Meetings

What Can You Do to Attract Next-Gen Attendees?

By / Oct 18, 2018 (Cecilie_Arcurs/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Your industry’s young professionals are looking to learn and grow. To serve that interest, your association needs to offer education that appeals not only to them, but also to their managers—who may have the last word on whether they attend.

All this week here on AssociationsNow.com, we’ve been publishing guest blog posts written by members of ASAE’s young professionals community. They’ve covered a range of topics, from member engagement and communications to how associations can go about preparing for next-gen members.

They’ve all been thoughtful and full of great ideas for associations to consider.  But as I was reading Tuesday’s post—“Say Yes to Developing Next-Gen Professionals” by Natasha Bethea, senior manager of membership recruitment and retention at the Association for Psychological Science—I couldn’t help but think of the significant role that an association’s meetings and learning teams play in this area.

Bethea makes the case that “training and education should not just be a benefit for more seasoned employees, but it should also be available to next-gen professionals as well.”  She urges managers of next-gen professionals to make sure they get the opportunity to attend trainings and conferences.

But with eager next-gen members rising through the ranks, it’s up to associations to make sure they are offering learning opportunities that not only appeal to these young professionals but that also get the approval of their managers. So, what should associations be doing to make that happen?

The first is to offer education at your conferences that both has value to them in their current role but also helps prepare them for the roles they see themselves having in five or 10 years. Also consider more interactive sessions that allow next-gen attendees to work together to solve problems or tour local industry-related facilities to enhance their knowledge of best practices. This will help create conversation, rather than having presenters just push information at them—something all your attendees will like. You could also consider hosting a young professionals program, as the Construction Specifications Institute did at its CONSTRUCT conference earlier this month.

Second, make sure that these future leaders are also getting face time with more seasoned professionals and industry leaders. While a young professionals content track is helpful and allows them to get to know their peers, it’s also important that they get a chance to meet the leaders who hold roles they may aspire to be in one day. While a networking reception is a casual way to do this, another is to host a formal mentoring or conference buddy program at your meeting. Or consider hosting a dine-around one evening, where five or six next-gen professionals get to share a meal and chat with an industry leader.

Finally, your organization may want to find a way to incentivize managers to send their next-gen employees to your conferences. For instance, you could offer free registration to a young professional if their supervisor is attending, or you can have a reduced or discounted registration fee for those under a certain age. Some associations also offer conference scholarships that cover registration, travel, and other incidentals for next-gen attendees.

What are you doing to attract young professionals  to your meetings and conferences? Please share in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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