Meetings

New Staff Roles for Meetings and Events

By / Jun 7, 2013 (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

Associations are always looking for new ways to not only attract attendees and exhibitors to their events but also to keep them coming back. If you could create any staff position to help make this happen, what would it be?

I suspect the majority of association department heads, whether in the meetings area or not, wish they could add a few additional staffers to their teams. And for those in the meetings or event industry, I’m sure there’s been a time when you’ve been onsite somewhere and thought, “Wow, if only I add this staff position, it would make a huge difference and really allow us to serve attendees and exhibitors better.”

What about having a person on your team dedicated to creating a tradeshow experience that really takes to heart both form and function?

Here’s one I learned about last week while attending the Exhibition & Convention Executives Forum: attendee recruiter. As Sam Lippman, founder and president of Lippman Connects, was presenting key findings from the Attendee Acquisition Roundtables he held earlier this year, he introduced the idea by asking ECEF attendees to answer this live polling question: Do you have a full-time staff position dedicated to attendee recruitment/sales?

The results didn’t come as a surprise, with 75 percent responding “no,” 20 percent answering “yes,” and 4 percent saying they planned to add the position.

Lippman made his case for adding the position: “We all know attendees are required for meetings to even exist and then thrive—bringing in money and serving as ambassadors for recruiting others to attend in the future. Why not hire attendee-recruitment people? Most do it for exhibit sales; why not attendees?”

He suggested that the attendee recruiter be positioned at a similar level and have the same responsibilities as exhibit sales. He or she would also have a travel budget in order to get out into the field and be awarded (likely through commission) for attendee prospecting and sales.

As attendees around the room nodded in agreement, it got me thinking about other job roles associations would want to add to their meetings and education staff if budgets allowed. Here are three to consider:

Attendee Concierge. Full disclosure: I pretty much stole this one from our June Associations Now cover story about Terry Fong, member concierge for the California Dental Association, who calls 1,000 new members each year to welcome them and ask, “Is there anything we can do for you?”

What if you had a staffer call all new attendees after your meetings and ask them what they liked most and least about the meeting and what else you could  be doing to get them to register for the meeting again?

You could also use a similar role onsite and assign new attendees to attendee concierges—in this case, maybe extra staff or member volunteers—and have them check-in with attendees throughout the meeting and then follow-up after.

Conference Connector. I’ve blogged before about how the association education model needs an overhaul where the focus is put more on attendees learning and connecting with one another rather than just speakers on a stage or in front of a room.

At ASAE’s 2013 Great Ideas Conference, Thom Singer served as “Conference Catalyst.” Over the course of the meeting, he gave attendees networking tips and helped them to engage and connect with one another. And at the California Society of Association Executives’ Annual Conference in April, Jeff Hurt served in a similar role, helping attendees keep the conversation and learning going between sessions and during lunch by having organized chats about what they recently learned.

What if you had a full-time staff person who helped form these small-group discussions to not only help members engage but also to help process and remember what they learned in the larger sessions?

Exhibit Hall Experience Manager. No meeting can afford unhappy exhibitors or attendees on the show floor. Last week I blogged about how tradeshow design drives connections for attendees. What about having a person on your team dedicated to creating a tradeshow experience that really takes to heart both form and function? What if it was someone’s job to really think outside the box and create an entirely new exhibit hall experience?

Back in 2010, Associations Now published an article that explained how the International Accounts Payable Professionals and International Accounts Receivable Professionals took a micro-planning approach to developing its meeting. Staff walked the entire site, measuring how long it took to get from exhibits to session rooms or back to hotels. As a result, they added more places to sit and rest, more areas to find directional information, and additional break stations. And, most importantly, attendee feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

Now it’s your turn. What new staff position is on your wish list for your meetings, learning, or tradeshow team? Share in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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