In 2020, It Was All About Creating a Guide. Now, You Can Really Get Inventive.

Associations can use a year’s experience mastering the virtual world to excel in future endeavors.

Erica Holland says she’s been pleased to see the transparency of association professionals in sharing their experiences—both positive and negative—dealing with the pandemic.

“Seeing people collaborate in new ways has made me proud to be a part of this association world,” said Holland, the assistant executive director at the Society of Interventional Radiology.

She said the biggest lesson she learned last year from an organizational perspective is to be “nimble and willing to experiment and try things” because there wasn’t a road map for 2020. And since Holland’s association works with medical specialists, during the early stages of the pandemic information was flying at her members “at breakneck speed.”

And so, it was exceedingly important for SIR to get its members the most relevant and pertinent information to allow them to continue their work while also understanding how the pandemic affected it. That’s still important.

Ensuring you keep your members in the know is a significant factor in planning for the year ahead. But it’s just one piece of the puzzle—below are insights from Holland on how 2021 is all about building on the template you created in 2020 and leveling up.

“Info that is two days old is old”

That’s what Holland said, adding that this didn’t just apply to getting COVID resources to their members—they designed web-based solutions to help them curate that information quickly—but also to other types of clinical education.

She said there was a “real appetite for information,” so they learned how to quickly deliver webinar programs that in pre-COVID times might have taken months but that now are put together in just weeks.

Over the last year, they developed the framework for their association’s now all-virtual world as they went along. Now, with that roadmap in place…

You Can Focus on Preventing Your Members From “Zooming Out”

The transition from in-person to virtual work has served as a catalyst for what many of us have come to know as “Zoom fatigue.” Holland says that over the last year, experimenting and building out SIR’s roadmap, her team learned what engagement can look like in this digital ecosystem.

That meant answering questions like: How do you keep your online meetings fresh and relevant? How do you provide the right amount of pre-recorded content? Holland found balancing pre-recorded segments with live moderation and discussion worked best. She said it created a structure that wouldn’t spiral out of control timing-wise but still let people communicate with each other in real-time.

Associations also now have a better sense of financial commitments and expectations for navigating this new world—which types of investments yield more positive results. You know what is truly valuable to your members. And you know which resource-intensive activities aren’t so valuable and can be scrapped. As Holland pointed out, associations have had a year of experience to assess these things.

“I think seeing members continue to renew even during difficult and uncertain times reassured us that we were doing the right things,” Holland said. “And they see the value of their participation, which was a real positive during a difficult year.”

Everyone’s Becoming an Expert in New Trades and Tools

Internally, it’s also been quite a transformative year for learning how to deliver content and communicate as, essentially, a pixelated head. That includes everything from conducting everyday business to educational webinars and committee meetings.

“Everyone had to become masters of new trades,” Holland said. “Some of the tools we are using today were just completely alien and unknown to us [a year ago].”

Holland’s association has adopted a 100-percent telework model, and they rely heavily on their Association Management Software: Personify. Through this crisis, they maintained all of their member communications and leveraged features like auto-renewals, accounts payable and receivable. “It really minimized anyone’s need to go into our physical office space.”

SIR also integrated their online community with Personify to let members communicate amongst themselves in discussions and forums. While the traffic on these types of forums has always been high and discussions quite vigorous, it’s been a feature that members really needed in this socially sequestered time.

It’s more important now than ever for associations to give members access to one another, “to share their experiences and ideas in a time that is very socially isolating for many people,” Holland said.

It’s also important to approach this transitory period with an inventive mindset.

Embodying the Cutting-Edge Spirit

SIR’s members, interventional radiologists, are by nature on the cutting-edge of medicine and tech-savvy. They have “a willingness and appetite to pilot and trial new programs,” Holland pointed out.

That spirit allowed for honest feedback, an innovative attitude and staff working together to deliver an improved and imaginative journey ahead.

“I think that carried us through beautifully,” Holland said. “We’re not out of the woods yet, none of us are, but we are well-positioned in 2021 based on what we learned last year.”

This series by Personify is intended to serve as a guidepost for associations that are reacting to fundamental market shifts and proactively building a better future for their organizations.

(Piron Guillaume)