Pop-Up Events: The Next Trend for Associations?

Think pop-up events and shops are only for big brands? Think again. Your association could benefit from these buzzy, short-term events as well.

By now, you’ve probably heard the term “pop-up.” But, just in case you’re unfamiliar, a pop-up can be a shop, a restaurant, a collection of shops, or an event that opens quickly in a temporary location and only for a limited amount of time.

Some familiar brands have found they’re a great way to not only generate buzz and revenue (between $45 billion and $50 billion annually, according to a study conducted by Chicago-based marketing firm PopUp Republic) but also introduce and test new products.

One company that’s found success is Target, which started hosting them back in 2002. “Our pop-up stores may be temporary, but they leave quite an impression. Each shop is uniquely designed and decorated into an unforgettable store so you can get excited about upcoming collections and events,” the company said in a blog post. More recently, it opened a 16,000-square-foot Target Wonderland in New York City for two weeks during last year’s holiday season.

And it’s not just the corporate world that’s taking part in the pop-up craze. In March 2015, the National Peanut Board held “The Perfectly Powerful Peanut Pop-Up” for three days in New York City. This was the first stop on NPB’s #PeanutPower Pop-Up Tour, which also included Chicago; Washington, DC; Los Angeles; Atlanta; and Lake Tahoe.

Located at the corner at the Roger Smith Hotel, the space included a Grower Station, Food Sampling Station, and Humanitarian Station. Each station was designed to promote the peanut’s many benefits—from agriculture and sustainability, to the taste and nutritional benefits, to how peanuts help to feed people around the world.

Peanut farmers from across the U.S. were also there to talk to the thousands of people who visited. Additionally, board members and NPB staff participated in a media and blogger preview event, as well as special sessions for dietitians and chefs.

The event was a new way for the group to tout the peanut’s benefits, get consumers engaged in the industry, and spread the word to the media as well as chefs.

So, what would be the benefits of your association hosting a pop-up event of its own? Here are three I came up with:

Testing ground. Not sure if a new meeting format or concept is the right fit for your group? Holding a pop-up meeting preview could be a great way to get early feedback on your idea before you dedicate resources to it. Maybe you could build the pop-up in a small space that’s part of another meeting that’s already scheduled to take place to save some money.

New attendee engagement. Having these pop-up events in parts of the country where your association doesn’t traditionally hold its conferences is a perfect way to engage prospects. Woo them with a one-day annual meeting pop-up that highlights the best of the best, and you may see your attendance numbers grow when the actual meeting comes around. You could also have pop-ups that cater to audiences your association is looking to target, whether that’s those new to the industry or those who are aspiring to make it to executive ranks.

Buzz builder. A pop-up event may just be the thing your association needs to build a little buzz. Use social media to get the word out. A creative hashtag is a fun addition. To up the buzz factor, you could also consider holding the pop-up event in a unique venue. Shipping containers, school buses, vacant retail spaces, and tents have all been used by groups in the past.

How do you think your association could benefit from a pop-up event concept? Please share in the comments.

Wonderland, a pop-up concept by Target. (handout photo)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

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

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!