Archive for May, 2020

[Webinar] Mission Critical: How One Association Transformed its Live Event to Virtual in Record Time

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News, news-feed, Uncategorized

This is not a typical story. The American Association of Suicidology’s annual meeting had been growing steadily in recent years. When their reimagined conference couldn’t take place in Portland, Ore., in late April, staff and volunteers went into overdrive to transition the physical meeting to a virtual one in a matter of days. They knew how critical it was to deliver much-needed content to their global community.
Jonathan and Colleen will share the unvarnished truth about what they learned, what they’d do differently and the surprising results of the efforts of their team. Join VCC’s free webinar and take away lessons you can apply immediately to your event strategy.
Date: Thursday, May 7, 2020
Time: 12 noon – 1 p.m. EDT
Conference Architects and Speakers:
Colleen Creighton, CEO, AAS
Jonathan Singer, PhD, AAS Board President and 2020 Program Chair
Sarah Michel, VP, Velvet Chainsaw Consulting

Register Now

The post [Webinar] Mission Critical: How One Association Transformed its Live Event to Virtual in Record Time appeared first on Velvet Chainsaw.

Cancel, Postpone, Go Virtual? How to Make Critical Decisions About Your Meetings

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News, news-feed, Uncategorized

A look at how three associations came to decisions related to their group’s largest event and often biggest revenue maker: the annual conference.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced associations to make difficult but critical decisions that often come with significant financial implications. One piece of association business that’s been greatly affected is conferences and tradeshows.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to either speak with or listen to a number of association executives describing the critical decisions they’ve had to make around their events. While each situation is unique, the reasons why they made the decisions they did are sure to resonate as you consider your own meetings. Here are some of their stories.

Be Flexible

The International Trademark Association was planning for its 142nd Annual Meeting to take place in Singapore at the end of April. More than 10,000 attendees and 160-plus exhibitors were expected, but as the pandemic spread through Asia and Singapore was becoming a focal point of the outbreak, INTA decided on February 15 it would move the meeting to a location in the United States in May or June.

“It was a very difficult decision—one that required a lot of negotiation with our partners and our vendors,” said CEO Etienne Sanz de Acedo. “But, ultimately, health and safety were our top priority.”

However, as INTA was working to secure a U.S. location for its rescheduled meeting, it decided to hold off again due to “fast-moving developments and escalating uncertainty of the public health crisis.”

In early April, INTA announced a that now-combined 2020 annual and leadership meeting would take place in Houston in November. While INTA plans to open registration sometime in early June, Sanz de Acedo admits the situation is evolving and that a lot can happen between now and then. “While this is unprecedented, what I’ve learned is that this is really the time to encourage flexibility in terms of how you think, how your staff thinks, how you work with your partners, and what you offer to your members. It will make a real difference down the line.”

Keep Members in Mind

The Institute of Food Technologists’ 25,000-attendee Annual Event and Food Expo was scheduled to take place in Chicago in July.

Since the meeting represents 70 percent of its annual revenue, and 20 percent of attendees come from outside the U.S., IFT began discussing the impact the virus would have on their meeting back in January. Staff also started conversations with their event cancellation insurance broker, as well as an adjuster, about a what type of claim they might have.

By March, “as things continued to unfold, it became clear that many of our stakeholders were becoming increasingly focused on keeping the food supply in this country and around the globe moving,” said CEO Christie Tarantino-Dean, FASAE, CAE.

Knowing that in-person attendance would be dramatically reduced in even the best scenarios it laid out, IFT made the decision to transition to virtual. “Really that decision largely came down to knowing our members and our vision, which is about a safe, nutritious, sustainable food supply for all,” she said.

Admit What You Don’t Know

With one 200-person international event planned with a partner and two summer events on the horizon, the 11-person staff at the Online News Association (ONA) didn’t have its 3,000-person annual conference, scheduled for late September, top of mind leading into March.

“March was just putting out fires, and we weren’t able to take a step back,” said CEO Irving Washington, FASAE, CAE. “But for those of us who have later meetings, I know we can’t get too comfortable.”

That realization sank in after he heard from several colleagues who had to make quick decisions about their meetings. They told him, “Whatever decision I thought was cautious hasn’t been cautious enough.”

Unlike INTA and IFT, Washington’s organization has some time to consider options for its annual meeting, which accounts for 60 percent of its revenue. ONA has used that time to design a framework around scenarios and try to envision what the world may look like in the months ahead.

“Where we are is, we’ve talked to all key parties and laid out 11 decision-making criteria that we’re looking at specifically for the annual meeting,” Washington said.

