Five Big Lessons From ASAE’s Tech Conference

From content strategy to video to AMSes, five useful insights you can take back to your association from National Harbor.

In a way, ASAE’s 2014 Technology Conference & Expo, at Maryland’s National Harbor, was an early Christmas treat—with gifts of useful data and insights from some of the association world’s greatest minds.

We covered many of them on our social media liveblog, but I wanted to give special attention to five key points:

1. An effective video takes many forms. A news-style video press release with an eye-catching headline, a short clip that underlines the value of an association program to members, and an additive video that puts a multimedia layer on top of an industry training manual. All of these approaches work effectively for video. During a Wednesday panel discussion on video learning, led by ADB Partners CEO Amanda Baston, examples of each of these methods got airtime—and all of them succeeded at their main goals. The videos can be costly—indeed, American Chemical Society lead writer and producer Noel Waghorn noted that a video using a mix of stock photos and an interview (shown above) cost the association about $1,000 to create, with most of that expense resulting from paying a freelancer—but with the right approach, the results can be impressive. Since August, the video has drawn nearly 100,000 views on YouTube.

2. The tools may change, but the approaches won’t. No matter if we’re sharing with our audiences on MySpace, Twitter, Snapchat, or somewhere else in five years, ultimately, a few things are going to remain constant. Among them: the power of good, consistent visual messaging. This was one of the points that Pantheon President Mark Tobias underlined while speaking at Tuesday’s “The Future of Content Distribution” session. It’s about having effective imagery that combines brand, mission, and emotion, to help the people you’re trying to reach identify with the content. These are all things that remain true, no matter the medium.

3. Legacy is a limiting factor. AARP is a forward-thinking organization, but it’s also a large one, with years of content and web projects under its belt. Also during the content distribution session, Mike Lee, AARP’s senior advisor of digital strategy, noted that the association is starting to move away from apps (while not ditching them entirely), as it finds that responsively designed websites are a more efficient way to reach its members. But there’s a problem: AARP has a lot of legacy content, widgets, and other things that make creating a responsive website easier said than done. Consequently, the association is planning to maintain its old site during a transition period as it launches a new one. It will use the popular design framework Bootstrap to help minimize the complexity.

4. The homepage matters less than you think it does. “Links are the currency of the web, not content, and links are an inherently collaborative and sharing activity,” content management expert Gerry McGovern wrote on his blog last month. “Nothing lives in isolation on the web. Every page is a homepage for someone.” It’s time to drive that point home to your association’s stakeholders, all of whom are trying to get a link or 10 on your homepage. During Tuesday’s “One Voice to Rule Them All: Online Content Governance” session, American Nurses Association social media engagement manager Jessica Ek and Leslie O’Flahavan, owner of online-writing-services provider E-Write, recommended using data to sell a key point to the stakeholders of your organization. Most people don’t come to your site via the homepage, but the additional clutter from unnecessary links detracts from the experience for those who do.

5. The AMS should help you shape your strategy: Tuesday’s panel discussion on “The Future of the AMS” was packed, and with good reason—association management systems are massive capital expenditures, with only buildings (yes, buildings!) costing more. As a result, purchasing one is the perfect opportunity to reconsider your overall business strategy. What better time than when the shape of your back end is changing? That said, your goal is to find something you can live with, not something that is absolutely perfect. Panelist Teri Carden, founder of Review My AMS, put it best: “Finding the perfect AMS is like finding the perfect husband or wife; they just don’t exist.”

What caught your eye during the conference? Share your best takeaway in the comments.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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