Overcoming Association Challenges

You work for an association, and you plan their events. Most of your time is spent putting content together, organizing your next event, managing registration numbers, and reaching out to sponsors to confirm their participation.

You have 3 main clients, your association members- also known as your attendees, your director, and your sponsors. Your job as a planner is to meet the needs of all 3 shareholders.

Your event budgets are pretty lean, and expectations are rising every day, putting pressure on you to execute amazing experiences that impress your stakeholders.

What does the association landscape look like today?

In a recent survey executed by Engaging Associations Forum, they found:

47% of surveyed associations reported member size of 1000+.

56% said less than 40% of their members attended events regularly.

What are the key problems associations are facing?

  1. Member retention.
  2. Member growth.
  3. Event Attendance.
  4. Delivering value to sponsors.
  5. Trying to stay innovative with the same budget year over year.

What do your clients want?

  • To enhance the stakeholder experience we need to deep dive into what each stakeholder truly wants.
  • Members: In the 2017 Decision to attend study, ASAE found education and networking to be top drivers for membership.
  • Attendees: Want to have a great experience where they can come together, learn about new ideas and trends in their profession.
  • Association Director: Strong membership and attendance numbers, and wants to be the most successful association supporting their region.
  • Sponsors: Value for their dollars. They are investing in your event to build awareness, generate business leads, and ultimately close opportunities.

Of course, these are general goals and objectives and can/will in-fact vary from association to event. However, knowing what the definition of value and success means to each of your stakeholders can help you incorporate features and tools that support the best delivery possible. It’s a good practice that in your planning process you ask your attendees, and your sponsors what they are looking to get out of their participation, and what value means to them. This can be done through attendee registration, pre-event surveys, or simply through calling or emailing your sponsors.

For Gold or high level sponsors this can set you apart from other organization competing for sponsorship dollars. It shows your sponsor that you are actually willing to ask the question, listen and at the least -understand why they are investing with you.

What can you do to support the sustainability of your association events?

Keep track of your membership levels. Similar to the Sun’s UV ratings, you want to know when your membership and attendee levels are safe and when they are dangerous so you can prepare and protect yourself. Based on the size of your association, understand critical registration percentage. This is the minimum amount of people that must register for you to break even, and how much of an impact it is to your event if you don’t get those numbers.

Help your members convince their boss. Costs to attend an event can vary, and in some instances, can be very expensive. Often times, registration costs are covered by your member’s organization and is up to their manager to approve it. One of the best ways you can support your attendance levels and your delegates is to have a business case already built for them. Click here to learn how.

Use membership feedback. It’s great that you are sending out surveys, you are ahead of most, but use that feedback to shape your event. Discuss the feedback notes in your reoccurring meetings.

Consider resources for those not able to attend. If your attendees are not able to attend in person, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are not interested in your event, there may be circumstances that prevent them from physically being there such as calendar conflicts, location travel barriers, or even perhaps that they are only interested in 1-3 of your sessions vs. the entire event. Webcasting your event allows those remote viewers to participate in their own location, and through their own device. You can also record the sessions and make it available via paid-portal on your website after the event.

Market your event. This is where fear of missing out can work to your advantage. Showcase the great things your event and membership has to offer and market that on your website, and through social media. Post pictures of past events; it works great to help members visualize the environment they can expect. Share images of networking, breaks, sessions, and even connections, this will help create a brand around your event that will get people talking, and likely register.

How can you use AV to enhance the stakeholder experience?

AV can be used to create an environment that engages and immerses your stakeholders.

Every experience your member has before they attend your event increases their demands and expectations. The last best experience a person has becomes their new expectation. While budgets vary, there are still great technology solutions you can utilize that deliver value to all your stakeholders and fit within your budget.

Solutions that allow you to add additional package options for sponsors. Engagement technology so you can collect attendee feedback in real-time at the event, and perhaps even use that feedback to better later sessions or improve experiences on day 2. Technology also helps you track and measure attendee interaction so the Association Director can see success in numbers.

If you face any of the challenges outlined in this article or would like to discuss how to create a better experience for your members connect with us now!