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With so much of our work shifting online, it's crucial to have the right tools for communication and collaboration within your organization. Whether you're discussing membership initiatives, organizing events, or just trying to keep everyone on the same page, the platform you choose can have a big impact. This blog series aims to help you navigate those choices by examining three popular options: Slack, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams. We'll look at what each platform offers, explore their pros and cons, and hopefully provide some insights to help you make an informed decision for your association. 

Choosing Your Virtual Hub: Communication Platforms for Associations 

We can all agree digital communication platforms go beyond basic communication. They serve as integral parts of your association's operations, helping you do everything from streamlining committee work to improving member engagement. They provide you with the ability to set up a dedicated channel or chat room for each committee, complete with document sharing and video meetings. Or conduct virtual board meetings with features like real-time voting and agenda tracking. Some platforms even offer webinar capabilities, perfect for hosting online training sessions or member orientations. There are also possibilities for automation, such as sending out scheduled reminders for membership renewals or event registrations. The list goes on.

Whether it's asynchronous communication that allows for interaction at one's own pace, or real-time video conferencing for immediate decision-making, the right platform can offer a tailored experience that meets your association's specific needs. And let's face it, in a post-pandemic world where remote participation is increasingly the norm, the role of these platforms in keeping your community engaged and operations running smoothly is more crucial than ever. 

Slack Excels at Quick Communication and Integration

Let's kick things off with Slack, a name that's become almost synonymous with workplace communication. At its core, Slack is designed for text-based communication, but there's a lot more to it than just sending messages back and forth.

Let's take a look at some of Slack's key functionalities include:

Flexible Channels: The ability to create dedicated channels for different departments, projects, or initiatives, allowing you to segment conversations and keep everything organized. These channels aren't just about work; you could have a channel dedicated to member engagement where your team collaborates on strategies to increase membership renewals or discusses feedback from recent events.

As-It-Happens Updates: Slack also allows for quick and efficient coordination through direct messaging and group chats, making it a helpful tool during event planning or crises management. 

Comprehensive Integrations List: Here's where Slack shines for associations: its integration capabilities. With a wide variety of apps and services that it can integrate with, Slack can be the central hub where all your activities converge. For example, you could integrate it with your association management software to get real-time updates on member sign-ups or renewals. You can also integrate it with tools like Google Drive or Dropbox to effortlessly share files and documents within specific channels. 

Asynchronous Communication: The platform’s model allows team members to participate in discussions as their schedule allows. This is especially useful for associations with volunteers or team members who are spread across different time zones. It enables everyone to catch up on conversations without having to be online simultaneously, ensuring that important updates or decisions aren't missed. 

Zoom Boasts More than Just Meetings

Next on the list is Zoom, a platform that most of us got to know all too well during the pandemic. While Zoom is best known for its video conferencing capabilities, it offers a lot more than just a space for face-to-face digital interaction.

Let's consider its value from an association's perspective. You might use Zoom to host your monthly board meetings, leveraging features like screen sharing to go through financial reports or member statistics in real time. Or perhaps you've used the breakout room feature to divide a larger meeting into smaller groups for more focused discussions on specific topics—imagine breaking out committee members during an annual general meeting to discuss specific action items. 

Let's take a look at some of Zoom's other key functionalities:

Robust Webinar Capabilities: If your association frequently conducts training sessions, panel discussions, or guest speaker events, Zoom's webinar feature could be a game changer. You can have up to 10,000 view-only attendees, interactive polls, Q&A features, and even a virtual 'green room' for presenters to prepare before going live. 

Meeting Recordings: The platform allows you to record your sessions for later viewing, ensuring that team members who couldn't participate in real time are still kept in the loop. This is particularly useful for associations with global members who can't always make it to live events due to time zone differences. 

Extensive API and Integration Capabilities: If you're already using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system or an Association Management System (AMS), there's a good chance you can integrate it with Zoom to automate things like meeting scheduling, attendance tracking, and even post-meeting surveys to gauge member satisfaction. 

Teams Bundles Instant Text and Video Communication

Lastly, let's delve into Microsoft Teams. As part of the Microsoft 365 suite, Teams offers an all-in-one experience that combines the best of both worlds: text-based channels and video conferencing. Let's unpack what that means for an association. This all-in-one platform is a place where your committees can not only meet virtually but also store all related files and notes, integrated directly with tools like OneNote and SharePoint. It’s a project management dream come true. 

Business-Minded Communication Chanels: Teams also allows you to create "Teams" within the platform—basically sub-groups that can be organized by department, project, or any other criteria. Each of these Teams can have its own set of channels, files, and even third-party integrations. Say you have a fundraising committee and an event planning committee; both can operate independently within the same Teams environment, yet still benefit from shared resources and information. You can store meeting minutes directly in a channel or pin important documents for easy access by all members. 

"Live Events" for Training and Webinars: Whether it's a small training session for new volunteers or a larger conference with multiple speakers, Teams Live Events offers a robust set of tools for hosting and managing your events. Plus, its seamless integration with Microsoft 365 means you can easily go from a PowerPoint presentation to a panel discussion in a single platform. 

Robust Security Features: Teams offers built in features like data loss prevention and advanced threat protection, that are crucial for safeguarding sensitive association data.

Native Integration with Other Microsoft Products: The platform's integration capabilities also extend to other Microsoft tools like Power BI, which can be an invaluable asset for associations looking to dig into their data for insights. 

Making Your Choice 

Now that we've got the basics down, you might be wondering, "So, which one should I choose for my association?" It's a tough call, and there's no one-size-fits-all answer. Each of these platforms has its unique strengths and limitations. Some may offer better integration with tools you're already using, while others excel in user experience or specific features like webinars. The choice often boils down to your association's specific needs—whether it's real-time communication, integration with other software, or ease of use. In upcoming posts, we’ll dive deeper into each platform to give you an in-depth look at which might best serve your association. Stay tuned! 

Sofi Giglio
Post by Sofi Giglio
September 7, 2023
Sofi Giglio works for Blue Cypress as a Senior Marketing Associate with extensive experience in brand strategy and marketing. Passionate about developing business strategies and creating strategic initiatives, Sofi excels in solving complex business problems within the marketing realm. With a keen eye for detail and a commitment to innovation, Sofi aims to drive success through impactful marketing solutions and strategic planning.