“Hey are you going to this year’s conference? You really should consider going, I went last year and it was fantastic!”
Is this the message your association members are communicating to one another about your association meeting? Word of mouth marketing is the most powerful conference marketing tool, and using engaged members to spread the word is the easiest and most trust-worthy way of spreading the word about your engaging meeting.
When you chat with your association members, are they genuinely excited to attend this year’s conference? Most associations plan an annual conference as part of the membership package, a mandatory offering to members and association suppliers. However without the support of your engaged members, and a solid conference offering to back it up, your annual event will look more like a chore rather than an adventure. Here are some things to consider the next time you are planning your association meeting:
How to create engaging meetings in the association market:
- Great programming – this may be an enticing keynote speaker, or content that incredibly relevant and timely for your industry (the “must know and get in the know” stuff that pops up based on market conditions).
- Different formats – gone are the days of “talking heads” in breakout rooms. Programming can take a number of forms including panel discussions, table topics, one-on-one knowledge sharing, etc.
- Different room set ups – altering the look of a room can also spark creativity and engagement. Soft seating, exercise mats, tables of different sizes and lighting can all drastically affect the mood and creativity of your delegates.
- Budgets – Yep, you knew it had to be on here. Association meetings have tight budgets, but you can get creative with expenses:
- Décor – pinterest is FULL of great ideas that may cost much less than rental expensive centrepieces
- AV and lighting – it can transform a space, at typically a much lower cost – include your AV suppliers in on this discussion!
- Food and beverage – using current event trends can help infuse creativity and engagement into your diet. Think brain food!
- Event history – keeping accurate post-event reports and surveys will set you up for success for future events, whether its negotiating power with venues, or looking for new sponsorship dollars.
- Partnering with another association – we’re seeing this more and more, even in our industry (check out TheEvent – a collaboration between 3 MPI chapters, or cross-association events between MPI, PCMA and ILEA from coast to coast). Combining expenses and sharing in the revenues is a great way to learn from one another, and share in the risks of holding an event.
- Gamification – engaging meeting delegates through social media gaming and through your event app can keep delegates on their toes, and keep them networking throughout the day
- Marketing – what makes your event unique, a must-attend event? Get the word out, especially via social media, and keep your branding consistent. Use advocates to push out your marketing messages as well. They tend to have a larger impact than those sent by your association.
- Location – ensure your destination and hotel choice allow for engaging your delegates in all their senses. Sometimes engagement comes from within, and the destination and space can lend itself to that energy.
Looking for next-level education on creating engaging meetings? Check out Tahira Endean’s book, Intentional Event Design – its chock full of ideas and will transform the way you look at events.
Association meetings that change and move with the times and trends tend to be ones that grow year over year. By infusing some engaging formats and moments, your association meeting may become “next level” and create happy delegates that will help you grow for years to come.
RELATED – What I Learned from The Event