According to Associations Now, the largest association meeting only attracts 1/3 of its members.
Can that be right? That means roughly 67% of your membership stays home on any given year. You couldn’t run a corporate business meeting with 1/3 of your staff there and I will contend that good associations can’t either.
So what is the problem and how can you fix it? Last week we ran a blog post about seven ways to get people to your convention, and while all associations can utilize that advice, the below focuses on the lifeblood of any association: its members.
Things You Can Do Before the Conference
This is the way of the future for events, and this process is becoming easier. There are many crowdsourcing tools available now, some for free others for fee, but the truth of the matter is: the more the attendee feels they can shape the conference agenda, the more likely they will attend the conference.
Abandon committees and calls for presentations. Your MEMBERS know what they want to hear and who they want to hear from. Let them have their say.
Offer a one-of-a-kind experience
One of the ways to do this is to go to a unique location that offers a professional conference feel and integrates fun into the attendee experience. If there are enough things to do onsite or nearby, attendees may wish to bring their family to your event.
Whatever you do, try to stand out from other association meetings.
Create pre-conference buzz
There are many ways to do this. For example, ask speakers for a two-minute preview video clip of their presentation and push that content to social. Create a special content calendar with many testimonials on owned and social channels to drive support within media circles.
Whatever it is, try different mediums and messaging to include and pique interest about your conference. The old ways of direct mail and email blasts are not completely dead, but you can’t rely on one channel to foster enthusiasm for your conference.
At the Conference
Bring the locals into play
When attendees travel to a destination, they appreciate any local food, beverages, entertainment, attractions and customs you can weave into the conference. Every region of the world has its own special feel. Hype it up and tell attendees your story so they will remember it the next time they come to your event.
Play with the room setup
Rather than having the same boring set up, consider shaking it up – at least in break out rooms. Bring in couches, cushy chairs and/or beanbag chairs and get rid of the tables. Set chairs up on angles or in a circle so attendees can easily see each other.
Make sure to ask for feedback
Without a doubt your members have opinions about your conference – from the meeting room temperature to your speaker selection. Let them tell you what they like and what they don’t.
Be prepared to course correct and show association members you care and are listening to their wants and needs.
What’s the number one key learning you’ve gained from planning or attending an association meeting?