Helpful tips from ASAE on engaging and stimulating planners

Planners are always on the hunt for new ways to create engaging and connecting experiences. To explore this further, Smart Meetings sat down with Michelle Mason, president and CEO of ASAE, to learn how meeting professionals can bring members together in more meaningful ways and what the next generation of convention attendees want in their experience.

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Facilitator of Change

Association meetings often function as a place of dialogue and discourse. Unbound by restrictions of government agencies, associations can make long-term impactful changes in areas like healthcare and the financial fields.

“I think we are the trusted source. We are the trusted advisor,” says Mason. “We have an opportunity…We need to tell our story about how we make advances.”

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Disruption = Opportunity

Covid-19 may have been a disruptor for meeting planners, but ASAE decided to use those disruptions to reimagine the way meetings could be done.

“It presented an opportunity for us to create new experiences. to the best of our ability once we started to get that muscle memory back in an in-person meeting,” says Mason.

Why Coming Together is Important

Hybrid and virtual meetings never have quite the same feel or impact of attending an in-person, hands-on session.

“It really centers back to the value of the relationship and meaningful connections. There’s a lot of energy around that, and the quality of the attendees there for a reason. They’re there for a purpose, not just the content. It is the community,” says Mason.

But it’s always important to keep the focus and purpose of these gatherings clear. “Don’t just convene for convening’s sake,” says Mason. “But help me to understand: the why. Why should I be there?”

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Bringing in the Next Generation

In hopes of encouraging the next generation of association members to join the industry, ASAE is working to strategize the development and growth of future meeting professionals.

For this reason, ASAE has created a strategy called Destination 2026, which consists of four pillars: member value, workforce development, elevation of associations and culture and infrastructure.

“We want to be very intentional in helping our members understand how to position our sector, working in partnership for it to be a career choice. We are looking at a variety of options, partnering with universities, conducting research, meeting this next generation where they are and having a strategy around that,” says Mason.

Mason used AI as example of this. “AI does not have wisdom. We as humans have wisdom. We will always be relevant. It’s just a matter of how we use that tool to complement our work.”

Mason continues, “We are thinking about the increased need to focus on soft skills—essential skill development—which is critical, particularly when we’re looking at this next generation.”

Adjusting Training Tactics

Attention spans, in general, may have become the length of a TikTok video, but this also means associations are moving to meet the challenge.

“The topic that we are really trying to wrap our arms around here at ASAE, because we’re on this journey like every association, is accessibility and neurodiversity.” Mason continues, “We are not experts in that space, so we are partnering with other organizations in order to provide our meeting planning members with tools and resources to be to be able to address that emerging opportunity.”

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What the Audience Needs

To create the best experience for your attendees, Mason suggests the traditional route of surveying. ASAE has also used text polling. “You take the temperature of your membership; you just want to sample,” Mason says “It doesn’t have to be a very long survey process. Sometimes having real-time information to make decisions is very important as well.”

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Opening the Door to Inclusion

To better serve their members, ASAE hired a new director of conscious inclusion, who will focus on DEI and accessibility in hopes of working with partner organizations that will help develop tools and resources which aim to align with ASAE’s strategic planning process.

Meeting Professionals and AI

Is AI coming for our jobs? Probably not, but, Mason suggests, it can be a complimentary tool.

“I think AI will complement the job of the meeting professional,” says Mason, “AI will provide access to information faster, to make decisions to complement some work. But as I mentioned earlier, it’s just a toolthere needs to be the human component to translate.”