22 August 2008

ASAE AM Conversation 1: Law of Unintended Consequences

In common with most attendees, I began my San Diego odyssey on a plane: a US Air flight from DC. I'm a platinum elite muckity-muck member (or whatever it is), so I've mercifully been shielded from much of the current unpleasantness in travel. I check in first class even when I'm not flying first class, so my lines are never long, I never pay overweight charges, and I never pay for extra bags.

My high muckity-muck status could not, however, protect me from the latest indignity: no free beverages. Not even a glass of water. Isn't that illegal, given that the water in the bathrooms is not potable?

So of course one of the topics of conversation at the Membership Section Council dinner Friday night at the lovely Canela's restaurant in San Diego was everyone's travel horrors. Outgoing chair Greg Fine of the Association Forum of Chicagoland and I got talking about the second level consequences.

It's no shock to say that airline travel is becoming increasingly unpleasant. It's also becoming increasingly unsustainable. Just look at what your annual flight total does to your carbon footprint. It's not pretty.

So Greg and I got chatting about what that might mean for the association industry. How much longer is a big meeting of 6000+ people coming in from all over the country - and the world - going to possible? If the era of cheap air travel ends (as it seems likely to), does it also mean the end of the era of annual meetings? And what does that mean for our organizations?

Greg postulated that it would result in a return to the era of smaller, regional meetings. And he's probably right. But the association execs who are still resisting social media technology might want to start thinking about what they're going to do if their members can no longer gather face to face. Sure, Cisco offers telepresence (and from what I hear, it's frappin' amazing), but can your organization really afford MULTIPLE telepresence studios at $300K EACH? Isn't it time to embrace the change?


Jeffrey Cufaude said...

One thing I'm thinking will happen is that a few of the mega-associations will set up telepresence suites in their HQs and then start renting them out to all of their peers. I know I would if it made sense.

Anonymous said...

I actually think there's a business in this - set up telepresence suites for rent by the hour in major cities.

Matt Baehr said...

My members would be very unhappy if everyone thought that it cost $300k for a telepresence system. They are way cheaper than that. And with the brisk sales our members are seeing, I think they will become more the norm.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure the Cisco suites are $300K, but I'm also sure there are other vendors. But I'm married to a CCIE, so I have to pretend like other vendors don't exist. :)