Meetings

Family First: Creating Meetings With Parents in Mind

By / May 23, 2014 (iStock/Thinkstock)

Associations do their best to remove obstacles that keep attendees from registering. One that may keep people away is a lack of onsite childcare options or the out-of-pocket costs associated with at-home childcare. That’s why some associations are trying new ideas to create more family-friendly meetings.

The impending Memorial Day weekend tends to mark the unofficial start of summer. With that also comes the end of the school year for most children as well as the start of conference season for lots of their parents, as many companies and organizations, including associations, hold their largest meetings and conventions in these next few months.

Unfortunately, that coincidence in timing can prove problematic for parents, as they need to figure out childcare arrangements for the time they will be away from home attending a days-long conference hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

Associations clearly don’t want childcare problems to prevent attendees from registering, so the question for them becomes this: How can they help create more parent- and family-friendly meetings?

This is something many association professionals are thinking about. Two recent discussions on ASAE’s Collaborate forum (ASAE member log-in required) touched on what different associations are offering (and not) in terms of childcare at their meetings and events. And this isn’t a new consideration: Associations Now’s Joe Rominiecki wrote about it back in 2007.

When associations consider adding a childcare option to their meetings, they often bring up three things: interest (How many attendees will actually use it if we offer it?), cost (How much will it cost us, and how much will we have to charge attendees?), and risk (If a child gets injured, can we get sued?). To reduce the latter, most associations that offer childcare for attendees subcontract it out to a licensed provider. For example, at its 2014 Annual Conference & Exposition next month in Orlando, the Society for Human Resource Management will partner with Bright Horizons to provide childcare.

So say your association decides to go ahead and offer childcare for attendees at an upcoming event. What should you think about doing to make both attendees and their kids happy?

Well, the American Chemical Society’s setup is sure to leave smiles on everyone’s faces. First, Camp ACS is available to all attendees free of charge for children ages 2 to 16. Second, the five-day program is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, covering almost all hours of the conference, allowing attendees to make the most of their time. Third, kids don’t just sit in a room all day; they do age-appropriate activities, including arts and crafts.

At the American Academy of Pediatrics’  National Conference & Exposition, considering who and what the association represents, it seems like a given that childcare would be offered—which it is. But on top of that, AAP offers Kids’ Camp on Friday evening before the meeting officially kicks off. Attendees and their families are invited to enjoy healthy food, music, and fun. The three-hour event includes activities like face painting, photo opps with exotic live animals, and a dance party complete with DJ.

But what if your association decides there’s not enough interest (or a big enough budget) to offer a full-fledged childcare program?

You could go the route of the American Physical Society. Through its Committee on the Status of Women in Physics, APS offers childcare grants to attendees. Grants of up to $400 are available for meeting attendees who are bringing small children to a meeting or who incur extra expenses in leaving their children at home. The good news is that APS is not alone in offering this type of program: The American Astronomical Society, Neutron Scattering Society of America, and American Association of Physics Teachers have similar programs.

What options does your association offer for parents in terms of childcare and other family-friendly meetings benefits? Let us know in the comments.

 

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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