How Chapters Are Creating Memorable Virtual Experiences for Members

Quick, what’s the last extraordinary and memorable association experience you’ve had? Hmm, some of you are still trying to think of one. We co-hosted a virtual workshop, Tap Chapters as a Member Engagement Channel, with our friends from Mariner Management, Peggy Hoffman and Peter Houstle, and the team from Community Brands. If you attended, perhaps that was a memorable experience for you. The conversations were top-notch, that’s for sure.

During the workshop, we talked about memorable experiences and wondered: are the virtual experiences provided by chapters living up to member expectations?

Expectations are tricky. Your member’s last great experience sets a new expectation. Imagine what that last great virtual experience might have been. Possibly virtual Burning Man, Fortnite, Disney+, or WWE Thunderdome. How can your chapters compete with that?


Fear not, you can live up to member expectations by offering powerful moments. So just what is a powerful moment? This concept is borrowed from Chip and Dan Heath’s book, The Power of MomentsWhy Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact.

  • A powerful moment elevates. You are lifted out of the ordinary and taken to another level of understanding, connectivity, or experience.
  • It brings new insight and shapes the way you see the world.
  • It creates connection and deepens your ties with others.


When in the membership journey do these powerful moments happen? Here’s a hint: we’ve seen it at Association Component Exchange (CEX) and during our virtual workshops. When people gather, in person or virtually, to learn together, something magical happens.

But chapters need your help creating these memorable virtual learning experiences. Many of the participants in our workshop help their chapters with Zoom technical training as well as facilitator and presenter training. They provide screen-share videos, tip sheets, and guides for facilitators and speakers. You could also share resources on using interactive icebreakers and breakout room exercises.

Get chapter leaders comfortable with virtual learning by hosting meetings for them based on their role, for example, finance, business development, and education. Extend invitations to these meetings beyond chapter officers to committee chairs and others. They’ll enjoy meeting their peers and you’ll deepen your connection to future leaders.


Many chapters offer tours and field trips that meet the social and educational needs of members. How about making them virtual? Lots of museums are doing that now.

Think about other participatory learning experiences you can host online, such as hackathons, hot seats, brainstorms, and ask-me-anythings.

At the Network of Executive Women, chapter virtual educational events feature timely topics, such as diversity and bias, economic outlook, and mental health. One chapter offers virtual mentoring. Many host virtual social events such as coffee connects, film screenings with discussions, cookie decorating sessions, and cooking classes.

Chapters of the Commercial Interior Design Association offer virtual yoga classes, virtual hip hop classes, DJ dance parties, and fashion shows.

The Colorado Dental Hygienists Association hosts virtual coffee breaks and happy hours with all kinds of activities: guided yoga, talent show, and discussions focusing on resources for dental teams, unemployment, wellness, and stress management.

The Las Vegas chapter of the National Association for Catering and Events hosted poolside, socially distanced yoga recently. Their space for 50 people booked up quickly.


Many members continue to have kids at home because their school systems aren’t operating as normal. Chapters could host virtual or socially-distanced in-person events involving the whole family. The chapters at the Association of Government Accountants are doing virtual walks in support of charities.

Suggest chapters look for family-friendly community service projects. For example, food banks are busier than ever during the pandemic. They rely on the help of socially-distanced volunteers and often have specific shifts for family groups.


Gather a group of chapter leaders for a Zoom meeting and talk about possible moments around which they can build powerful experiences for members. How can you assist chapters in creating those experiences? What resources, training, and/or services can you offer?

The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers is getting a better understanding of the member experience by mapping the chapter member journey. In the process, they’re teaching their chapter leaders how empathy can positively impact member engagement.

Think also about how you can share the success of one chapter with the others. Chapter leaders are more likely to listen to these stories if they come from a peer, rather than HQ.

The Grant Professionals Association encourages chapters to submit their success stories via an online form. The American College of Physicians collects success stories on their chapter awards nomination form. The form requests information about initial goals, results, lessons learned, cost, and advice on how others can replicate the program.

Host a virtual town hall where chapter leaders can share their success stories. Arrange these presentations ahead of time but also open up the discussion to others in attendance. You could also schedule a webinar to go deeper into the details with some of those chapter leaders.

Idea swaps are popular in our association community, so why not do a virtual idea swap for chapter leaders. You could also include success stories in a weekly or biweekly chapter leader newsletter.

About the author

Sarah has a soft-spot for component relations professionals (CRPs), creating amazing experiences, and having a good laugh. She focuses her time at Billhighway on building and delivering chapter-focused resources, creating unique experiences for CRPs through webinars, events and the one-of-a-kind Component Exchange (CEX). Sarah is passionate about exploring new ideas and trying new things. What we really want to say is Sarah is a component bad@$$ who is sure to put a smile on your face.