It’s not uncommon for associations to have a small percentage of their members attend regional meetings and annual conferences. Many are comprised of the same group, meeting after meeting, which makes conversations stale and networking negligible.

Why is this happening and what can be done? It boils down to knowing what attendees want and then delivering on their desires. This blog will present you with current research, examine common problems with association meetings and offer solutions.

Survey Says Associations Don’t Deliver

According to an October 2017 McKinleyAdvisors study titled The Health of Associations in the 21st Century, associations have a Net Promoter Score of 21, which indicates how likely current members are to recommend the organization to others. Roughly translated, this means only 20 percent of your membership is willing to be the organization’s brand ambassador!

The reasons? Most members feel associations are stodgy, lack customer-centricity and are not evolving to meet younger member needs.

Five Reasons They Don’t Come

Reason 1: Your content and speaker lineup are weak.

Attendees are particular nowadays about what they will and will not attend. Remember, you have a lot of competition for their time and funding.

Aren’t sure what your audience wants to know and who they want to hear from? Ask them! Deliver content that helps them address work challenges and positions them for career advancement.

Reason 2: You have the wrong date/time/location.

No matter how hard you try, 100 percent membership attendance is an impossible goal. However, 50 to 75 percent should be attainable. With that range in mind, you need to understand the best time and location to meet.

Poll a subsection of members: those who always, sometimes and never attend your meetings. Explore other dates, times and locations. For example, let’s say your annual conference is always the second week in April, from Tuesday through Thursday. Through a feedback form, you learn that time of year and/or the middle of the week is the busiest time for 20 percent of your members. That’s why they rarely, if ever, show up.

Reason 3: Potential attendees don’t know who has signed up.

While most association members want to meet and network with new people, most also want to reconnect with those they may not have talked to since the last meeting. This is a way trust and long-term relationships are built within an industry.

Provide visitors with a real-time registration system that displays registered attendee names. This may be just the nudge needed for individuals to sign up.

Reason 4: The content and format are always the same.

This is your opportunity to jazz things up. Change your agenda order, putting your keynote speaker in the middle or last. Change seating in some of the breakout sessions. Give individuals longer breaks and different meal options. Make each presentation 20 minutes, with the rest of the time dedicated to Q&A. Implement healthy choices. Take advantage of all the venue has to offer, including outdoor and recreational space. Bottom line: Stop being boring.

Reason 5: The cost/benefit relationship is not clear.

There’s always a balance with registration pricing. Charge too little, and attendees won’t value the content as much and can justify not showing up. Charge too much, and your average member will not be able to afford it. Remember, it’s not just the registration fee; they must factor in the drive/fly time and cost as well as hotel and meal costs.

Poll your members to determine their payment threshold. If it’s lower than you expected, cut your budget by 10 percent — or increase your sponsorship.



As an association planner, you and your team must continuously ask the following question: Why would I want to go to this event? If the answer is not clear, you need to keep digging for better content, higher-quality speakers and new formats … all at a value-based price structure.


Kalahari Resorts and Conventions Is Association Meeting Central


Our staff will work really hard to make sure your members are well taken care of during their visit. We involve ourselves in your goals of continuously increasing attendance, maintaining costs and exceeding member expectations. Check out some of our testimonials to see why Kalahari Resorts and Conventions is the perfect place for your next association meeting!