AMMC 2016 – Chicago Recap

We just got back from our weeklong trip to Chicago, IL for AMMC 2016 and we had a great time! The American Museum Membership Conference is always one of our favorite conferences to attend. We were very excited for Membership Consultants to be a lead sponsor. At the Premier level of sponsorship, we are always happy to help out by making this and other conference possible for all to enjoy!

Every AMMC is not only filled with loads of information on membership programs of all shapes and sizes, but also great fun at our host museums, and, of course, meaningful conversations all throughout. The sessions were fantastic and filled the rooms with information and inspiration for the future, while the roundtables offered a chance to have some in-depth conversations on a particular topic, such as membership and loyalty or multi-channel acquisition efforts. The evening events offered opportunities to experience Chicago’s incredible museums and connect with colleagues outside of the conference rooms.


From left to right: Karen E. Meyer, Tabetha Debo, Karen Mariani, Dana Hines, John Keefe, and Rosie Siemer at the Adler Planetarium.

While we enjoyed all the sessions at AMMC 2016, we thought we’d share some highlights of our favorites.

“Oh! Your museum has this problem, too?!”

So many first-time attendees come to AMMC thinking that their museum’s membership program is filled with issues and “pain-points” (that was a definite buzzword of this conference) that it could not possibly stack up against any other program. But, then you get to the conference and you find out that institutions big and small have all the same issues you face at your museum—lack of cooperation with other departments (silos anyone?), small budgets (has anyone ever had enough budget?), and high demands from your director (“We need to triple membership revenue in the next six months. I don’t care how—just do it!”) are just a few of these issues. AMMC is such an important resource for membership professionals because it facilitates truly honest conversations about the challenges that all museums face, as well as the emerging trends and best practices in every facet of membership.


This year’s keynotes were exceptional! While most come from backgrounds outside of the museum world, they shared insightful information on trends that are relevant to our cultural institutions. Beyond being wonderful speakers, each keynote presenter offered great takeaways and food-for-thought for everyone that attended. In John List’s Let’s Get to the Why of the Matter, he opened our minds to the science behind what makes people do what they do and the incentives that work.  Wednesday’s keynote speaker, Nandika Suri, gave us the ins-and-outs of United Airlines Mileage Plus Rewards Program—a loyalty program serving more than 2 million members—in her presentation, Member Engagement Strategies that Really Take-off. In the final keynote presentation, Influence is Behavior Change, by Art Markman, we learned how we can change our behavior to influence the behavior of others. Listening to each of these keynotes got our wheels turning on how we can make changes in our own museums.

Membership Consultants’ Sessions

We were thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in three sessions at this year’s AMMC.

In Making Email, Online Advertising, and Social Media Work for Membership, Rosie shared the options for incorporating digital marketing and online advertising into membership campaigns. With help from the membership managers at Baltimore Museum of Art, Desert Botanical Garden, San Antonio Zoo, and Phoenix Art Museum, Rosie’s live Q&A style presentation allowed the audience to gain a multitude of perspectives on how digital strategies can be used for membership acquisition and retention.


From left to right: Rosie Siemer with Membership Consultants, Lauren Stachowiak with the Baltimore Museum of Art, and Halee Lynch with Desert Botanical Garden.

In the session, Loyalty and Membership: Love, Passion and Long-Term Relationship, Rosie facilitated a dynamic Q&A-style panel on how loyalty programs can boost the member experience, increase membership totals and revenues, and raise all ships across departments. With perspectives from the Royal Academy of the Arts represented by Annie Wong, Head of Loyalty & Partnership Development, Membership Consultants (with our own Dana Hines on the panel), and John Keefe with SKIDATA. This session covered the critical need-to-knows of loyalty and membership—explaining how it could work, addressing misconceptions, and emphasizing the need for loyalty to compliment,rather than compete with, membership.

Our last session was On-site Late Night: On the Couch with On-site Sales Experts. Our Manager of On-Site Sales Karen Mariani moderated a panel of membership managers that oversee on-site membership sales. We were lucky to have three very different organizations offer their perspectives and experiences in this session. On the panel were the membership managers from Monterey Bay Aquarium, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, and The Trustees of Reservations. Each panelist shared their perspective on hiring and training on-site membership sales staff, the relationship needed with the visitor services department, and the metrics used to judge the efficacy of the on-site membership sales team.

Session Highlight

In the session, Beyond the Free Pass: Members and Art as Cause, Jon Alexander from the New Citizenship Project and Rob Halkyard, Head of Membership & Audience Engagement, Tate discussed the theory, framework, and research for engaging members as participants in art as cause, not just consumers of art as product. The session was very interesting, and opened up a discussion into building deeper relationships with members and modeling retention strategies based on visitation behavior. The presenters discussed opportunities for “priming” messaging and the importance of data capture to better personalize the member experience and enrich the visit.

Awesome Museums!

This year we were lucky to have the conference in the Chicago—and the AMMC Board and host committee did a wonderful job with this conference. We had the chance to visit and spend some time at three great museums—The Art Institute of Chicago, the Adler Planetarium, and the Museum of Science and Industry.

The opening night dinner was amazing at the Art Institute of Chicago, with the opportunity to see the Van Gogh exhibit. Tuesday’s evening reception at the Adler was very interesting (oh, and the view of the lake and the city skyline was breathtaking!). Here’s the Membership Consultants team on the moon!


From left to right: Karen E. Meyer, Tabetha Debo, and Karen Mariani.

Wednesday night’s trip to the Museum of Science and Industry was so much fun! It made us feel like kids again—looking at Legos, creating tornados, getting lost in a hall of mirrors, and seeing how avalanches work were all very fun!


We couldn’t possibly visit Chicago and not go out of our way to try some tasty food! We were able to enjoy exceptional treats, including Chicago-style pizza, delicious paella, and even took a break for High Tea!


From left to right: Dana Hines with Membership Consultants, John Keefe with SKIDATA, Christopher Panek with CZS/Brookfield Zoo, and Rosie Siemer with Membership Consultants.

Conference Takeaways

Key takeaways from the conference were the need for better data capture and systems integration, the need for more investment in membership marketing, and the opportunity for building deeper relationships with members. A common theme throughout was the need to get to know our members better to deliver more personalized experiences.

What was your favorite part of AMMC 2016? Please share your biggest takeaways, best memories, and favorite experiences below!

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