Six Strategies to Maximizing Your Association Meeting Experience

Written by Bostrom

Associations strive to create the best meeting experiences for members and attendees to learn, network – and yes, have some fun. And if the meeting is in a city that’s easy to travel into (and out of), has the right weather, boasts
great hotels, restaurants, cultural activities – and all at a price tag that won’t break your budget, then you’re set for a perfect meeting, right? Not so fast. Location, price, education, lodging and cultural opportunities are definitely important. But associations today are looking beyond those basics to maximize the meeting experience (and revenue).

Here are six additional strategies to consider:

1. Cultivate Meaningful Sponsorships to Grow Revenue
Depending on your association’s particular industry (and previous conferences), the ratio of registration
to sponsors may vary. For example, all other factors being equal, an average association deriving 60% of
its conference revenue from registration and 40% from sponsorships is doing fairly well. (Again, depending on the association, the split might be 70/30.) How can you encourage sponsors to increase their funding while still offering them the “biggest bang for their buck?” First and foremost, sponsors want face time with attendees, which means more than just sponsoring a coffee break or displaying podium signage. Instead, if you really understand your sponsor’s needs and goals, you can think creatively. Perhaps a sponsor maintains a Twitter handle for a day to engage participants? Or maybe it offers five-minute shoulder massages after a long day walking to break-out sessions and walking the exhibitor hall. Sponsorship levels might incorporate industry-specific name designations. For example, if
your association is in the food or hospitality industry, perhaps the levels include “Cordon Bleu” and “Sous
Chef.” Or if it’s healthcare, perhaps the sponsorship levels are “Resident,” “Specialist” and “Researcher.”

2. Create Attendee Communities
–Before the Event Build excitement by engaging participants in an attendee community prior to the event. Communities provide another platform for attendees to share goals, needs and interests with other attendees and builds a real sense of community. Often, the community continues long after the event concludes. Think about creating mini communities at a reception to focus discussion on a particular topic and deepen attendee engagement.

3. Build an Event App
Building an app for your event has multiple benefits:

  • Reduces the amount of paper or other materials (and the cost to produce them); offers a “green” solution.
    And you should market the event as eco-friendly.
  • Up-to-the-minute information can be added (or dropped) with the touch of a button, allowing
    participants to access the latest details in real time.
  • Gathering feedback through polls within the app can be tied to points to win prizes or badges to increase
    engagement while getting powerful feedback on sessions and speakers.

4. Contingency Planning
While it may not be possible to predict the next outbreak of disease or flu (that could reduce attendance or
increase food costs) or a transportation industry strike, any good meeting strategy will include a contingency
plan. Think of it as an insurance policy: you want to have it but you don’t want to use it.

5. Hotel Negotiations
Many factors influence hotel negotiations. Identify your event’s “must-have’s” (like timeframe, budget constraints and rules, number of guest rooms, catering budget, resort fees and other incidentals). Once you know your “must-have’s,” you’ll have a better idea of where and when you can be flexible – and when you
need to walk away from a deal.

6. Data Gathering
Events are opportunities for participants to re-connect, network and learn. That goes for associations, too. What information does your association want (or need) to gather from attendees? How will you gather it and use it to increase participation, sponsorships or other revenue streams for future meetings? Answering those questions well in advance will help you make your upcoming meeting a stepping stone for future success.

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