Octavio Peralta: Positive turns ahead

Founder and CEO of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE), Octavio Peralta, believes associations can shake off the pandemic fatigue and re-energise for 2022.

What is your outlook for association meetings for the coming year?
Association meetings in the region during the pandemic have actually increased, albeit being interrupted briefly at the start of the pandemic and thereafter delivered mostly online.

This trend will continue in 2022 and, in fact, will increase further as associations gain more experience and confidence in the virtual space. Experimentation is also underway to conduct more hybrid events in 2022 and even in-person events towards the later part of the year.

What is your recovery projection of association meetings in Asia-Pacific?
If this recovery question is in the context of the return in the number of in-person meetings and their revenue intake pre-pandemic, then there will definitely be a recovery, though modest in scale.

As the pandemic and its concomitant restrictions ease up, there will be a spike in the number of in-person meetings, moving from venues closer to home to nearby areas and then to other places within the country before going international.

Revenue generation from these meetings will track the same path as meeting destinations change. However, there is still scope for virtual, hybrid and in-person meetings to coexist and these approaches will form part of the events delivery portfolio of associations.

What do you think Asia-Pacific associations lost and gained during these two years?
The pandemic has been an accelerator and a tailwind to propel digitalisation initiatives to the front and centre of association programming activities. Certainly, the gain for associations is resiliency and technological innovation achieved in so short a time on how meetings have evolved and delivered through different online platforms.

Loss, though temporary, would be the face-to-face networking and less revenue intake of associations mainly due to reduced registration fees and sponsorships.

With most meetings going virtual and hybrid, how can associations inject a human element?
Virtual and hybrid events and engagements have reduced and limited human interactions.

However, the introduction of virtual breakout rooms in online sessions, gamification, storytelling, entertainment, among others, have put a semblance of a human touch during virtual events. That’s how event organisers have become media production outfits akin to TV broadcasting. But of course, nothing can replace a face-to-face event!

What are some lessons associations can learn from the pandemic?
From an associations perspective, lessons learnt during the pandemic revolve around member engagement, event design and delivery, value proposition, revenue generation and diversification, reserve funding, remote work, and competition.

In terms of member engagement, associations have shortened their programmes, and are increasingly sharing their content through videos, social media snippets, bullet points, as well as offering micro-volunteering opportunities.

As far as value proposition is concerned, associations have seen the need to focus on value and not the things that they do; not features, but the benefits, outcomes and results.

On revenue generation and diversification, associations have accepted the fact that revenue intake (membership dues, event registrations, sponsorships) have decreased and are looking towards other sources such as advisory services and grants.

These days, there is also a need to have a reserve fund strategy to weather new challenges that may emerge. Remote work has also been prevalent and many associations are considering either work from home arrangements for some functions, and hybrid for others.

Increased competition from within and among associations, as well as from for-profit organisations, academe, and consulting companies has also intensified. As such, associations have to dig into their unique knowledge and content assets to stand out from the competition.