To host a successful conference, you need employees in a variety of roles. But have you ever considered looking outside and having students, interns, or volunteers help market your conference or work onsite? In other words, does your conference need a show ambassador?
Putting together an annual conference requires a lot of people in a lot of different roles. Among them: meeting planner, expo hall manager, registration coordinator, director of learning. The list goes on and on.
But have you ever considered bringing on a show ambassador?
A show ambassador usually has one of two roles. The first is to promote a conference ahead of time by going out into the community and talking to people, both members and nonmembers, about why they should attend. The second is to work onsite and help out in various ways—perhaps similar to what attendee volunteers do at conferences.
The Arizona National Livestock Show offers a good example of the first role. Its ambassador program asks current college students to serve as spokespeople for the show for a year and spread the word about attending. Ambassadors attend county fairs and other agriculture-industry and community events. In return, they receive $2,000 in scholarship money. The Outdoor Amusement Business Association does something similar through its OABA Show Ambassador Program.
An example of the second role is the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions’ Show Ambassador Program. IAAPA offers students and recent graduates the chance to intern at its Attractions Expo. The students help with all aspects of the meeting, including event management, tradeshow support, and program logistics. In return for their work, interns get housing, a small per diem, two meals a day, and the opportunity to network with industry leaders and attend education sessions.
With these examples in mind, here are three ways I think a show ambassador can benefit an association:
Attendee-to-attendee marketing. Yes, your conference website is beautiful, and your marketing materials are compelling, but that may not be enough to convince people to register. But you know what could get people to click that “register now” button? Hearing from an enthusiastic former attendee about how much fun and educational last year’s conference was. After all, people are likely to take a colleague’s stellar opinion of a meeting to heart.
Next-gen attraction. Like the examples above, many associations that use show ambassadors reach out to college students to serve in the role, even offering scholarship money as an incentive. And there’s a benefit that goes beyond the meeting: These programs allow associations to get students involved in and familiar with what they do. This could mean the students become members in the years ahead, bringing a new generation and dues revenue with them.
Better organization awareness. In the case of OABA, the goal of the ambassador program is to “to have a show representative on every carnival midway to provide a voice for members and provide the [association] office with information.” With ambassadors on the ground listening to members and then reporting that information back to the organization, OABA gains a much better sense of what its members’ pain points and challenges are—and may be better able to tailor its conference programming and other products and services as a result.
Now I’d like to hear from you. If your association has ever used a show ambassador or similar role, please share with us in the comments how it went.