ON May 27, 2020, the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (Pcaae), in collaboration with its member, the Procurement and Supply Institute of Asia (Pasia), launched its first online event. The executive forum, themed “Associations: Threats and Opportunities amidst the Pandemic,” drew 278 attendees to the Zoom videoconference platform and 212 more to the Facebook live stream.
The e-forum is part of the PCAAE Executive Forum Series on Association Governance and Management that aims to discuss relevant issues concerning associations and member-serving organizations, as well as seeks to engage with a broader range of stakeholders for potential collaboration and business opportunities in this era of the “new normal.”
The discussions focused on how the coronavirus pandemic has heavily impacted associations and associated-related activities such as travel, tourism and the event industry; on innovative solutions adopted; and on the opportunities that lie now and in the future. The speakers were optimistic on the “gritsilience” (grit and resilience) of all the sectors in the value chain of associations and the silver linings that lie ahead.
The high-level panel consisted of the following: Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Chief Operating Officer and lawyer Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones; Pasia Chairman and current PCAAE Chairman Charlie Villasenor; Team Asia Founder and President and Philippine Association of Convention/Exhibition Organizers and Suppliers representative Monette Iturralde-Hamlim; Amsterdam-based International Congress and Convention Association Regional Director in Asia-Pacific Noor Ahmad Hamid; and, Associations Forum Pty. Ltd. (Australia) CEO John Peacock. The panel session was chaired and moderated by myself.
Among my takeaways from e-forum are as follows:
Challenges: Many of the difficulties encountered by associations centered on financial-related matters such as loss of revenue from face-to-face events which were either postponed or canceled; renegotiations with conference venues, hotels, suppliers and sponsors; decline in membership dues payment due to budget constraints and loss of jobs; and lack of financial support (worker pay subsidy, stimulus package) from government to the association sector and events industry.
Innovations and solutions: To lessen the impact of the above challenges, associations have taken on technology-enabled programs such as pivoting to virtual events, seeking technology partners and suppliers to fill gaps and incapacities, communicating through interactive web sites and e-newsletters, and upgrading hardware and software (staff up-skilling) capabilities.
Opportunities: Expansion of market (beyond members), new program offerings such as hybrid (in-person and virtual) events, content curation and marketing, sponsor engagement, business collaboration with other associations, as well as with the public and private sectors, operational efficiency through the use of technology, work from home arrangement, and short-term planning were among the opportunities cited.
The “New Future”: There was a consensus that the pre-2020 days will never return as there are still prevailing uncertainties due to health and safety concerns, economic downturn, and governance capacity. “Start with a blank canvas to paint your future,” “new world, new rules,” “old formulas no longer work” and “there is no playbook” were some of the short narratives mentioned.
The column contributor, Octavio “Bobby” Peralta, is concurrently the secretary-general of the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific the Founder & CEO of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives. PCAAE is holding the Associations Summit 8 on November 25 and 26, 2020 at the Philippine International Convention Center which is expected to draw over 200 association professionals here and abroad. The two-day event is supported by Adfiap, the Tourism Promotions Board, and the PICC. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on AS8.