With the growth in Internet communications and social networks, the value of membership in professional organizations and physical attendance at sponsored events has been debated at great length in recent years. The traditional geospatial associations, such as the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) and Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS), also have been affected by the changing perceptions. It’s too early to count them out yet. As wonderful as web-based technologies are, they cannot replace the intrinsic value of “membership” and “attendance.” In fact, to the degree professional organizations embrace distance learning, virtual seminars and the like, these organizations can become even more relevant.

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 most relevant to their business. The returns on money invested are easily realized when these benefits are leveraged well.

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:

  • Relevant continuing education for the executives, managers and engineers/technicians.
  • Networking. Networking. Networking. This provides invaluable opportunities for business development and teaming. Numerous face-to-face meetings can be scheduled at an event like this and have an excellent ROI.
  • Exposure to government activity and societal trends impacting your work and profession.
  • Better strategic understanding of the regulatory environment that affects your business and your clients’ businesses enabling you to offer better solutions … a true win-win.
  • Some organizations such as MAPPS provide wonderful 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 your level of participation and energy. Participation and involvement will return far more than mere membership and attendance. Organizational leadership, presentations and committee work requires time, but with investment comes many new relationships and opportunities. It takes only one or two of these association events, properly exploited, to easily pay for the costs of membership and travel.

A few suggestions on how to maximize your participation:

  • Give presentations on topics that align well with your personal or company brand.
  • Get involved on committees relevant to you, or that are addressing issues that you are passionate about, or that align well with your skills or expertise.
  • Consider board or committee leadership to expand your influence.
  • Attend at least two events per year.
  • Network actively and nurture these relationships after the events.
  • Schedule business meetings with partner companies and clients.
  • Exploit the educational opportunities for yourself and employees.
  • Learn about government and the regulatory environment and how to materially affect them.
  • Take risks. Reach out.

At Aerial Services we have seen a number of specific benefits to working with organizations such as ASPRS, MAPPS and other professional organizations. As corporate members over the years, my colleagues and I have served on boards, as committee chairs, on program committees, and given a number of presentations. These roles, strategically aligned with our corporate development objectives, have allowed us to both serve our fellow professionals and become better known as leaders in our field. It is a win-win-win situation, for the community, the association and us.

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 leveraged well with the traditional strengths of excellent organizations such as ASPRS and MAPPS, may lead to even richer engagement and numerical growth of these associations. Utilizing communication technology effectively and investing in professional organizations will ensure you are well connected, building a better profession, becoming a better professional and leveraging opportunity.