Written by Kevin Heisey
on July 20, 2021

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) updated its motto from “Faster, Higher, Stronger” to “Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together” prior to the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games. IOC President, Thomas Bach said the motto was updated to “adapt to our times” and reflect the heightened collaboration required for the IOC to navigate the global pandemic. Bach added that “the collaborative effort is bringing faster and better results than working in silos”. “Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together” doesn’t just apply to the athletes. It applies to the entire Olympic movement and reflects the common experience organizations of all types shared in response to the global pandemic.

In many ways, for professional Associations, 2020 was a forced, immediate, global, Olympic-style mega-event that compelled improved collaboration and new ways of doing business. The pandemic created greater immediate member needs for what Associations provide, but the traditional ways of connecting, collaborating and working were disrupted. Associations had to navigate stepping up to meet member needs while quickly implementing new ways to do it. Taking stock, a year later, Associations now have the new tools, infrastructure and collaboration capabilities that got them through a year of disruption, that now position them to better serve members in the future.


Member Engagement

When faced with the challenge of responding to the pandemic, people turned to professional peers highlighting the importance of professional Associations as a key resource. The ability to connect with peers who are facing similar challenges is a primary benefit provided by professional Associations and they largely came through in a crucial time. Associations were able to keep people connected and now better understand the member experience. Circumstances compelled greater connectivity between members and created momentum for new and improved opportunities to strengthen member-to-member engagement.


Online Presence

With travel and face-to-face meetings restricted, Associations’ online presence was more important than ever. Associations’ websites, social media presence and member platforms went from being channels of communication to the only ways to communicate. A year spent building and improving online presence has Associations better positioned to provide members the information, services and content they want, where and when they want it.


Virtual Events

Associations quickly pivoted to replace cancelled in-person events with virtual events in 2020. The bar was moved from thinking of virtual capabilities as future enhancements to making virtual events an immediate imperative. The experience of 2020 creates two new opportunities to leverage virtual meeting capabilities:

  1. Improved virtual experience. People experienced how virtual events can be done. Now the focus shifts to how can they be done better? How can the authentic conference experience be provided to members who are logging in from home? How can virtual events simultaneously provide the best of the traditional conference experience while leveraging the unique capabilities of a virtual platform?
  2. New hybrid events. There are all sorts of ways to reimagine events that serve members at their desired levels of engagement that can be win-wins all around. Having events with multiple, connected locations, plus at-home attendees, makes it easier for members to participate and engage. For members who aren’t free to travel, they can log-in from home and catch what they can. Multiple locations can reduce the travel cost barrier to participation. All members benefit from greater participation. The capabilities put in practice in 2020 provide a gateway to new and better events in the future.


Remote Collaboration

In 2020, Associations had to not only step up to meet the needs of members in new ways, but they also had to do it while changing how they work. As people were forced to master collaboration tools and carry out projects remotely, they were building capabilities that improve how they work going forward. As an example, remote capabilities make it easier to have board meetings, recruit board members and expand the pool of potential board members. The ubiquity of remote work can be leveraged so that Boards of Directors can be much more productive and have a greater, positive impact on the Associations they lead.


Faster, Higher, Stronger Associations

Just as 2020 compelled the IOC to break down silos, collaborate better and, as their amended motto indicates, positions them to be “Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together”, professional Associations can reach new achievements by leveraging the capabilities they gained serving their members through the pandemic. Barriers to traditional engagement and participation were broken down by using digital tools that allowed for greater ongoing engagement between members, new ways of staging events and new platforms to serve members. Associations are positioned to build on the 2020 experience for a future worthy of the Olympic aspiration of “Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together.”