LRichard Yepast month, six of us from the ACA staff, including two who are professional counselors, attended the digitalNOW conference. The three-day gathering was limited to 300 association executives and senior staff, and it featured some of today’s most interesting thought leaders discussing trends, technology and its impact on not-for-profit organizations.

More than 3,400 of you gathered in March for the very successful ACA Conference & Expo in Cincinnati. Many of you shared challenges and success stories with one another and took home new ideas to implement. Similarly, the digitalNOW event allowed the staff and me to meet with our peers who are trying to determine how best to meet the needs of members, especially in an era of developing technology and the growing use of mobile devices.

Today’s association manager must be able to understand, manage and maximize technology because it can enhance the delivery of knowledge, resources and professional development opportunities. Among the topics we explored were cloud computing, social media, open source content and mobile technology. Why? Because you, and those coming after you, will want increased customization of your user experience. We plan to do what we can to meet those expectations at ACA.

As the world becomes more “digital” and today’s technology and social media delivery systems become commonplace and accessible to everyone on the planet, expectations will be raised regarding what members want from their professional organizations. Association managers need to understand that social media, mobile technology and “big data” will be critical forces in society. If ACA wants to remain relevant, we must ensure that we possess the right tools, understand what our members value and employ a strategy and structure that meet member needs.

We found out that computer power doubles every 18 months (Moore’s law), which means that in 1969, when men landed on the moon, they had as much computer power as today’s cell phones possess. Some experts think that within seven years, computer chips may cost only a penny.

As continuing advances in technology act to drive down prices, accessibility and demand for tools to help people in their daily lives will surely expand. Imagine wearing a pair of glasses with a built-in screen that includes facial recognition of those with whom you come into contact — for instance, that person greeting you whose name you don’t remember from the ACA Conference two years ago. Or what about that same screen in your glasses translating what the person speaking to you in Mandarin is saying by providing English subtitles?

OK, by now you are wondering what impact this digitization of life will have on you as a professional counselor. Well, think about this. The first map

of the human genome cost about $3 billion. At some point, it may cost just $100 to have one done on anybody. The ability to better understand what is happening in someone’s brain is a tool you might use in helping clients and students.

In addition, the idea of community is changing. Many of us know teens and tweens who routinely play online computer games with players from all over the world. I think counselors and counselor educators will need to understand how these changes in society might result in a whole different set of life challenges for clients and students.

One example is the anecdotal data suggesting that some individuals who are diagnosed as anorexic gravitate toward using Tumblr, a site that allows people to blog. Social media is the new normal. It is everywhere — just look at the more than 1 billion people on Facebook.

There really is a whole new world for professional counselors to learn about if they are going to provide services effectively. Technology, access, borderless communities and changing social dynamics mean the counseling profession will need to adapt. Those of us in the association space will also need to make commensurate changes as we interact with our members, consumers and the public. What do you think?

As always, I look forward to your comments, questions and thoughts. Feel free to contact me at 800.347.6647 ext. 231 or via email at You can also follow me on Twitter: @RichYep.