Events can do several things for associations, all at the same time. A great event can deliver strong value to your members, increase member engagement, expose new people to your association and its membership value, provide an array of learning opportunities for your members, and help gauge your overall value and influence as an association—the list goes on. How can you supercharge your next live event for phenomenal success? Your AMS software is key in making these tips work.
1. What Unique Value Can You Provide Your Members?
What can your event offer your members (as well as potential members) that they can’t get anywhere else?It has to be something worth pulling away from work, family, and their social lives, in addition to their travel time and expenses. Every association has to answer this for themselves, but some good starting places include:
- Training on the latest industry software or a new industry technique
- In-person opportunities to learn from an industry thought leader
- Behind-the-scenes info on a personality, technology, or trends
- How-to training on difficult tasks or subjects
What’s the best way to gain insight into this? Ask them. Key in on your repeat attendees to find out what keeps them coming back. Take some time to welcome new attendees and ask what made them decide to become first-timers. Real data like this provides actionable infomation more than any guesswork ever could.
2. Consider Opening the Event to Non-Members
While holding exclusive events for members is a good way to build value, it doesn’t do much for promoting your association to newbies. Open at least some of your special live events to those outside your membership roster. Consider offering a special deal on a membership package with the event tickets, for a one-two punch of bringing in new members and boosting attendance at your event.
3. Streamline the Registration Process
If signing up requires more than the essential information, you’ll lose many attendees before you even get started.
Under heavy pressure from the marketing department to deliver a wealth of new leads and member data to your AMS software, it’s tempting to ask tons of questions upon registration. Don’t. You’ll bolster attendance by asking only the essential info upon signup. Then you can ask more extensive information at check-in, when they’re already committed and ready to be engaged. Make it easy and breezy to get them in the door.
4. Provide a Mixture of Delivery Styles
Traditionally, the business crowd has become accustomed to attending a conference that consists of the standard six or so 90-minute “talking heads” sessions, perhaps intermixed with a Q&A or two. However, this just doesn’t account for different learning styles, different work schedules, and other variances among today’s professionals. Consider offering a mix of session styles, perhaps a ”talking heads” panel session, with an interactive session or two, and some hands-on learning sessions. You can also expand your offerings by including some virtual sessions, perhaps with an industry leader who can’t be there in person. Small groups and breakout sessions are ideal for rounding out the schedule with something for everyone.
Optimally, offer the opportunity for attendees to sign up for just one session, or to mix-and-match what they want in a package or a la carte. This will attract locals who might not be able to free their schedules for a full three-day conference. Consider offering several packages so that people can pick and choose which sessions they want (and can afford) to attend. Asking for all-or-nothing just eliminates people who want to come but won’t have more than an afternoon to dedicate to your event.
5. Don’t Forget Your Marketing Basics
Market your event just as aggressively as you do your memberships, fundraisers, and important campaigns. Today’s audiences demand cross-channel marketing, because you never know when you will (or won’t) catch them paying attention. Use your AMS software to build industry buzz via social media. Reach out to current, past, and prospective members through email. Live stream the event via all your social networks. But also use the same marketing techniques that work for everything else — PPC, traditional media, or whatever else works for your association for other goals.
6. Follow Up With Non-Members & No Shows
After the show ends is perhaps your most critical time to benefit from the event. There are numerous ways you can use the event’s momentum to continue to engage members at a deeper level and reach out to those who haven’t signed up before. Offer your presentations as webinars. Reach out to non-members while they’re still stoked from the event and see if they’re ready to become a vital part of your organization. Ask no-shows if there is anything you can do to help them—maybe email them transcripts of your keynote speakers’ addresses, or perhaps give them links to podcasts so they can see the speakers and sessions for themselves. Use your AMS software to engage both members and prospective members on a deeper level, now that they “know” you.
With your next event, deeper member engagement and more active recruitment of new members could lie ahead! But how do you know if you’re driving engagement or motivating the right people to action? Check out Part I of the Scoring Member Engagement eBook.