Put Members in the Spotlight as Meeting Storytellers

When members gather at conferences, you have a big opportunity to collect their stories to showcase the people who make up your community. Some specific tools, distribution channels, and strategies will help you put them in the spotlight.

Face-to-face communication has grown scarcer in this digital age, when emails, texts, and social media posts often replace direct, two-way conversation. But if you surveyed your members tomorrow, I would be willing to bet they’d say that relationship strength, community, and face-to-face connections are primary reasons why they feel a sense of belonging to your organization.

Don’t get me wrong—digital communications and social networking definitely make it easier for members to stay connected 24/7, but it’s at annual meetings or other conferences where people put down their devices and connect as human beings.

What if you want to document these interactions as they happen and seize the moment to capture some of your members’ impressions, experiences, and best thinking? You’ll be showcasing your members being “more human humans”—to use a phrase describing a driver of change identified by the ASAE ForesightWorks research initiative.

You may want to consider a few simple storytelling strategies to create evergreen content featuring your members that will last well beyond the meeting.

Curated video testimonials. The ubiquitous and ever-growing presence of YouTube, which last year saw more than 1.8 billion logged-in viewers per month, makes it a prime platform for highlighting member testimonials. Last week, in a robust discussion on Collaborate [ASAE member login required], association pros talked about how meetings offer an excellent opportunity to gather these first-person stories on video. (Check out this Membership Hack on the same subject.)

However, you can’t just shove a microphone in front of a member’s face and expect to hear a compelling story. Jackie Wallenstein, director of membership, marketing, and communications at the Association of School Business Officials International, says you need to carefully prep members for video recordings. “Questions were prepared, and in some cases, shared with interviewees ahead of time so they had time to think out their answers,” she says. “Interviewees were targeted through discussions with program directors who would be at the meeting.”

Podcasting with members. Another platform that’s seen a spike in popularity is podcasting. At last year’s Online News Association conference, staff and volunteer members teamed up to produce ONA’s first-ever podcast, which highlighted and recapped a number of conference sessions. Its success hinged on a team of volunteer members, including one who is a podcast producer at a public radio station in San Francisco.

But you don’t have to be a professional to get a podcast up and running. Recording tools, including a quality lavalier microphone, can now be plugged into a smartphone, and easy-to-use audio tools, like Anchor, are available for download as smartphone apps. ONA’s podcast reached multiple nonmember audiences on distribution channels like Soundcloud, Google Play, Apple Podcasts, and Stitcher. And the team served up evergreen content to members by posting each recorded episode as a Soundcloud file for playback on ONA’s meetings website.

Instagram takeovers. These days Instagram influencers are everywhere, and it’s becoming a popular way to engage with younger members, including those from the Gen Z and millennial generations. If you’re in need of on-the-ground social media support during an event, you could tap a volunteer to give their perspective in an “influencer takeover.” The American Dental Hygienists’ Association already does this type of storytelling with some of its youngest members. ADHA has a year-round program that gives members a day-in-the-life look at student members. Here’s a recent example:

(Before you hand over the log-in credentials to your association’s Instagram account, be sure to read this article from the influencer-marketing company The Shelf, explaining how to effectively organize and orchestrate an Instagram takeover.)

When you use these tactics, it’s your members’ personal stories that are in the spotlight. But your team’s smart use of tech tools, distribution channels, and platforms will make them resonate far and wide.

What storytelling tools or tactics are you trying at meetings? How does this strategy help support your association’s goals? Post your examples in the comments below.

(MStudioImages/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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