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Earthquakes, Rocking Chairs and Membership Building

Lori Halley 26 September 2011 0 comments

When the earthquake hit Virginia recently, it shook our building – yes, even way up in Toronto! We all stopped working and looked at each another with startled expressions all around. What was our next reaction? We didn’t go running down into the street, instead we all got on our computers or cell phones to find out what was going on; who had been affected and if everyone was OK.

It was one of those a-hah moments when I saw the true power and immediacy of our global social media village in action! Some of my colleagues were skyping friends and family around the world. Others jumped on Facebook or Twitter to find out the buzz. Within moments, we had details on the whereabouts of the earthquake’s epicentre, its magnitude and immediate impact. In the hours afterwards, my Twitter stream became a tweet torrent and I heard the experiences of folks from the east coast of Canada and the US through to California.

Build Positive Bonds Through a Shared Experience

So what – you ask – has this got to do with membership building? In his Acronym post, So Where Were You?” Joe Rominiecki remarked on the energy in the post-earthquake conversations. He noted:

It was something everyone could talk about. We have these sorts of moments of common shared experiences increasingly rarely. …It's proof positive of that deeply human desire for shared experience.

The lesson for an association? … When your members get together, give them an experience that shakes them up a bit (in a good way, of course). If you can give them something they can all talk about, they'll be building positive bonds that they associate with your community.

How can you shake things up?

A few weeks before the earthquake, I’d read a post on the Association Onion that focused on
building conference community. While I realize that their posts are satirical, the ideas in their “Using Rocking Chairs and Front Porches to Build Conference Community post were thought-provoking. In the post, fictitious conference organizers decided to appeal to their attendees’ nostalgia to build community. They took the idea of rocking chairs used at the Charlotte airport, and decided to fill the meeting room for the general session. Now I know this was written in jest – but the idea of trying to bring conference attendees together for a shared, nostalgic experience follows Joe Rominiecki’s advice about “building positive bonds.”

OK – so you may not be able to fill meeting rooms with rocking chairs, but you might be able to come up with another off-line or online concept that will bring your members together to offer a sense of community. Maybe you should start with your Board and try something new and unconventional in a planning or orientation session. Or perhaps your event or conference committee could do some brainstorming – it’s worth a try.

What has your association got planned to shake up your membership and build community in the coming year? Share any of your ideas or insight in the comments below.

Photo credit:  Mark_W’s Flickr Photostream


Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Monday, 26 September 2011 at 9:59 AM
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