Getting Started With The Digitalization Of Associations

This article about the digitalization of associations was first published on Boardroom, provided by IAPCO, author Frank M. Waechter, Founder and CEO of | Digital Marketing.

According to the World Economic Forum, digitalization is one of the key disruptors of the 21st-century. This process has caused profound changes in the way we interact and go about our lives. And has also transformed the nature of work and organizations. Ernst & Young suggests that the digital transformation is here to stay, and so it’s essential for associations to jump on board, embrace the digital mindset, and bring added value to their members – especially to new generations who are digital natives.

Digitalization, and thus digitalization of associations, is already underway, so embracing it is not a matter of if, but instead of when and how. In this post, we take a look at the most effective strategies and solutions that associations can use to achieve this.

Related: Digital Transformation in the Meetings and Events Industry

Should Your Association Go “All Digital”?

The first step is to kick-start a digital transformation strategy is deciding what to implement, how to do it, and on which time frame. Although it might be tempting to go “all-in” on digital, this isn’t always practical or necessary. Implementation success rates seem to be rather low – under 30% according to this McKinsey survey. On the other hand, those who are successful take an incremental approach to digitalization. Digital organizations don’t become so overnight, but they work and rework their strategy. Until they’re able to create new and stronger forms of engagement with their members. Therefore, it’s wise to make gradual changes strategically, using carefully chosen digital tools to enhance existing and more traditional operational models.

Low-Cost, High Impact Solutions

Mindset is as important as tools when it comes to the digitalization of associations. The process starts with building digital skills into the association’s culture, bringing key stakeholders on board, and breaking down silos before going all out. You can achieve this with limited financial resources – it all starts with the right mindset and with the disposition to make small-scale changes that have a significant impact.

Free content analytics tools are an excellent place to start. These tools enable data-driven decision making, which forms the basis for digital strategy. With this anticipatory intelligence, you can discover which content drives interaction best and which digital technologies your members are already using. The information can be used to predict what your members need. Also to formulate digital marketing campaigns using the format and channels your members prefer. For example, setting up an online community on a social media platform allows members to share and network 24/7 using tools they’re already familiar with. Some organizations, like the Association for Clinical Research Professionals, have created their online community platforms. Whereas others (like Trades Union Congress) offer their members online training in a webinar format, all through their website.

Related: Marketing for Associations: 4 Reasons to Use Google Analytics

Automation and Digital Tools

Another cost-effective tool is marketing automation. While not free, these software packages can save on labour costs. At the same time, deliver highly targeted communications that reach the right person with the right message at the right time. Also, consider the products or services your association already offers and how can they be digitalized. With marketing automation, it’s possible to segment members based on their interests and goals. And offer them tailored content.

Digital tools like machine learning or artificial intelligence have enormous potential for success, and they don’t need to be costly. Chatbots can be quickly built on social media platforms and drive a conversational approach to member interaction. And since they can learn autonomously and become more accurate over time, they are a sound investment.

Related: Does Your Associations’ Website Meet 2019 Standards?

Conferences and events are other areas of opportunity. Event apps are replacing printed conference guides, making them more portable and user-friendly. 

Examples of Digitalization of Associations

Organisations like the National Association of College and University Business Officers are building membership value into their events using year-round, multi-event apps that not only deliver smooth registration, networking and personalized content but also engagement, interaction and intelligence.

Another example of how digitalization can strengthen the reach of events: BILD, a Toronto-based land management association went paperless for its annual awards event. To do so, they implemented a CSP (content services platform), which bridges the gap between digital experience management (DxM) and content management. For the annual event, this move allowed members to submit and manage applications on a self-serve basis. Also reducing greatly time-related inefficiencies and risks of human error. Content management systems can be pricey, but there are affordable options too. In the beginning, association leaders may want to explore basic packages and solutions. Thus making sure their features target the most important goals for a particular event.

