If Mitchell of Modern Family dances in a flash mob, they must already be passé, right?

associations membership experience

Hells no! I’m still a sucker for a really good flash mob, especially the artsy ones, and I know I’m not alone. This food court performance of the Hallelujah Chorus still makes my eyes water. You want more?

Why are flash mobs so powerful? My latest theory is they bring us into the right now — this present moment. The present, strangely enough, isn’t a place we always hang out, unless we’re advanced yogis. We’re more likely reworking the past or speculating about the future. We live in the present when we’re in the ‘zone’ or caught up in the ‘flow’, for example, while writing a blog post, chopping vegetables, painting, climbing a rock wall or experiencing a great work of art.

Flash mobs take us by surprise and let us share exuberance together. Is it some communal Dionysian urge? Who knows, but it’s joyful. We’re knocked out of our routine, thrown a bit off balance. “Wait, what the heck is going on here? Who are these people? Why are they doing that?” And then, “Wow, this is pretty awesome.” You’d have to be a lost soul or curmudgeon to not smile a bit inside when you see a flash mob happening around you.

Even the Knight Foundation, usually focused on promoting journalism, can’t resist the allure of the flash mob. They’re sponsoring Random Acts of Culture in the communities where the Knight Brothers owned newspapers. They “strongly believe in the potential of the arts to engage residents, and bring a community together. Hearing Handel, or seeing the tango in an unexpected place provides a deeply felt reminder of how the classics can enrich our lives.” It’s part of their effort to encourage folks to regularly enjoy a concert, visit a gallery or see a dance performance by giving them a taste of that goodness.

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I’m going to somehow bring this discussion back around to associations. What possibly could be the connection? Well, there is the fun flash mob we did last year (some of us without any rehearsing, ahem) on the trade show floor at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Association Executives. But that’s not where I’m going.

Here’s my question. Maybe the Knight Foundation is on the right track, and flash mobs expose folks to great art and get them thinking that they might actually like the symphony, ballet or opera. They give them a taste of what that experience is like. It’s all about the experience!!

Compare an arts experience to a typical association membership experience:

  • a one-way mailbox relationship
  • a semi-productive committee meeting
  • an educational session or conference that provided a few handouts but nothing permanently imprinted in the attendee’s brain
  • an endless trade show floor of needy vendors

Count me out; I’ll be at the opera.

Can a mix of face-to-face and online community participation make the association experience better by offering more opportunities for sharing and learning, conversations and relationship building? Can a more innovative approach to education make that experience better? Do your members depart from an association experience, whether it’s online or in real life, with a glow on their faces and, even better, in their brains?

Yes, we need to focus on the value or ROI that members get with their association membership. But perhaps we should also focus on their experience – that’s an intangible benefit that we shouldn’t overlook.