4 Resolutions for Association Meetings in 2015

A new year often means new resolutions. Based on 2014 successes and trends, here are some things the association meetings industry may want to resolve to do in 2015.

As 2014 draws to a close, it’s a time of reflection for many, as they think back on the highs and lows of the past year. And with less than two weeks until the start of 2015, others are beginning to set goals for next year, whether that’s to find a new job, be healthier, or learn to play the guitar, among others.

You have to be out there working with your members, working with your exhibitors, working with your attendees to get them to invest in your tradeshow.

With all that in mind, I decided to dedicate my last new blog post of 2014 to New Year’s resolutions. More specifically, four things association meetings should resolve to do in 2015 based on successes, failures, and trends that occurred in the industry over the past year.

Advocate for the meetings team’s strategic role in your association. Some associations are already there. But if you’re not, check out the cover story of our September/October 2014 Meetings Issue, which explored the evolution of the meetings manager into a meetings strategist. We interviewed three meetings professionals who show that a meetings manager is much more than an event planner. John Toner IV, vice president for convention and industry relations at the United Fresh Produce Association, described the new role this way:  “It’s no longer a functional role. You’re not processing applications, you’re not processing registration forms. You have to be out there working with your members, working with your exhibitors, working with your attendees to get them to invest in your tradeshow.”  After all, meetings are often the biggest driver of nondues revenue for associations.

Make it about them, not you. That’s right, whether you’re in the planning process, onsite, or looking back on your just-wrapped-up event, put yourself in your attendees’ shoes and make them your first priority. Over the course of this year, we’ve seen many associations succeed by doing that. For example, there was the Drug Information Association, which emailed personalized meeting agendas to 7,000 potential attendees. The result: Member response was very positive, and click rates and open rates were much higher than other promotional emails.

Other groups made their meetings more inclusive and welcoming by, for example, making childcare available onsite or through grants or offering new or unique opportunities for attendees to network to advance their careers.

Constantly keep your eyes on what’s next. It’s easy to get bogged down in  day-to-day business and feel like you don’t have the time to think long term. But it’s imperative you do. Innovations like wearable technology, content marketing, and mobile learning are rapidly changing the event space. As attendees see your competitors roll out these options, they’ll expect the same from your organization. And it’s always best to be ahead of the curve instead of having to play catchup.

Take cues from pop culture. Your attendees don’t live in an association bubble. They see things happen and have good and bad experiences in the wider world. You want to apply the good ones to your meetings where you can and avoid the bad ones altogether. In the case of the latter, take the Michael Bay debacle at a Samsung press event during the Consumer Electronics Show early this year. The famed producer walked off stage after he got frazzled when the teleprompter broke—a painful reminder to prep your speakers. On the positive side, lessons can be applied from glitzy Hollywood awards shows like the Golden Globes. These include having a good host and allowing people to build community online, not just in person, during an event. Heck, there’s even something to be gleaned from a rock concert or a state fair.

What resolutions are you making for your 2015 meetings? Please share in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

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

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