ASAE finds opportunity in ashes of the economy

From a press release posted by the ASAE

Results of a new economic impact study conducted by ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership in December 2008 and January 2009 point to new challenges associations might have to face in the near future. The study, titled ASAE & The Center Impact Study — Beliefs, Behaviors and Attitudes in Response to the Current Economy, shows that although overall the association sector is doing well, there are some important points that association leaders should consider when planning their business strategies for this and next year.

ASAE & The Center President and CEO John H. Graham IV, CAE. says, “… Many associations are emphasizing virtual experiences right now, which is probably good planning, but the study clearly shows that the members who participated in the study want to meet face-to-face instead, and may even skip some more localized events that they would normally attend in order to afford a larger, distant meeting where the perceived value is high. This study really speaks volumes about what members want and value from their associations, and should be a great resource for associations as they adapt to these changing economic conditions.”

Two highlights of the study that associations should be concerned with:

– Only 58% of association members who have attended a face-to-face meeting or an event last year indicate they have a high probability of doing so this year — primary markets are shrinking;

– Millennials, individuals born after 1977, will have to be convinced of the value of membership and are most likely to drop membership and event attendance. To be successful, we have to show them, and all members, how our associations help them in a down economy.

Millennials (GenY) is the audience most comfortable with social media tools. They are networking already without the help of associations. And, while not specifically stated, the more virtual media is pushed to replace the face-to-face meetings, the more association members will crave IRL connections.

For more information about the study and to read the white paper highlighting the results, visit

Social media is building value for human touch

Two separate things happened to me in the past four days that are starting to connect a theory around the value of human touch and social media.

I had lunch in Columbus, Ohio on Friday with a colleague who lives and works in central Wisconsin who asked me casually, “Do you know how many people were on the plane flaying out here?” I didn’t know, but I suspected it was packed, as the once-a-day from nowhere, Wisconsin to Columbus usually is.

“It was a 737. Every other row was occupied. There was almost nobody on the flight,” he mused.

Just today, Jason Falls wrote a blog post on Social Media Explorer. It may not have been his original intent, but he just outlined the case for why social media is building value for human touch.

This is good news for the airlines as their little experiment in the ’90s with low airfares all but destroyed the value of flying. So too for trade shows who are caught in the same loop of having to attract people to the shows, but charging little to get a crowd.

Networking is becoming a commodity. The more the social media experts and evangelists talk up the value of being able to reach out and connect with anyone anywhere, the more valuable human touch becomes. For trade associations that are forward-thinking and can weather this economy, selling human touch in a sea of social media will be like selling beluga caviar in a tilapia marketplace.

Trade shows are not going to go away. Nor are newspapers, executive conferences, books, in-person meetings or retreats. But, they are going to become more valuable, albeit smaller. While Twitter, blogs and email may start a relationship, human touch will almost always close those with the most value.

The challenge in the years ahead for trade groups who sell networking is to build value around the parts that require human touch, to squeeze as much value out of them without choking the participants and to not squander the precious drops they create.

Is your organization poised to do that? It better be.