Farewell 2022, Hello 2023: Thriving in the Midst of a Changing Economy!

Headquarters invited Sarah Markey-Hamm, IAPCO President-elect, to talk about the association challenges and struggles shrouded in an unstable economy but with new assets on the table.

5th Mar, 2023

In 2022, we saw the flourishing of people gathering again, and with this trauma of unbeknown certainty, time was our customers’ most precious commodity. Our challenge for 2023 and beyond is how we can not only ensure this survivability of our growth and revenue streams, but enhance its sustainability. Headquarters invited Sarah Markey-Hamm (pictured below), IAPCO President-elect, to talk about the association challenges and struggles shrouded in an unstable economy but with new assets on the table.

Traditional income streams have been brutally challenged over the last two years, which allows us to now pursue and confront the previous conventions and processes and write a new playbook that sustains the new environment your organisation now lives in, and how it can adapt in the future.

An enormous part of this is to understand what your customers’ goals are for the next evolution of their business, and what you can offer to help them achieve this. Our partnership between the customer and the organisation should not consider their investment of their membership a necessary expense, rather than a discretionary one. Show, don’t tell them why they will not be sustainable without your experience, expertise, and execution. The obvious revenue growth model is to showcase your events in a hybrid format. Whilst it is evident that in-person events provide the most engaged experience, there are a series of missed opportunities present by not offering a virtual attendance. A virtual experience gives you a chance to showcase your product to those who may not have ever been able to attend your event, as well as offer a “visual demonstration” before they turn up in-person to the following events.

Another opportunity that should be capitalised upon is offering shared business services for your members. To be able to access high-level professionals such as lawyers, business specialists, or marketing experts, you can offer a substantial level of value to their businesses. Offering these services to those who may not traditionally have the means or access to at a more competitive or affordable rate is an opportunity that should not be ignored.

Whilst exploring new revenue streams is both appealing and necessary, reinforcing the foundations cannot be left behind! Maintaining your relationships with key stakeholders is crucial in fortifying long-term financial security. By following an already established engagement strategy with your key stakeholders, acquiring new customers will become a refined practice. Throughout events, we plan for every scenario, so why not plan for these key communication points? From regular catch-ups we can create opportunities to combat unexpected eruptions that would only have eventuated by our planned engagement strategies.

Don’t let yourself get distracted by the new, bright, and shiny and forget the basics! Regular board turnover is healthy for any organisation, as it allows a fresh perspective that is typically paired with a refined level of expertise. This is why on-boarding your board is paramount towards the lifeblood of your organisation. To ensure new members are on-boarded properly, it is essential that the prospective members are vetted properly against an established suitability criteria you should have in place. What do you need? Do they have the skills to provide it? Are you intimidated by their skillset? Good! Then it likely means they know something you don’t, and can teach it to you!

Members of risk and finance committees have a greater responsibility than other sub-committee members. It is vitally important that they have a broader knowledge of the intricacies of the association, and a keen knowledge of management accounting and fiduciary responsibilities. They also need a deep understanding of the responsibilities of the role on the committee, pain points of the organisation, and what mechanisms of growth exist and should be explored.

Managing an association, or being on the board of that association, in the ever-developing current economic climate is challenging, but not impossible. Your goal should not be to just survive amongst the changing economy, but to thrive! By surrounding yourself with bright, genuine people who have an innovative mindset for growth, and not intimidated by daunting opportunities or responsibilities, you are halfway there.

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Supported by the Union of International Associations (UIA), the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) and the Interel Group, the global public affairs and association management consultancy, Headquarters Magazines serve the needs of international associations organising worldwide congresses.