Crowdsourcing Your Conference Agenda

By: Samantha Whitehorne

One way to generate some serious buzz for your association's next conference? Let members have some control over the meeting-planning process like the National Association of Plan Advisors recently did.

In an effort to get members more involved in the meeting-planning process, the National Association of Plan Advisors—a sister organization of the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries—let members select session topics for its NAPA 401(k) Summit, which took place in March in New Orleans. ASPPA shares three reasons why the organization went that route:

It was inexpensive and simple. ASPPA used the free, open-source platform All Our Ideas for the voting process. The tool was easy for members to navigate. They were given two session ideas. They could either pick their favorite or add their own idea into the mix for others to vote on. The process was then repeated. The platform's algorithm sorted and ranked the ideas in real time, allowing members and ASPPA staff to see what topics were in the lead.

It allowed for long-term engagement. The process began in early 2013 with a conference committee that put together an initial list of topics that members could vote on. The voting took place between May and August.

It required little of those who participated. While the process lasted a few months, members were able to log on at any time, for only a few minutes—even on their mobile devices—and make their selections or add their own ideas. In the end, 10,000 votes were cast on 76 possible session topics. Most interesting: 13 of the lowest-ranking proposals were submitted by the committee, showing the power of member-generated ideas.

Samantha Whitehorne is deputy editor at Associations Now in Washington, DC. Email:[email protected]

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Wisdom of the Crowd."]

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now in Washington, DC.