning for dietary requirements; creating time for “brain breaks” – doodling, coloring, outside walks, Legos.
  7. Engage attendees using gamification – there are many gamers in this segment of the workforce.

Here are some additional resource articles on meeting trends to generate more ideas for your conference.

As our attendees and stakeholders continue to shift, associations must change up our conferences to not only maintain registration numbers but to take them to a whole new level: driving community, engagement and membership. Over one-third of the workforce and those who need education, community and engagement the most are counting on us to drive innovation and offer engaging and memorable experiences using trends and technology.

Tags:  association management  conferences  engagement  member value  trends 

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Creating Memorable Conference Experiences

Posted By Ewald Consulting, Friday, October 11, 2019

It takes a team effort to make conference experiences memorable for attendees, presenters and exhibitors/sponsors. All parties play an important role in the success and value of attending in person events.

Our Event Management and Marketing & Communications departments formed a Conference Success Team to help our clients improve the conference experience for speakers, sponsors/exhibitors and attendees by creating a resource landing page with all the resources to ensure a positive conference experience before, during and after an event.

The number-one priority is creating relevant content for each audience. So, it’s important to research trends in the profession, conduct a professional development assessment, review membership surveys and past conference surveys to use feedback to improve and enhance the conference experience. Doing it “the way we’ve always done it” won’t cut it.

When you understand what your audience wants, you can then create the framework and tracks that will be the basis for your call for presenters. In addition to contact information, make sure you collect the following session information:

  • Presentation/Session Title (15-word limit)
  • Presentation/Session Description or Presentation (150-word limit)
  • Learning Objectives (require at least three)
  • Select Audience (for example: experience level, society type, organization size)
  • What keywords relate to your presentation topic? This is for search engine optimization as we promote the conference.
  • Provide a two-sentence promotion of your presentation for social media postings.

Getting this information at the beginning will provide the structure for the conference marketing plan.
Exhibitors and sponsors help keep the cost of conferences down for attendees and they also offer a way to make connections on business resources available to attendees. Creating value and ROI for exhibitors and sponsors creates value for the attendees.

The Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDNA) offers unique sponsorship opportunities that enhance the value for both the sponsor and the attendee. They also utilize cool technology at their conference such as a full LED wall with movable graphics, a Gobo light with logo sponsors and video. They also have a dedicated HEDNA TV Channel on YouTube that features conference sessions and helps promote future conferences, giving attendees access to the quality content that is delivered at the event.

HEDNA doesn’t have exhibitors but rather offers different types sponsorship opportunities to show unique value to the sponsors while enhancing the conference attendee experience. They have Nooks/Event pods branded with sponsor logos, offering the attendees a soundproof space with white boards, television monitors, videos and allowing for attendee conversations.


Example of nook/event pod with gobo lights (left) and coffee logo (right) at HEDNA LA 2019

Gobo lights make it possible to project sponsor logos on the walls. It’s a simple and effective way to enhance the conference experience at a reasonable price. In addition, they set up a HEDNA café with existing furniture in the hotel and a barista, featuring specialty coffees with the sponsor logo on top of the coffee froth.


Event app gamification example from Eventmobi

The Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) offers a variety of hotel signage and walls/door clings and gobos for conference sponsors as well. This year, PDMA will use gamification in their mobile app to engage attendees.
For the Qualitative Research Consultants Association and Recognition Professionals International, we launched a “Reporter on the Scene” program; members volunteered to fill out an online form for each session and these were developed into blog posts and other content.

At the conferences, we encourage attendees to use hashtags and provide social media tip sheets to get conversations going and keep them going year-round after the conference experience is over. A strong conference and in-person connections foster loyalty and year-round connections.

For attendees, we offer ways to connect with other attendees at the conference in meet-ups, connecting in the mobile app and offering interactive sessions. It’s also important to create time between sessions to allow for conversations, sharing and networking so that learning sticks and new connections are created.

Half of the population are introverts — so it’s important to offer a variety of ways to connect in the manner attendees want. We will share tips on how to get the most out of conferences in a future post.

Mindfulness and wellness activities — both in the workplace and at conferences — are also becoming more popular. Organized walks and runs, yoga or other exercises, healthy snacks and meditation tips are a great way to add new value for attendees that they can take home.

Create memorable conference experiences for your members before, during and after each event!

Tags:  conferences  engagement  event management  member value 

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