Can You Ask Too Much of Your Attendees?

Sure, you want your attendees to feel involved and engaged before, during, and after any meeting. But is there ever a point where you could be asking or expecting too much?

Late last week one of my favorite bands, Arcade Fire, announced a 2014 tour. Excited by the news, I immediately went over to Ticketmaster’s website to see where they were playing, when tickets would go on sale, how much tickets would cost—all the details any eager fan would want to know.

If a policy or requirement really doesn’t add to [attendees’] experience or create an engagement opportunity, is it worth it?

But while I was looking for that info, there was something else that caught my eye on the page. A note reading, “Night of show: Please wear formal attire or costume.” At first I thought it was interesting, and then it got me thinking about how much this would add to the live show experience and made me more excited to get tickets.

While some people fell in my camp, not everyone had the same reaction. Fans and music critics alike took to Twitter, Facebook, and blogs to complain. Some called the attire request pretentious; others said it was ridiculous to not only have fans shell out almost $90 for a ticket but then also to ask them to follow a dress code.

While I think both sides make good points, the dress code policy got me thinking about association meetings. I began to wonder whether there’s a point where you could be asking or expecting too much of your attendees. And if you do reach that point, what are the effects? Will they vent their frustrations through social media or other outlets but wind up attending in the end, or—even worse—will people be so turned off by what you’re asking of them that they decide not to register?

Associations do know that members like to be involved and engaged in the meetings process. In fact, I’ve blogged about it at least once or twice before. But that’s a whole lot different than requiring (or appearing to require) attendees to do more work beforehand or onsite.

After all, attendees are likely spending a good amount of money to attend your event. If a new policy or requirement really doesn’t add to their experience or create an opportunity for engagement, is it worth it? Probably not.

Perhaps the key to asking and getting attendees to try something when you institute a new meeting policy and process is to keep it simple and easy. In other words, don’t ask them for something that will make their suitcases heavier or will require them to jump through additional hoops.

And just as important is acknowledging and responding to any negative feedback your organization receives.

In Arcade Fire’s case, the band released a statement on its Facebook page earlier this week: “To everyone really upset about us asking people to dress up at our shows … please relax. It’s super not mandatory. It just makes for a more fun carnival when we are all in it together…”

Sounds a little like community building, doesn’t it? And based on the buzz around the shows and the dress code, as well as the fact that many of the ticket presales sold out, I’m not sure Arcade Fire’s policy will have much of an effect. (But I’ll let you know in March and August after I see two of their concerts. And, yes, I plan to dress up.)

How does your association determine whether it may be asking too much of meeting or conference attendees? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Arcade Fire, a Grammy-winning indie rock band, drew criticism recently for asking its fans to dress up for its arena shows. (Merge Records)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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