Seven best practices to consider as you plan your association’s next meeting.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, the old proverb goes. True … unless those things become obsolete.
Association annual meetings aren’t at risk of obsolescence—in fact, researchers have found that face-to-face meetings are still highly beneficial—but they do need to adapt to the changes that are upending society as a whole.
Technology has changed how we work, learn, and make connections with peers. Millennials, now the single largest demographic group, are generally comfortable with these changes and aren’t necessarily eager to continue with business as usual.
Given these realities, association executives are wise to look at every aspect of their meetings—from site selection to promotion to programming—to determine what could use a tweak or two and what, if anything, needs wholesale change. (And, of course, how to do it all in a cost-effective way.)
In an upcoming series of weekly articles, we will take a look at these different aspects of the annual meeting, providing best practices and examples of on-the-ground success from association executives like you, along with meeting planning experts.
Here’s a sneak peek at the topics we’ll cover each week over the next seven weeks here on the Associations Now site.
1. Don’t Let Your Annual Meeting Get Stale
Even if you are changing up the topics, speakers, and host city each year, attendees might still find your annual meetings to be remarkably similar experiences. That feeling might, at least partially, emanate from the fact that conference venues are remarkably similar spaces. One easy way to combat this is to hold more off-site events, thereby offering attendees more memorable experiences.
2. Take Advantage of Your Host City’s Expertise
Whatever your primary reasons for choosing your conference city, it’s worth also getting some intel on the industries your potential host cities are known for. You might find you can tap into speakers and expertise related to your own sector—or to issues you want to keep your members informed about. Tapping into these local experts could add real value to your conference at a relatively low cost.
3. Build Better Buzz Around Your Annual Meeting
Social media is an absolute boon to building pre-event buzz. But are you paying enough attention to these channels throughout the year? Do your members find them useful and informative? It might be time for some social media care and feeding, while not forgetting your other tried-and-true marketing channels.
4. Develop More Engaging Programming
“Monologue is out and dialogue is in,” said Richard St-Pierre, president of C2 Montréal. For the last six years, C2 has been disrupting the business meeting model in a high-flying way. Associations can take a page or two from C2 by giving participants more of a voice in conference sessions and being more intentional with networking opportunities.
5. Cut These Non-F&B Costs to Maximize Revenue
Every association wants to maximize annual meeting revenue, and an important way to do this is by intelligently reducing costs where possible. Some costs are worth it, but others can be sponsored (think Wi-Fi) and still others can be reduced, refunded, or cut altogether. And make sure you take advantage of any site-specific savings.
6. Up the Engagement Factor by Providing an Experience
Even though in-person meetings are inherently valuable, you still need to figure out how to deliver an engaging overall experience to your meeting attendees, who have diverse professional needs. To do this, create an overarching purpose that informs every decision; provide more segmented, peer-driven content; and provide small conveniences your attendees will appreciate.
7. Live Your Mission Through Your Meeting
At its July annual convention in Montréal, Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) completed its rebranding, officially becoming Destinations International during the event’s opening session. Through the convention programming, Destinations International was able to drive home the reasons behind the rebrand to its membership.
If your annual meeting is hitting it out of the park each year, maybe you want to simply continue apace with your planning. But given how quickly the business world is changing due to technological disruptions and demographic shifts, it’s probably worthwhile to take a closer look at each meeting component to ensure it is still measuring up.