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ASAE Conference Provides a Tech Manual for Associations

Hil Anderson, Senior Editor
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WASHINGTON – The ASAE Technology Exploration Conference (TEC) had some extra excitement this year as associations look increasingly to technology to maintain relevancy to their members.
Nearly 900 association executives and industry partners convened in Washington, D.C., for ASAE’s annual look at the latest in technology for the tradeshow and events industry and heard from keynote spot speakers who have been at the forefront of its applications.
The conference at the downtown Walter E. Washington Convention Center was held a couple of weeks after the release of an extensive study by the software firm Community Brands documenting the changing professional needs of association leaders and their members.
A final tally of 109 exhibiting companies occupied the bustling exhibit floor, and three days of educational sessions covered the ways that “big data” analytics and mobile apps can keep associations humming efficiently and remaining an invaluable resource to far-flung members.
“The goal of the revitalized TEC conference was to provide the association community with an opportunity to immerse themselves in interactive experiences that challenge their thinking and move their organizations forward,” said Susan Robertson, Interim ASAE President and CEO. “We achieved this by bringing in leaders in the technology sector as our keynote speakers and engaging with companies with live demos and learning sessions led by the best in the industry.”
A trio of notable speakers from inside and outside the exhibitions industry provided a high-altitude look at the ways that technology continues to reshape the events industry and the overall economy in rousing new ways.
Gary Shapiro, President and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), organizers of CES, keynote address covered topics from his new book “Ninja Future: Secrets to Success in the New World of Innovation.” Shapiro was joined on stage by journalist Sherrell Dorsey, founder of ThePLUG, for an insightful look at how association employees can get up to speed on effective uses of technology — and how technology itself helps fill in the skills gap for associations.
The following day was led off by Nicholas Thompson, Editor-in-Chief of WIRED, who explored the ways that associations are being transformed but not replaced by technological advances, and then answered more-pointed questions from the audience on how technology is fitting in with events and organizations that have historically been rooted firmly in personal relationships and face-to-face networking.
There is much more that associations can offer their individual members, as was pointed out in the report released by Community Brands, which was one of the primary sponsors of the TEC. The study concluded that information about best practices, employment opportunities, and professional education were high priorities for association members and staff — and that those priorities can change as their members proceed along their career paths.
Finding a new job or advancing up the ladder is a higher priority for early career members while mid-level career executives are more interested in learning new skills and advancing their professional knowledge. Senior members, however, are focused on following industry news and maintaining a strong code of ethics.
“We see that members join organizations for different reasons than why they stay,” said Erin Shy, Managing Director, Association and Nonprofit at Community Brands. “As associations develop their strategies, it’s important for them to understand what benefits members value at various career stages and which ones drive recruitment, engagement and renewal.”
Putting technology to work by providing key information and new education to their members is a main mission of associations, and the TEC provided an opportune time for attendees to prepare for new initiatives to accomplish that mission.
Reach Susan Robertson at (202) 626-2723 or srobertson@asaecenter.org.

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