It seems that in today’s day and age, businesses of all shapes and sizes are being told to employ strategies for pretty much every aspect of their business. Whether it’s a hiring strategy, on-boarding strategy, marketing strategy, client retention strategy, etc. The list goes on, but rather than seeing these strategies as cliché, perhaps consider viewing them as ways to get and stay ahead of potential problems and pitfalls. After all, a well-built strategy does precisely that.
The simple definition of strategy is: “A plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.”
A well-managed association will either have or plan to have many strategies in place to help facilitate its growth. One critical strategy every association should create (or refine) is their event planning strategy. If your association is like most, your association’s events are where members garner the most value. That being said, here are the top-3 areas we would recommend considering as part of your association’s event planning strategy:
Talk to Your Members
It seems obvious, right? Yet somehow this is the one area associations most often fail to leverage as part of their event planning strategy. Rather than guessing what your members might like for this year’s annual conference, ask them. Simple electronic surveys can be created and sent via email to the entire membership or a smaller segment. Asking a few simple questions like:
- On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate last year’s annual conference?
- What Could We do this year to make it a 10?
- What did you wish last year’s venue would have had/offered?
- How would you rate last year’s speakers?
- Who would you love to see this year?
Create a few simple, yet insightful questions members would be eager to answer. We’d suggest surveying members post-event as well as pre-event. This intelligence can offer you the insight you might otherwise have had.
Lastly, for surveys consisting of more than 3-5 questions, we’d recommend offering something in exchange for filling it out. Consider:
- Discounted event registration.
- Swag – Association gear, water bottles, etc. Make what you’re offering attractive, though. We’d advise against offering a free keychain. The offer has to provide the value you’re seeking.
- Free event parking.
- Entry into a drawing for a big-ticket item.
- Entry for an exclusive breakout session with the keynote speaker.
- Upgraded meal.
Be Intentional With Communication
Social media, email, and digital advertising make us feel as though we’re plastering members with event information. While this may be true, it doesn’t always equate to high event registration. Use a combination of online and offline communications before, during, and after the event to communicate those things which are most important to your members.
Before: Use email, social media, and traditional mailings to announce the event. Follow up with phone calls and record the data you’re receiving. If members are telling you that flights to your exotic location are too expensive, consider a site which will be more easily accessible to your membership.
During: Offer information about the venue, food, parking, lodging, etc. Ensure all members have an up-to-date schedule of speakers and breakout sessions. Nothing will deflate a member’s excitement more than becoming lost or missing a speaker they were looking forward to seeing.
After: Send thank-you messages to each member who attended along with a post-event survey. Offer links to event-related information such as speakers, documents, presentations, photo galleries, etc.
Offer Real Value
Encourage event speakers and presenters to offer members actionable plans they can use upon their return to the real world. All too often, association members attend events, listen to the speakers, network with their peers, yet go home feeling like they have nothing to implement within their enterprise or organization.
Members who can actionably implement what they’ve learned at an event will see future events as worthwhile. Those who don’t are more likely to pass on next year’s event or even cancel their membership outright. Work to find ways to offer members take-home value.
Partner with Stansfeld, LLC
Make your next event a success by letting Stansfeld, LLC. plan, and manage it for you. We are a full-service association management and event planning company that offers a variety of services including administration, digital marketing, strategic and tactical planning, and event management and support.