Mapping Out a Roadshow Strategy

When your members are especially busy, you might consider hitting the road to meet them where they are. Roadshows are one way to achieve member engagement face to face. Here’s how the Endocrine Society does it to connect with their time-strapped research scientists.

We are about to enter one of the busiest times of the year, the holidays, and while it’s often a season spent with family and friends, it can also be a highly stressful time for your members.

I’m willing to bet most of them won’t be thinking much about your association over the next several weeks. So, how might you reach members in a different way when they’re especially strapped for time? One answer: Meet them where they are.

The Endocrine Society is taking that approach to connect with their members at a time when the academic calendar is in full swing and research scientists are particularly busy. “Our science members have asked us to provide more support and to engage them more,” says Jessica Harris, an external-positioning specialist at the organization. “So we thought: Why don’t we go to them?”

And that’s how the Endocrine Society’s regional roadshow tour was born. As my colleague Samantha Whitehorne has written, roadshows can be a convenient and cost-effective way to engage members face to face, and they come in many varieties for associations.

The Endocrine Society put a lot of planning into mapping out its roadshow. To maximize staffing, resources, and time spent on the road, the team determined their goals first, including boosting engagement, recruiting new members, promoting professional development and learning, and encouraging annual meeting attendance.

“We go to institutions that have strong endocrine science programs to meet with leaders in the field,” Harris says. “But we also use it as an opportunity to meet people who are engaged members, maybe a few nonmembers, and to speak to young folks and see what they need.”

The Endocrine Society focused on three considerations when planning its roadshows:

Location. Because the group’s March annual meeting, ENDO 2019, will take place in New Orleans, much of the initial strategy centered on states and member institutions near Louisiana. The roadshow started in October at two medical colleges in Texas: the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Baylor College of Medicine. At each stop, the team met with a mix of members and nonmembers and used the visit as an opportunity to promote the annual meeting.

Timing. The Endocrine Society has more than 18,000 members in more than 100 countries, and each has a different schedule. At the local level, especially at specific academic institutions, it’s easier to predict when members will be inclined to attend a roadshow. Timing is everything, says Dr. Robert Lash, chief professional and clinical affairs officer. “We try to time these events to the research calendars at academic institutions,” he says. “So if we hear that the University of Colorado has its big research day in April, that might be a great time for us to visit.”

Ambassadors. To save on staffing, costs, and other resources, the Endocrine Society taps engaged members as event ambassadors, who help to plan and execute each roadshow. That’s in addition to two full-time association staff who accompany them on each visit. So far, Lash and Harris have organized and attended events, but often it’s those members who lead the discussion, giving it a local flavor. “Different members and institutions think about the roadshow in different ways,” Lash says. “At Baylor, it was thought of as a career development visit, whereas at the [University of Texas Southwestern] it was thought of more as an event for basic scientists.” Listening to and understanding what your local members want is critical, “because if you don’t have buy-in from your members for these kinds of initiatives, it’s hard to justify doing them at all,” Lash says.

Have you hosted a member roadshow? What strategy or planning did you use? Post your comments in the thread below.

(filborg/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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