Give members a comfortable place to relax and network at meetings.
Providing access to a special lounge—at, say, an airport or hotel—usually implies status, but for Patrick Algyer, CVA, chief strategist of Encore Engagement Solutions, LLC, lounge access is a powerful way to unlock engagement with members at a meeting.
“Creating a members’ lounge adds a wow factor,” he says. “It’s also a great way to meet with specific types of members face to face.”
Algyer facilitated a members’ lounge for volunteers when he was senior director of membership at the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). “We went into it with two goals—to create engagement and say thank you to dedicated members,” he says. “But over the years, the space morphed into other opportunities to talk about member recruitment strategies and chapter expansion.”
He encourages associations to emphasize comfort and convenience so that a lounge is a place where members want to linger. GBTA used comfortable couches and lounge chairs, uplighting and drapes, and bonus features like cellphone-charging and snack stations.
“We also wanted to make it memorable well beyond the meeting,” he says. To do that, his team created an inexpensive selfie station using a portable printer.
“That cost us about $125, and it added so much value to the experience,” Algyer says. “I think we were extremely strategic about what we put into the lounge and how those elements added to engagement.”
Positioning the lounge in the middle of the convention hall helped increase foot traffic and attracted interest from passersby—proving that the prestige factor kicks in at conferences as well as airports.
“The lounge became a recruitment tool for new volunteers,” he says. “People would see the space and say, ‘Hey, what is this about? How do I get involved? How can I get inside?’”
Lounges might also interest meeting sponsors looking for face time with members. “Start by having conversations with different companies and suppliers, and say, ‘Hey, we think you’re a good match to meet these types of members,’” he says. “By strategically pairing sponsors together, we were able to cover high-expense items like AV costs.”
You can also save on costs if you schedule staff members to be present in the lounge who know the people who will use it—whether committee members, conference speakers, award recipients, or another distinct group—and can play a concierge-type role.
“We used our membership team, as well as those who oversaw chapters and volunteer relations,” Algyer says. “They maintained a visible presence throughout the day and were there to welcome people in and make a personal connection.”