Related: 4 Concepts To Understand Digital Transformation in the Event Industry


The digitalization of associations is complex and multi-faceted, but its benefits outweigh the challenges. Taking a gradual approach to digital transformation can help your association remain competitive, future-focused, and member-oriented. Start taking steps now to give your association a strategic advantage and establish it as a trusted leader in your field. It’s never too late to become digitally aware and lead transformation successfully. If you are looking to give your association a digital strategy, get in touch with me. We offer digital solutions specifically tailored to multiple sectors in the MICE Industry.

Digital Transformation in the Meetings and Events Industry

I wrote a piece in 2017 about the foundations of the digital transformation in the events industry. At that time, the mice industry was trailing behind and had a lot of work to do. Two years on, and technology has advanced rapidly. So, does the events industry stand now? Technology is transforming the way we live and do business. Most industries have adopted it, changing many aspects of their design and makeup in the process. Digital tools are now a crucial part of strategic event management due to their proven ability to bring in substantial benefits. These benefits include significant cost and time savings, higher attendee satisfaction, and better exposure and image building.

The growth of the web is making many changes in all sectors. But, what influence is the digital transformation movement having on the meetings and event industry now that we have embraced it?

What exactly is digital transformation?

“Digital transformation is the process of exploiting digital technologies and supporting capabilities to create a robust new digital business model.” – Gartner

Digital transformation allows people to solve their traditional business problems in new ways. It offers new types of innovation and creativity, rather than simply enhancing and supporting our traditional methods.

Digital transformation in the events industry

The events industry is embracing digital transformation with all the latest tech on display at conferences and meetings. But, the new technologies available are assisting conference organisers with creating an immersive experience, making the registration process seamless. Those are the two basic, but major changes we are seeing. We are now in the Age of Experience. This means that every event, no matter how small now needs to become an immersive experience. The modern generation will settle for nothing less.

Technologies like 3D, VR, and AR can blend the digital and physical aspects of an event. They help create authentic conversations between delegates, attendees and speakers. This technology gives events the potential to become content marketing engines. As organisers in the events industry, we are now able to turn attendees into participants by adding an experiential dimension to our events, making a conference or any other event a collaborative occurrence as opposed to a function that people attend just for the purpose of consuming knowledge.

So, what can we expect in 2019 and thereafter?  

Digital transformation will have an ever-evolving effect on the events industry, with these four tech-trends at the forefront.

1.   Facial recognition

This exciting technology will permanently eliminate paper from the registration and entry process. It will also optimise the security at conferences, streamlining access.

2.   Virtual Reality

A technology that is constantly evolving has now merged with social media. Oculus venues is a virtual reality platform that enables live events to be seen with Live Nation, Ticketmaster, and through an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. The obvious point being that attendees don’t have to physically be there to experience your event.

3.   Augmented reality

Perhaps more effective than virtual reality, augmented reality is having a massive impact on the events industry. Engagement for events is crucial and can be very challenging given the demands of the modern consumer. Augmented Reality will boost engagement levels and create hype on social media by encouraging attendees to interact with your content and, in turn, share it with their following.

4.    Artificial intelligence

Smart technology is influencing the events industry in a big way too. By utilising chatbots in a wide range of scenarios, event planners can automate several tasks, better serving their attendees.  


So, as you can see, technology has been implemented and used to great effect already in the events industry. Associations are taking great interest in investing in new technologies, but this means a total overhaul of existing systems and practices. All for the betterment of the industry of course. The events industry is changing, and progressing in order to adapt to current trends, but these trends are forever changing. It never stops. It is a perpetual investigation and evolution of science. As players in this industry, we should continue to embrace it and view it as a thrilling time, full of opportunity and potential. We must, however, constantly seek ways in which we can be at the forefront instead of continually playing catch-up.

To learn about ways in which your association can truly embrace digital transformation in the meetings and events industry, get in touch with me. I specialise in delivering results for stakeholders within the Meetings, Incentives, Conference and Event Industry as well as for Associations and SMBs.

4 Concepts To Understand Digital Transformation in the Event Industry

As most meeting planners and event organisers know, technological disruption has brought profound changes to the MICE industry. Today, meetings, conferences, and exhibitions are increasingly being planned, organised and managed using digital tools. Digital tools are becoming an integral part of strategic event management given their proven ability to bring in substantial benefits. Such as significant cost and time savings, higher attendee satisfaction, and better exposure and image building.

