Use Attendee Expertise to Deliver an Exceptional Meeting Experience

Associations that don’t have the staff bandwidth or knowledge to deliver exceptional conference experiences are asking attendees to help them out.

Whether or not you play a direct role in planning and executing your association’s conferences and events, you know the goal is to ensure that your attendees have an exceptional experience. And there are a number of factors that could go into that, including the quality of food and beverage, speakers, networking activities, education sessions, and evening events.

As attendee expectations increase, it’s important for your association to keep up and deliver on them. But you only have so many staff, and the staff you have may not have the skills required to meet those attendee needs, so what can you do?

You may want to consider using attendees with expertise in these areas to not only help you get the job done but also to exceed expectations.

Take a look at the Online News Association. It’s currently looking for volunteers for next month’s Online News Association Conference and Awards. While there is a general call for volunteers who will help with stuffing conference bags and registration, ONA is also recruiting for three specialized teams—audio, social, and video—that will cover the conference live.

Each team takes advantage of skills that many ONA17 attendees are likely to have. For example, the audio team is in charge of recording select sessions, handling minor post-production work, and uploading the finished recordings to Soundcloud or a similar website.

Then there’s the fast-paced social team, which provides live coverage of conference sessions. This makes it easy for people, whether they’re at the conference or lurking from home or the office, to follow along with individual sessions. Meanwhile, according to the website, the video team “produces packages and streams key sessions to preserve the biggest takeaways and allow all newsrooms to learn from the conference.” Members of this team get the chance to interview their favorite speakers and work with other great videographers from top news organizations around the country.

Another organization that relies on attendees to help out onsite is the Association for Experiential Education. To augment its small staff, the organization has a dedicated group of volunteers it calls the Service Crew. AEE looks for its crew members to share all types of expertise—from cooking to mobile app creation to translation and sign language services.

Of course, the associations offering these opportunities aren’t the only ones to benefit from such programs. Volunteers often receive free or reduced registration. (In the case of ONA, those who volunteer eight to 10 hours get to attend for free. For AEE, depending on the number of hours they serve, volunteers receive a discount on registration of anywhere from 30 to 70 percent.) Beyond the money savings, volunteers may also get beneficial networking opportunities or even job leads from prospective employers who may have seen their skills in action during the event.

How does your association get the most out of attendee expertise during your conferences and other events? Please share in the comments.

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Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

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

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