Our future depends on our ability to be adept at both management and technology," announced American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) President R. William Taylor, CAE, at the general session of ASAE's first combined management and technology conference, held in December at the Sheraton Washington (DC). The conference drew 2,227 association executives, 502 exhibitors, plus walk-ins for a buyer-seller ratio of more than four to one.
Some surprising statistics emerged at the conference, underscoring the relevance of Taylor's point for the meetings industry. Polled via the IRIS interactive audience response system, attendees at the technology opening plenary session reported that the second-most popular use of their associations' Web sites was for meeting and conference information. (The most frequent use was for membership information.) ASAE's meetings and expositions section conducted its own survey of members, finding that 74 percent of respondents had access to the Internet. "We were surprised by the high numbers," says Corinne S. Dacus, section chair. "[Technology] will dramatically change the way we provide services."
Anticipating that electronic commerce, or e-commerce, will be the next wave of technology application, speakers and participants addressed concerns about online security and other issues. E-commerce allows attendees to register for meetings and make their travel arrangements via the Internet. Dacus predicts that in the near future, association members will take care of their own housing online, rendering obsolete much of the current controversy about housing fees and surcharges.
The conference offered attendees the opportunity to participate in a board meeting circa 2000, complete with laptops at every seat; attend problem-solving clinics where experts provided solutions to technology-related challenges; and see demonstrations of the latest meeting-planning software.