When the Turnaround Management Association decided to head to Nashville for its annual conference in October after going virtual in 2020, it had two communities to think about: the attendees who couldn’t wait to meet in person and those who’d become used to staying home thanks to Zoom calls and virtual events.
TMA saw its main marketing challenge as finding ways to coax attendees out of their home offices. “The nerve-wracking part was knowing that 2021 was going to be a year that was going to start virtually and then pace to in-person events,” said TMA CEO Scott Stuart. “[We discussed] how to make people comfortable coming out of an environment they’d gotten very used to.”
To do that, TMA surveyed its members and partners throughout the spring, and a common trend emerged: Hesitancy to attend in person had less to do with COVID-19 than with a potential attendee’s engagement with the association. Longtime members and sponsors were eager for an in-person event, but newer members were holding back.
So TMA’s marketing for the conference was built around a “let’s get back together” theme, “Reunited and Reignited,” focusing on past attendees. The messaging also stressed the idea that in-person events are where the action is, even while TMA preserves a hybrid element for an emerging member segment it doesn’t want to lose.
“We’re not looking to draw the in-person people into the virtual environment,” Stuart said. “We’re looking to welcome the virtual people into elements of the in-person environment while still having our own place in the virtual environment.”