The pandemic has without doubt been an accelerator for change obliging associations and their event partners to fundamentally reassess how they function, their event strategy and their engagement strategies.
For us, Aurencie Ranson, Development Director, and Karine Desbant, Marketing & Communications Manager, Association Market at MCI Group France look back, through the lens of an expert, at these profound changes and the new challenges they bring with them.
From your privileged perspective, what is your analysis of the impact of the changes brought about by the pandemic on associations and learned societies?
AURENCIE : At a time of unprecedented health crisis, digital technology has developed dramatically, establishing itself as one of the main alternatives in a world in turmoil. The pandemic has been an accelerator for change obliging associations to fundamentally rethink how they function. The rapid transformation of events and congresses from a face-to-face to a virtual and from now on a hybrid format means that new revenue strategies must now be explored in order to ensure the sustainability of the entire association. Today, thanks to digital, associations have the possibility to reinvent themselves, to better meet the expectations of the young generation of members and participants, and to develop new sources of revenue. It is a new field of possibilities, new opportunities in terms of community, renown, and revenue.
However, it is important that the hybrid congress is not a poor copy of a face-to-face congress. It must seek to be a new experience for the user by taking into account the challenges. Though digital is not a strategy in itself, it must nevertheless be used to support the development of the association. It must provide greater freedom of ‘consumption’ of content to an ever-wider target audience, while offering new opportunities of visibility for an experience that lasts beyond the duration of the congress itself.
From your perspective, what are the big challenges facing associations at present and in the future?
KARINE : Over the last two years, with the cancellation, deferral, and modification of their face-to-face annual event, many associations have been impacted by a drop in revenue, from which they are still suffering the consequences today. To continue to exist, they must now concentrate on new products and services and generate new revenue. The ongoing engagement of their community particularly young generations remains a major challenge. With access to information and the many sources of content available, associations must counter increasing competition and stand out by creating ever more personalized experiences for their members and their stakeholders. This must be combined with increased investment in the automation of marketing and artificial intelligence.
Finally, associations must concentrate on delivering an engaging offer with strong added value, notably on return on investment, to ensure the financing of their congress and to continue to attract partners in the industry.
Whilst associations are the spokesperson of a profession, they are also one of the links in a wider community. Their development will therefore require them to adopt alternative collaborative approaches and new economic models that will obviously integrate not only digital transformation but also a new conception of their events and new models of engagement for the different stakeholders that make up their community.
How has MCI undergone its own transformation and how does it help its customers adapt to this new reality?
AURENCIE : Our society has undergone major upheavals that we cannot ignore. This crisis has also compelled us to reinvent ourselves and to deliver new and relevant solutions to our customers as our survival also depends on theirs.
Fortunately, for many years now, MCI has been addressing the questions of content digitization and community engagement. In 2022, we are therefore more than ever a strategic partner, taking our reflection beyond logistical and operational considerations and wanting more than ever to see a strong value-added collaboration emerge with our customers. To achieve this, we rely on three fundamental elements: content, community, and revenue. We focus on defining a strategy for our customers to distribute and enhance their content in order to ensure sustainable growth through revenue diversification and community engagement.
Finally, our recent ISO 20121certification is another guarantee for our customers, evidence of our environmental, societal, and economic responsibility. We are proud to have obtained this certification, which is perfectly in line with the DNA of our group, with the congratulations of the auditors.
In 2022, what, according to you, are the two leading trends to follow for associations and learned societies?
KARINE : Without doubt, data, and the move to hybrid. Data continues to play a key role in the conception and improvement of the experience of participants and users. Because it offers a better understanding of the public, their needs and expectations, data makes it possible to better anticipate and therefore adapt and create experiences. By investing in data analysis, associations should be able to offer increasingly personalized experiences that have a greater impact on their audiences.
Over the course of the last two years, the obligation to transform to digital has in fact revealed many development opportunities for associations, which have had to act swiftly to transform and adapt their event. And whilst face-to-face events seem to be returning, in a still unstable political and economic context, hybrid events appear henceforth to be the new reality.