With the growth in internet communications and social networks, the value of membership in professional organizations has been debated at great length in recent years. The traditional remote sensing associations, such as American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) and Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS), to name just a couple, have also been effected by the changing perceptions. However, it is my feeling such organizations are not yet ready to be replaced by web-based technologies anytime soon.
Although membership is not always free, it comes with its privileges. The best professional organizations provide an array of direct benefits to the individual or company that wisely choose those most relevant to their business. When these are astutely leveraged, the returns on money invested is easily seen.
Participatory membership in an active professional organization, relevant to your work, will provide the following tangible benefits for the price of your membership and a plane ticket:
- Excellent continuing education for executive level leaders, mid-level managers, and productive engineers/technicians
- Networking with other professional and technical associates. This provides invaluable opportunities for business development and teaming
- Awareness and voice of government (all levels) and understanding of societal trends impacting your work and profession
- Better strategic understanding of the regulatory environment that effects your business and your clients’ businesses enabling you to bring more and better solutions to them … a win-win
- Opportunities to affect regulation and legislation at the State and Federal levels
The possible upsides are great, but in addition to choosing the right groups, your return is generally proportional to the level of participation and energy you put into it. Simple membership and attendance will return far less than participation with organizational leadership opportunities, planning, presentations, committees, etc. This level of participation does take time, but with investment comes many new relationships and opportunities. It does not take, but one or two of these opportunities to materialize and it can easily pay for the costs of membership and plane fares.
A few ways to maximize your participation include:
- Give presentations on topics parallel with your personal or company brand
- Be involved on committees relevant to you, or that are addressing issues that you are passionate about, or that can leverage your skills
- Consider board or committee leadership to expend your influence
- Attend at least two events per year
- Network actively at events and nurture these relationships after the events
- Arrange business meetings with partner companies and clients
- Take advantage of quality education for yourself and select employees
- Learn about government, regulation and how to materially affect them
At Aerial Services we have seen a number of specific benefits to working with organizations like ASPRS and MAPPS. While being sustaining corporate members, my colleagues and I have served on the board of directors, as committee chairs, on program committees, and given a number of presentations over the years. These roles, often specifically designed to maximize our membership and perception in the community, have allowed us to both serve our fellow professionals while allowing us, as individuals and a company to become more recognizable as leaders in our field. It is a win-win-win situation, for the community, the association, and us.
Associations Are Not Obsolete
While social networks, webinars, and emails will no doubt dominate communications and supplement networking in the future, the days of professional associations have never been more important. In fact, these new tools, along with the traditional strengths of excellent organizations like ASPRS and MAPPS, may lead to even richer engagement as they are leveraged by these associations. Utilizing both, and continuing to invest in professional organizations best serving you, will ensure you are well connected, building a better profession, increasing your professional exposure, and leveraging opportunity.