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Tolling Points

IBTTA Stresses Networking, Member Engagement as Conference Programming Pivots to Online

By: 
Bill Cramer

The most fundamental purpose for any business or professional trade association is to bring people together and keep the community engaged and strong. When the coronavirus lockdown began, it immediately became clear to IBTTA that it must pivot from its normal way of bringing members together to a new way of thinking and operating.

Fast forward just a few weeks, and the association has done something remarkable, cancelling and postponing most of its 2020 conference programs. Then breaking down and rebuilding the content to match up with a new, all-virtual reality.

The program is sure to continue evolving and changing into the unknown future, as the pandemic plays out in ways that are utterly impossible to predict or plan for. But already, we’re hearing from members who are thrilled about a series of events and functions that keep up the essential value the organization delivers to the tolling industry.

Like most associations facing a similar, sudden scramble, we’re spotting advantages and opportunities that might have taken a lot longer to introduce in (what we used to think of as) normal times but are quickly becoming mainstays of the IBTTA experience.

“It’s a bit overwhelming but incredibly interesting,” says Deputy Executive Director Wanda Klayman. “It’s an opportunity to challenge ourselves to be creative, give our brains a jog, and figure out what our members need and how to bring them together. Our team has really stepped up to get to know our members better and go deeper into their organizations. This is a huge opportunity to engage members that don’t usually have the ability to travel and participate in our meetings.”

Six Pillars of Member Service

IBTTA is still evolving a new member service model that will emphasize the member interaction and networking that have always been critical to the members. The Maintenance, Engineering, and Roadway Operations Workshop next month will now be held in a virtual format, featuring 10 hours of content spread over two days. This is a first for IBTTA. It will include a new general session focused on the industry’s response to the pandemic, and a forward-looking closing general session.

The 88th Annual Meeting and Exhibition in September will be another opportunity to present our new virtual meeting formats.

Alongside IBTTA’s traditional conferences, Wanda says the new virtual programming model is built on six pillars:

  • An extended series of webinars on key industry topics;
  • Café IBTTA, a well-attended, half-hour session every Wednesday morning where Executive Director and CEO Pat Jones and his guest lead an informal online conversation with members;
  • Brave New World Series, a monthly, future-oriented program, featuring speakers that will inspire, educate, and keep us moving forward together;
  • Keeping Pace, a space for tolling agencies and private sector partners to share the issues they’re grappling with, the solutions they’re working on, and challenges on the horizon;
  • A series of Meet Ups for different communities of interest within the industry—from the Council of Platinum Sponsors, to CFOs, to General Counsels, to IBTTA’s Emerging Technologies Committee, to Women in Tolling, to communications and marketing professionals, to the Leadership Academy Alumni Association, and more;
  • A Virtual Vendor Forum that creates a dynamic solutions forum for private sector members to present their products and services to agency members.

Serving More People

One of the biggest changes Wanda sees in the transition to online programming is the opportunity to get to know member organizations even better, and to engage with a much wider cross-section of tolling agency staff, including the young professional who are the future of the industry.

In years past, budgets always limited the number of people who could travel to the association’s face-to-face meetings. Virtual formats make it so much easier for more mid-level professionals to tune in for an hour, meet their counterparts in other agencies, find common issues and shared solutions, and start building the business relationships that will last a lifetime.

IBTTA has always been about community-building, and has long been interested in serving a wider industry audience. Now, the pandemic has created a moment when tolling professionals crave the contact with peers, and have the time and technology to make it happen.

“We’re finding lots of new ways to serve more members and it’s great to meet so many new people, even if it’s virtual at the moment,” Wanda says. “We’ll never declare the end of our in-person meetings—we’ll want them back as soon as people feel safe to travel again. But we’re also discovering new virtual formats and techniques that will serve our community well, and will be with us for years or decades after the pandemic is over.”

 

Bookmark IBTTA’s events calendar to keep up with the latest online gatherings in the series.

Newsletter publish date: 
Tuesday, June 16, 2020 - 10:15

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