6 Association Lessons for 2021
Monday, January 25, 2021
The coronavirus pandemic unfolded in ways no one anticipated, creating a ripple effect across the global economy. Many associations had to make tough and critical decisions to survive. In 2021, association leaders must shift their perspective to long-term recovery and rebound. Here’s a look at some of the lessons learned in 2020 that can be applied this year.
Stay on top of and anticipate your member and community needs. The pandemic impacts nearly every aspect of life. Take this opportunity to re-evaluate what your members and community need now and will need in the future. Then prioritize and focus based on your mission and value proposition. This work can also help inform the design of your events and membership services.
Shift from survival mode to endurance mode. Associations with long-term strategic plans are less disrupted by the reprioritization of programs and initiatives. Meanwhile, those that tend to plan year-to-year can struggle to find direction amidst uncertainty. Organizations that are better prepared are trimming expenses deemed unnecessary, shedding legacy programs that will not be missed, and re-deploying resources to introduce new programs that meet emerging and changing member needs.
A reason to convene is still desired. Many associations will continue to face decisions about how to move forward with their 2021 events. Certainly, we anticipate—and hope—that the COVID-19 vaccine will enable associations to execute the many in-person and hybrid events planned for later in 2021. The key to a successful virtual or hybrid experience is in the design. Don’t do 2020 all over again! Put the time and effort into creating experiences that deliver on content and build in engagement.
Omnichannel is here to stay. Creating several different touchpoints throughout the year that combine several types of media, content, in-person events and virtual experiences is the new norm. Consider how content gets integrated across association functions to maximize the value your association provides to members and communities. Mastering the omnichannel approach is critical for organizations to stay relevant throughout the entire year.
Ensure business continuity. If 2020 taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected. The importance of a business continuity plan is more critical than ever. Manage your financial health for short and long-term survival. Evaluate and implement new technologies to enable consistent experiences for your members and staff. Review your insurance clauses. Outline what your organization’s emergency response is in the event that the unexpected happens (think 2020!).
2021 is the time to experiment. Associations must be innovative and strategic to generate revenue and drive member value. The global pandemic was a catalyst for reimagining events, evaluating an association’s value proposition, and facilitating connections, information sharing, and engagement.
As the world moves toward a different kind of future, don’t be afraid to try new things or re-evaluate those ideas your board didn’t think were worth exploring in the past.
To learn how SmithBucklin’s association client organizations successfully embraced the new virtual world, read our case studies. Read more about the future of events and tradeshows from 360 Live Media, a SmithBucklin-owned company.
Ande Leslie is a senior marketing manager at SmithBucklin
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