Trends. How do associations stay in touch with them and remain current in the rapid world of change?

I recently attended an online session presented by Dan Stevens president of Association TV and Workerbee.TV, who presented five trends that are affecting the association world. It was a fascinating presentation that provided a lot of food for thought on the way boards and their CEOs navigate the ever-changing environment in which we operate.

The first trend discussed was the notion of “Free”. As the internet has evolved, more and more people have access to information online without being a member of your association. Dan showed us an association that offered free membership ( The notion of free membership creates a whole new set of conversations for your board. How will activities be funded if membership is free? The non-dues revenue will be crucial, as will event registration fees.

I don’t know of many associations that are free, but I am aware of many associations that are shrinking in membership numbers. Reviewing your association’s value proposition for members ensures that your members are engaged and are receiving value. I wrote a blog on this last year which you can find at

“Everyone is a publisher” was the next trend highlighted by Dan Stevens. This one is an animal when you look at the numbers. Every year 2 million new books are written, 16,000 new films created, 30 billion blog posts posted, 182 billion Tweets and 700 million groups participate on Facebook groups each month. That is a lot of information accessible to members, and how do you stack up? Associations need to review content and the mediums through which it is delivered. Is it relevant, entertaining, viewable across the right medium (53% of content consumption was through mobile devices in 2016) and will it engage your members?

The third trend Dan spoke about was “Social media” (he referred to it as the Trojan Horse during his presentation). This trend turned out to be an important one that has far reaching implications for your association. Most associations are utilizing social media in a number of forms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter etc. With artificial intelligence working behind the social media scene, other organizations are learning more about our members than we know ourselves. This is dangerous, as the more information they amass about our members, the better they will be able to service them in the future.

An excellent example was given about YouTube. By clicking on a YouTube video about an association, YouTube will automatically load a new video once that video is over. The challenge with this, is that YouTube loads 50% of videos that it wants the viewer to see based on their previous internet activity, not a video related to the Association’s site that they just visited. By removing the visitor from the website, YouTube has taken control over the message the viewer is receiving versus the association maintaining the control that it had while the visitor was on their website. Dan talked about taking control over your messages and ensuring we keep members engaged and focused on your association’s content.

Trend four was about “Learning from publisher mistakes”. Associations need to adapt to the consumption habits of audiences and the needs of sponsors/advertisers. Organizations are now able to measure return on investment (ROI) in different and more sophisticated ways than ever before. ROI is crucial to an association’s survival. Are there ways that you can allow sponsors to connect with members to provide them with relevant information? One of the associations with which I work is looking at setting up an annual sponsorship program that is not solely revolved around their annual meeting. This will not only improve the association’s bottom line, but also provide more value for the sponsors as it allows them to touch base with the membership more often.

The last trend Dan spoke about was the “Growth of video”. Studies have shown that by 2019, 84% of web traffic will be video. Some of the reasons provided were as follows:

  • Cutting through the clutter
  • Digital/Mobile consumption
  • Complexity of topics, solutions to problems
  • Need to be informed, educated, entertained
  • Impatience

The fascinating statistics show that 65% of people are visual learners and that 90% of the information the brain processes is visual data.

Video is a huge opportunity for associations to engage members and sponsors and provide value to both groups. Dan shared the power of video in which a sponsor sent out a text-based email. This text email only received eight responses out of 4,000 sent. When they inserted a video to that same group they received 700 downloads from the same database. Clearly, the video created a more meaningful response for the sponsor. Figuring out how to use video effectively is the challenge moving forward for associations but clearly it works.

The session put on by Association TV and WorkerBee.TV opened my eyes to many things worth considering when speaking and working with my board members. Today’s pace of change is fast, and it is making all of us in the association world assess the way we do and look at things. Our job is to keep an eye on trends and do your best to stay ahead of them.