Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What Do Political Conventions Tell Associations? 5 Items to Consider

My wife Barb and I were driving somewhere last week and she mentioned comments on the NBC Today show that 2012 is probably the end of political conventions as we know them.

As a political/news junkie who watches convention speeches nearly 24/7, I started to push back.

Barb said: “Who wants to watch speech after speech after speech ... it’s boring.”
Despite my viewing habits, I realized Barb really reflects the majority of the people in the U.S. Those who are not watching nonstop and who are satisfied with the headlines and excerpts without all the political commentary inbetween.

Barb’s right: in our sound-bit, 140-character world, we get bored with long, big general sessions filled with a parade of speakers lecturing to us.

It happens even at our professional association meeting ... ASAE. I did not sit in on the general sessions and I know several others did not. Attendance was listed at about 6,000. Did even half attend the general session?

What percent of attendees attend the general sessions your association hosts? Have you counted? Do more than half of those registered attend the general session?

If not, are we missing the fact that our attendees are voting with their feet?

Or, are we sticking our heads in the sand because it is easier to keep on doing what we’ve always done?

You and I know that annual conventions serve multiple purposes from meeting legal requirements for an annual meeting of members to providing a platform to recognize volunteers and celebrate successes.

But, as we witness wants happening to the political party conventions and we gauge the rapidly growing use of mobile technology, can we sit back without adapting how we are doing business?

Here are five items for you to consider.
  1. Find other ways to recognize volunteers and top leaders. One group I know moved their awards ceremony from a general session to an afternoon reception.
  2. Consider doing the “official annual meeting” electronically (assuming state laws and bylaws permit it). Let’s face it: the required annual meeting is pretty cut and dried and could be done electronically.
  3. Seek speakers who are willing to engage your participants rather than just lecture to them. Even college profs are being forced to change. Challenge speakers to drop lectures and adopt other formats. Require them to provide a blog post and/or video outlining their content.
  4. Find ways to combine multiple learning platforms including video, interactive sessions, social media (including questions from non-attendees) and more.
  5. Engage all members with the content created and shared at your meetings.

What are you doing?

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