Have you ever had a new planning committee member join and ask why a certain component of the event is done the way it is? If so, has the answer ever been “It has always been done that way”? In planning association events, we can find ourselves working with a tight budget and making drastic changes to an event can seem impossible. It is often easiest to repeat what was done last year and stick to the status quo if it has been effective. But, as is true in most areas of life, what is the easiest solution is not always the best solution.
You may have delivered an excellent conference last year and received positive feedback from attendees, but that does not mean that the exact same thing should be replicated year after year. Association member and stakeholder needs evolve over time and, as such, so should the association events. Here are just a few of the industry trends we are seeing in association events that are driving change.
There is no denying that people are getting busier and busier and their dollars are being stretched. To account for these factors, we are seeing more resources being offered online either complimentary or for a small fee – a fee that is usually significantly lower than attending an in-person conference when you account for travel, accommodation, registration and additional costs. Obviously, the convenience and affordability of online learning resources threaten to cannibalize in-person association events. Changes need to be made to your association event in order to keep it current and something that delegates are willing to spend time and money on. Keep things fresh and exciting so that delegates keep coming back and see value in the investment.
How Delegates Want to Receive Information
The days of delegates following along with the event on a printed handout are long over. Even notepads are becoming obsolete. You are more likely to see delegates with a device in hand and having all content contained to that device including speaker feedback and discussion forums. If an event app is new territory for your association event, please refer to our blog: Using an Event App for Your Association Conference – Where to Start?
The way that delegates want content to be delivered is also evolving over time. We are not completely done with the traditional lecture and breakout styles, however, delegates are craving more interactive and collaborative sessions. They want a more unique experience than something they could receive online. Even changing up room set up and floor plans can help achieve a more engaging and valuable session. This point is showcased in one of our blogs: Change Up Your Floorplans to Enhance Your Conference.
As with printed handouts, the gold, silver and bronze sponsorship packages are becoming a thing of the past. Sponsors are looking to gain a direct return on investment for their sponsorship dollars rather than philanthropy. Sponsors are interested in getting their brand across and investing in the delegate experience rather than simply having their logo on a PowerPoint slide. Changing up your sponsorship package for an event and tailoring opportunities to specific sponsors/companies can result in a win-win between the sponsor and the delegate. If the sponsor can contribute to improving the delegate’s experience through their sponsorship, help with the bottom line of the event, and feel satisfied with the value they received, all parties will benefit from this arrangement.
The purpose of this blog is in no way meant to convince you to reinvent the wheel when it comes to your association event. However, it is to encourage you to consider that small changes will be required in order to keep up with delegate needs. You want to make your association event a success and something that enjoys attendance growth year after year. A stagnant event will not achieve this goal; you need to stay relevant and innovative. Focus on one area and make small tweaks until you get to the place you want to be. It does not need to happen overnight. For tips on implementing these changes, review our blog: Driving Change in Your Event and keep asking “are you changing enough?”