We Asked, You Answered: Amping Up Your Event’s “Wow” Factor

From small touches that add convenience to clever visual displays that get people talking, here are just a few of the ways associations are impressing conference attendees these days.

Giving your events an unexpected “wow” factor is a great way to provide attendees an unforgettable experience this year and ensure they come back next year. We recently asked Associations Now readers to tell us how they’ve surprised and delighted their members at their annual meetings and other events. Check out what they had to say—you might find some inspiration for your next conference.

Crissy Tallman, CAE, CMP

Director of Conventions and Continuing Education, ‌Florida Dental Association

We placed Amazon Echos throughout the event so attendees could ask convention-specific questions like “Where do I print my badge?” and “What time is the exhibit open?”

Elizabeth Moris

Marketing Communications Manager, Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society 

We decided to include a violinist at our registration as an element of surprise. This set the tone as our members and guests arrived as well as acted as a great distraction/entertainment as they waited in line to check in.

We offer free headshots to our members. This allowed us to collect updated data as they checked in and verified their profile; it also acted as an immediate conversion for many nonmembers who attended our conference; and most importantly, they walked away feeling glamorous with something useful.

We designed custom socks and handed them out. We branded them with engagement wording to have attendees take pictures of them and share with their community via social media and our online forum. The socks were a special touch that even to this day people are still wearing and talking about. It’s something that lasts longer and is practical.

Sheryl Matney

Director of Technical Assistance, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities

Prior to a series of concurrent sessions, we asked the presenters to participate in an “infomercial” of sorts to highlight what attendees would hear in their session (one to two minutes maximum). The presenters were creative in their “pitches”—some used inspirational quotes, one team did a short skit. Not only did attendees get to hear about content, but they also got a glimpse of the presenter’s style.

Lisa Ruisch

Director of Marketing, Children’s Hospital Association

We offered an interactive experience that asked members to use ping pong balls to tell us what programs and services they value as part of their membership.

We created a visual on a 10×10-foot wall and asked members to drop colored ping pong balls into containers that were designated for our various programs. The visual was designed so that as each container filled with balls, a bar graph started to form. This caused members to gravitate to the wall and talk with us about the trends that were appearing. We gained some great insight into what is important now and into the future for our members.

(Olivier Le Moal/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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