Daniel is well known and respected for being able to shape association events and conferences through the intelligent and accountable use of event technology. With valuable experience helping associations meet their organisational goals, Daniel demonstrates to associations how event technology can maximise the value of their conferences and how associations can effectively measure their conference ROI using the reporting data that matters.
You recently attended Technology for Associations Congress – is it fair to say all of the associations in attendance were keen to learn about how technology could help them?
Yes, and this is an understatement! The very nature of the event brought technology to the forefront. There was a clear understanding amongst the attendees that technology is essential to helping a progressive Association succeed, whether this is by expanding their membership, understanding existing members better, or putting on even better conferences. The reason behind all of this is to enable them to deliver the best possible service to their members who form the backbone of any Association.
As someone who has worked with Associations, helping them use technology in an intelligent and cost-effective way, their enthusiasm for the technology available wasn’t a surprise to me at all and it was great to see so many Associations showing keen interest in the solutions that we are able to offer here at Eventsforce.
Some people believe that Associations are technology averse – what would you say to these people?
I’d say that in the past these sort of views may be true. In some Associations any sort of investment is seen as a ‘cost’ but this cost is often viewed without the corresponding ‘benefit’. Technology is placed in the same bracket. Yes there is a cost to technology, in terms of both time and resource, but this doesn’t exceed the benefits offered such as the time-saving elimination of admin and repetitive tasks, making processes faster and more accurate, enhanced reporting for real conference understanding. There is also the peace of mind in knowing that all of your systems are comprehensively and securely integrated. But things are changing, and this change has been driven by the Associations themselves.
As I mentioned previously, it’s all about the members. In all areas of their lives they want ‘more’, ‘better’ and ‘faster’ They rightly ask, ‘Why shouldn’t our Associations give us these as well?’ The Associations I work with have embraced technology as a solution to meet these challenges head on, and the more technologically averse are being dragged forward whether they like it or not simply because they can’t afford not to.
Were there any particular topics that the Associations were keen to focus on?
The interest in technology was wide, but I noticed three topics emerging that seemed to be of key importance to Associations in general:
Understanding conferences better to demonstrate ROI and deliver better service:
Associations wanted to understand their conferences better, moving beyond the basic metrics such as how many people attended or what their anecdotal feedback was. The reason for this, and I make no qualms about stressing this point again, is because they want to deliver the best experience to their members. If they don’t understand what worked at a conference and what didn’t then it makes it much harder to learn and improve, or show that the conference delivered real ROI. Remember, Associations aren’t exempt from having to justify their expenditure and prove ROI! The key to this understanding is effective reporting. Associations need to be able to create and manage reports on a wide range of conference data, and they need to be able to do this quickly and easily. Saving, sharing and scheduling reports are also a ‘must-have’ as is security and restricted access.
Integrating new technologies with existing systems
Just because an Association is interested in procuring new technology doesn’t mean it isn’t currently already using technology or intends to discard existing technology. A new solution needs to integrate with existing systems such as CRM, Finance and Marketing systems, or mobile apps, and it needs to do this with a minimum of hassle and disruption. APIs, which allow one application to query and manipulate the data within another application, are key to this and must be ‘two-way’ to allow the flow of data in both directions. An effective API makes integrating new technologies with existing systems a relatively simple task, and can never be overlooked when choosing a new technology to make use of.
Improving their abstracts management process
Continuing the theme of integration, I heard from many Associations that they were keen to not only improve their abstract management process but also integrate this with their conference registration systems. They needed a way of integrating papers and registrations whilst at the same time managing submissions, reviewing and distributing, with the end goal being saving time, reducing errors and improving organisation. This was great to hear for me as I was able to talk to them about Eventsforce Abstracts, which is the ideal tool for these requirements.
In the future, the question won’t be if Associations are using technology – they will be. The question will have moved on to how they are using it and if it is meeting their expectations. Associations will place greater emphasis on finding the right technology supplier, one that will be there for the long-term, adopting a partnership approach. Usability will also be high on the agenda forcing technology to become easier to use and easier to integrate.
To learn more about associations or any other event-related matter, contact Daniel using the details listed here.