Widespread digitalisation has brought us closer to a new understanding of communication within the meetings industry and being familiar with the key components this transformation is essential for planners, organisers, marketers, and anyone involved. In this post, we introduce four concepts that can help you understand the foundations of the digital transformation in the event industry.

1. Bringing In An Experiential Dimension

If you thought that we live in a digital era, think again: experts believe we are in the early stages of the Age of Experience. This means that every event now has the potential to become an immersive experience marked by authenticity and lasting engagement. Technologies like VR, AR, and 3D can unify the digital and physical aspects of an event, help create bi-directional conversations between the different parties involved, and eventually become content marketing engines in their own right. Moreover, adding an experiential dimension to an event turns attendees into participants, and motivates them to go from being consumers of information to have an active role in the generation of knowledge.

Related: Content Marketing for Associations: How to Grow Membership in the Digital Space

2. The User Experience of Events

Linked to the above is the fact that digitalisation has created a direct connection between the organisation and management of events and the field of user experience. The principles of UX are relevant to any digital tools used at events, and include:

  • Simplification of information: digital tools used at events should be designed to make it easy for participants to absorb and digest the information presented
  • Trust: when effective digital tools are in place, participants can appreciate how much time and effort have gone into creating an event that meets their expectations. This creates a sense of transparency that reinforces trustworthiness in the organiser
  • Feedback: not every participant is equally tech savvy, so it is important to ensure that event apps and other digital tools used at an industry event provide users with clear signals and timely feedback on how they should be used
  • Invisibility: great technology is as unobtrusive as possible. People expect tech tools to be an extension of their daily lives, so their implementation at events is no exception and should be planned with a focus on seamless functionality
  • More control to the user: digital event tools must shift the focus of control from the organiser to the attendee since flexible and user-friendly applications can empower participants and contribute to higher satisfaction rates

Related: Developing Social Media Strategies for Conferences & Events

3. Personalisation and Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence and related digital technologies, such as mixed-reality tech, are leading the digital transformation in the event industry. These tools enable organisers to create fully personalised environments in ways that were unthinkable only a few years ago.

AI applications (like iBeacons, concierge apps, and chatbots) can quickly gather contextual and granular data about attendees preferences and behaviour and provide them with real-time and relevant information, delivering curated content and offering opportunities for feedback. In addition to helping organise attendee-led events, these tools allow organisers to plan future and more personalised events, facilitate research, and bring valuable insights into lead management, as long as they are used alongside robust data security measures.

4. Networked Communities

Despite the emphasis on personalisation, every industry event has a clear social and relational component. Conferences, meetings, trade fairs, seminars, and similar events can be considered living organisms that rely on deep networks and meaningful connections to prosper. This is why the concept of networked communities is central to the digital transformation in the event industry. Tools like social media chats and online forums facilitate the emergence of communities at a conference or exhibition and play a role in helping keep communities alive throughout and after the event. When creating networks between and within attendees is at the core of event design, the technology used goes from being a product to becoming a service that enables meaningful and lasting conversations between all parties involved.


Digital tech is quickly becoming the backbone of events in the MICE industry. The digital transformation in the event industry is underpinned by the inclusion of experiential dimensions, the principles of UX design, growing personalisation, and networked communities that add human value to any event. These four concepts are far from short-lived trends since according to a recent report, nearly 70 percent of event organisers believe that digitalisation is here to stay. As time goes by, the implementation of events technology will give rise to new insights and opportunities. Events can become spaces for learning, interaction, innovation, and more, so now is the time to consider how you can take your event to the next level and jump on the bandwagon of digital transformation in the event industry.

The post 4 Concepts To Understand Digital Transformation in the Event Industry was first published on Author Frank M. Waechter.

Frank M. Waechter |
Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Inbound Marketing, Growth Marketing, Data Analytics for the Meetings Industry, Events Industry and Associations. Conference and Event Activation, Live Marketing, Onsite Engagement.
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