Annual meetings have long represented the crown jewel of any given association. They are the place where:
- Exhibitor and sponsorship dollars are generated
- Important topics are discussed
- Organizational strategies are formed
- Educational seminars are given
- Peer networking takes place
However, when you look hard at the current annual meeting structure jam-packed with hundreds of sessions, coupled with an expanding trade show floor filled with exhibitors anxious to sell their services, this model can be a recipe for failure.
Let’s look at the common annual meeting woes and what can constructively be done to fix them.
Seven Annual Meeting Aliments
1. No Engagement
Annual association meetings have often been filled with lecturers who present papers, concepts or ideas to the audience. They don’t engage at all with the participants or they rush the Q&A at the very end.
Today’s attendees demand engagement. Speakers need to ask questions all along the way and provide ample opportunity for meeting participants to engage with them and each other.
2. Presentations Are Boring
Keeping attendees in a room for 60 to 90 minutes covering 128 PowerPoint slides they can’t see from the back row is key to driving attendees out of any session.
Keep presentations short. Look to TED, where they allow speakers 18 minutes or less to present. Guy Kawasaki states all great PowerPoint presentations can be delivered in 10 slides, no matter the topic. Short topic presentations also allow time for questions and engagement. The American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists promotes rapid-fire presentations, limiting them to 10 minutes each, at its annual conference.
3. Conference Is Too Long
Are attendees coming in late and leaving early? That may be a sign that your conference is too long and/or there is too much pressure to return to the office or home early.
Association Forum decided to limit its conference to one day and totally redesigned its meeting. Whether it’s a one-day or multiday annual conference, it’s wise to allow for family and work time into your meeting before, during or after the conference.
4. Sessions Are Too Spread Out
Attendees don’t like running from venue to venue or from one end of a very large convention center to another to catch the next session. This wastes a lot of time and can confuse attendees about what is offered where.
Keep everything in one location and provide directional signage to easily get attendees from one session to another. Provide enough time between sessions to comfortably move from one session to another.
5. No Attendee Cap
Do you let everyone and anyone attend your meeting, including vendors who are in sell mode rather than education mode?
Limiting the number and type of attendees sends a message to other attendees that they will be networking with like-minded professionals. Figure out how many attendees you need to break even on your expenses and promote the fact that you are only allowing x number of participants at the conference.
6. No Risk-Taking
Often meeting planners don’t want to change things because there is risk that the concept will fail. However, with no risk, the event can become very stale.
Risks can be mitigated by crowdsourcing agendas and speakers, creating a large annual meeting committee consisting of a diversified group of attendees and looking at the prior year’s annual meeting feedback.
7. Sponsors Are Always in Sell Mode
Sponsors are often limited to 5-minute commercials before a session starts or luring attendees to their booth on the trade show floor. Either scenario requires a lot of selling by your valued sponsors and very little qualifying time.
Contrast this to a sponsor’s lounge where couches, loveseats, chairs and tables are located, allowing sponsors to have one-on-one conversations with attendees in a much more relaxed setting.
Kalahari Resorts and Conventions Is Association Meeting Central
Kalahari Resorts and Conventions is happy to host your next annual association meeting! Give our group sales team a call at 855.411.4605 to set up a site visit and learn more about what we offer.