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AI for Associations: Tools, Trends and Tips for Executives


There’s a favorite quote of mine that goes: if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Now, more than ever, there is more desire from companies to participate in events held by associations. The benefits of association membership has lasted throughout decades. Covid cemented this fact even more. During a time when people were segregated physically, online communities flourished.

Even today, amongst a younger generation, there are new membership communities that are popping up. There is Chief for women in executive leaderhip roles, Reforge for product managers, Pavillion for anyone in software sales and many more. Associations might evolve and change in terms of who is joining, but what’s certain is there is an unending need for people with the same problem to convene and look at the same problem with different lenses.

And now, the focal point for so many companies is AI. Companies come to annual conferences with requests for AI workshops and knowledge. How can someone who handles the role of Education and Events facilitate for such a need? 

Start by Experimenting Yourself

If you don’t come from an AI background, don’t fret. It’s actually even better! AI tools are geared these days are geared for those who come from a non-technical background. I recently heard a podcast with Perplexity’s CEO saying that even the idea of prompt engineering will most likely disappear soon.

How can that be? Didn’t we just all start taking classes in prompt engineering? While that skill might be useful immediately, the fact is, these LLM’s will become more and more powerful that the laziest and most inaccurate questions can still be answered. The tool is supposed to get smarter and smarter allowing the users to be more and more inaccurate. Even today, if you misspelled something or provided a poorly worded question, a LLM like ChatGPT or Claude will most likely still understand what you meant.

Have a PowerPoint to create or a blog to draft? Try out some tools yourself. Take a look at Gamma or Tome for creating a new PowerPoint; or Mixo for a new landing page you’re building for an event; try out Suno for creating a new playlist song for a conference.

How are Companies Experimenting with AI?

So you’ve heard the headlines, the productivity statistics and maybe now you’re wondering how can I implement AI into my own organization. Or my own workflow. If you’re an executive at an association, you might wonder be wondering where to start.

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Early Adopter companies are doing three things.


1.  Increasing AI literacy


“What we don’t understand, we fear. What we fear, we judge as evil. What we judge as evil, we attempt to control. And what we cannot control…we attack.” – Unknown Author


I talk about how the Finland government started an educational course to their citizens since 2018. They recognized that we will ultimately fear what we don’t understand especially their aging population. In order to level set, they created a class and set a goal for 20% of their population to understand AI, its effects and simple statistics courses like Baysien theory and logistics regression.


In a similar vein, companies are doing the same. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been asked by multiple Learning & Development Managers in various companies to come in either for a leadership training or training for the overall company in level setting AI knowledge.


2. Forming AI Councils


AI Councils are being created internally with diverse positions. This is important because AI rollout in an organization cannot be decided by only a few in a glass tower; instead, it has to include the front line workers and take in their opinions.


VMware’s marketing team is a prominent example of a formation of an AI Council. They saw a significant rise of productivity from their internal employees, customer and partners. No longer is their team waiting for weeks before a marketing campaign is drafted. And it has freed them up to put more time in places that matter.


Different ways that AI Councils are formed


AI Councils are forming everywhere and I’ve noticed different ways it’s been rolled out:


·      Centralized AI Model: Eg. AI Center of Excellence. Central unit that develops AI capabilities and distributes resources and solutions to various business units. Focused on: Unified strategy, centralized knowledge, and resources.

·      Decentralized AI Model: Independent AI Teams. Different business units have their AI specialists and develop solutions independently. Focused on: Addressing specific business unit needs, faster localized decision-making.

·      Cross-functional Teams: Diverse Expertise: Teams composed of domain experts, data scientists, engineers, and business analysts who collaborate on AI projects. Focused on: Leveraging varied expertise, promoting innovation and practical solutions.

·      Outsourcing Model: External AI Development: Engaging external vendors or consultants to develop AI capabilities. Focused on: Leveraging external expertise, reducing operational burdens.


3. Drafting AI policies 


I’m sure you’re read the headlines of the disasters from various companies that didn’t put enough attention to coaching their workers in what they can and cannot use. Similar to the old days where Shadow IT was a problem, Shadow AI is a new problem faced by companies. Several companies have began to draft their own AI policies giving guidance to their employees as to what they can use and how it is to be used.

The Next Important Skill

Perhaps what is the most important skill is the skill of learning. Our degrees used to last us decades, now, there’s no degree that will last you for a decade. By the time you graduate and start using the degree, you might realize that a supplementary certificate is needed. Before, you can copy paste job descriptions because the skills never changed. In the past 8 years, skills in job descriptions have changed by 25%. In the next phase, skills change by 65% and will only continue to change even more in the future. But if you’re a fast learner, you’ll be ready for whatever disruption that is coming our way.

How to Keep Up

Lastly, I know it might exhausting trying to keep up with the thousands of tools developed everyday within the AI space. Today, there’s a new imaging tool, tomorrow there’s a new translation tool. The innovations are endless! But a lot to keep up with. We call this AI fatigue. It’s sort of similar to how we have been addicted to our phones and social media.

The best way to cure AI fatigue is to not drink from the fountain hose. Instead of thinking you have to keep up with every latest and greatest tool released, focus on your objectives. Before implementing any AI solution, have a clear understanding of what you aim to achieve. Avoid adopting AI just for the sake of it. For example, if you’re working on retention this year, focus on the tools that will help with that KPI. Forget the other things. Next, practice incremental Implementation. Instead of overhauling entire systems at once, consider implementing AI technologies incrementally. Start with pilot projects to test and refine solutions before a full-scale rollout.

I Hope You See the Benefits

I hope you can truly see the benefits of AI and use it to your advantage. I have been using Gen AI tools since 2017 at Alibaba and integrating it into my work flow to support clients in content generation, copywriting, and design. You can find me at or my Linkedin where I post about my latest insights in AI.


Sharon Gai is an author and keynote speaker in digital transformation and AI. She helps organizations become agile disruptors in their industries so they can increase revenue and retain users. She has worked with TEDx, Singularity University, UBS, Deloitte, LVMH, Nestle, Ecomworld, and Etail. She is in the AAE list of Top Keynote Speakers in 2023. She is also one of 2024’s RETHINK Retail’s Top Retail Expert and a Linkedin Top Voice in Public Speaking 2023. She has appeared on Bloomberg, Reuters, ABC, CBC, CCTV, Techcrunch, Retail Asia, Wired, and The Next Web. Sharon has an Honors Bachelor’s degree in International Development from McGill and a Masters in Information Management from Columbia University. When she is not speaking, she is travelling the world (the speaking part of her job helps with that) and interviewing entrepreneurs for Alibaba’s podcast, B2B Breakthrough. 


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