Meetings

New Roles For Your Established Attendees

By / Dec 6, 2018 (phototechno/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Beyond attendee, what other roles could your conference veterans play in your event? Here are four that will bring value to both them and your association.

It’s great to have a group of attendees you can count on to come to your annual conference every year. For many associations, that attendee tenure could be decades-long. And since they’re likely very familiar with your conference, association, and industry, they could be well suited (and willing to participate) in roles that go beyond what other attendees would be asked to do.

Here’s a look at four ways your association can bring more value to your longtime attendees’ conference experience:

Ask them to help curate or recommend conference programming. With so much knowledge about your industry, these attendees probably have a lot of contacts too. Take advantage of this by having them suggest session speakers or topics, serve on the conference’s content committee, or even curate a specific conference track. In addition to benefiting your association, this will give your longtime attendees a significant role in planning a conference they’ve attended for years. You could also consider having a longtime attendee serve as the meeting’s honorary conference chair.

Invite them to assist your first-time attendees. ASAE’s Decision to Volunteer study showed that older and well-established professionals are most interested in passing on their knowledge and expertise to others in the industry, which can often be accomplished through volunteering. Why not give them the opportunity to do this at your conference? You can offer these veteran attendees the chance to serve as either conference mentors or conference buddies to first-time attendees, or you could have them moderate a welcome reception for first-timers before the conference begins. This is a great way to help members from different generations get to know and learn from one another.

Give other attendees the opportunity to pick their brains. You don’t need to limit your longtime attendees’ interactions onsite to first-timers. I love this example from the Grant Professionals Association: At its conference, GPA hosts a Human Library, where attendees seeking information on a topic can ask a “librarian” to “check out” one of the leading authorities on grant writing—who happens to be a veteran conference attendee—for 15 minutes.

Allow them to invite other people to attend. Whether your veteran attendees have been coming for 10 years or 25, they’ve shown a clear commitment to (and financial investment in) your association and the industry it represents. Let them “pay it forward” by allowing them to bring another industry professional of their choosing to your conference free of charge. This is a simple way to thank your longtime attendees for their dedication, and it gives them a chance to show someone they consider a rising star in the industry the benefits of attending your meeting. And that could translate into a future attendance boost for your organization.

What roles do you offer for your longtime attendees? Let us know in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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