While ONA can’t predict what will happen these next few months, the staff understands there’s a good possibility the conference will transition to a virtual event.

“Our mindset is to just open it up and tell people what we’re dealing with and why we need the support of either registration or donations, and just be as transparent as we can and authentic about the annual meeting for this year,” said Washington. “We all have to be OK with the sentence, ‘We don’t know.’”

What have you relied on most when making decisions about your organization’s conference given the COVID-19 pandemic? Please share in the comments.

The post Cancel, Postpone, Go Virtual? How to Make Critical Decisions About Your Meetings appeared first on Associations Now.

Should You Waive Fees for New Members?

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News, news-feed, Uncategorized

Many associations are wondering what to do about membership dues during the COVID-19 pandemic. As you consider that question, remember that what works for one association won’t necessarily work for all.

The National Limousine Association announced at the beginning of April that it would waive fees for new members because of the “devastating effects of COVID-19.” NLA President Robert Alexander said the decision was based on a desire to help the entire industry weather the crisis.

Before the pandemic, Alexander said, NLA might have streamed a members-only live webinar on, for example, how to apply for a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program. Now members who have joined for free can participate because there are no barriers to entry.

“We’re hoping that if they find value in what we’re doing, they’ll stay and become full-fledged, dues-paying members,” he said. “We want to support them in the long run.”

The decision to temporarily offer free membership—from April through June—has yielded an uptick in traffic to NLA’s website, a significant increase in Facebook followers, and excellent feedback overall from new and existing members. “Our videos are being viewed twice as many times as we have members,” Alexander said. “It’s working.”

But what works for one association does not always translate into results for another association. Sheri Jacobs, FASAE, CAE, president and CEO of Avenue M Group, recommends that organizations consider their “gut intuition” and brainstorm to determine whether waiving member fees is right for them by considering a whole list of options. Then, before making a significant change that could affect the organization financially, she advises collecting other data points to inform the decision.

Jacobs set out four steps as a roadmap to a decision if you’re considering a dues waiver in the current crisis. You can use the same process to weigh any substantial organizational change.

Take a quick survey. The response rate is usually good because members want to share, and they also want to know what other members are doing. Ask: How have your business operations been affected? How long do you expect the financial impact to last? What are your pressing concerns?

Think it through. Ask yourself what the financial implications of waiving member fees are and what the long-term effects will be on your organization.

Take risks, but plan for mistakes. Try to get comfortable taking risks, but go in knowing that missteps may happen. If the idea works, great. If it doesn’t, learn from the mistakes. Celebrate both, and appreciate what you’ve learned.

Make it sensible. Before you make a decision, be prepared to demonstrate that doing nothing was a bigger risk and have the data and due diligence in place to back up your decision once you make it.

“The bigger risk is sitting there and doing absolutely nothing. By showing that you are not averse to risk, you’re demonstrating leadership,” Jacobs said.

Echoing former ASAE President and CEO John H. Graham IV, FASAE, CAE, who died earlier this year, she said, “If you’ve seen one association, you’ve seen one association.” She added, “Even if there are similarities in your organizations, do your own due diligence.”

The post Should You Waive Fees for New Members? appeared first on Associations Now.

Conference Go/No-Go Decisions in a Pandemic

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News, news-feed, Uncategorized

This is the second in a series of blog posts, written collaboratively by our team, which uncover lessons learned in advising dozens of our clients on their events in the time of COVID-19. Although each situation has its own unique issues, we hope you find nuggets to help you with your disruption response and planning.

Scenario Planning

Where lead time permits, work through at least three scenarios – optimistic, pessimistic and somewhere in the middle. We like using an outside resource to set the scenario goal post. The Conference Board has the best we’ve come across so far:

  1. May Reboot – quick recovery
  2. Summertime V-shape – deeper contraction, bigger recovery
  3. Fall Recovery – Extended contraction

For each scenario:

  • Define the new event experience. Is it still in-person, virtual or a hybrid?
  • Estimate the impact on registration, exhibit and sponsor participation and revenue.
  • Identify expenses that can be cut.
  • Think outside the box on where you should make new investment.

Lead Time and Transparency

In the beginning of this crisis, organizers of major conferences and trade shows were canceling with very little lead time. We started out recommending that our clients communicate a go/no-go decision date two weeks prior to opening. Now that we have a better idea of the severity of this situation, we’re recommending setting a go/no-go decision date eight weeks prior. This aligns with March 15, 2020 CDC guidelines for postponing or canceling mass gatherings (250 + participants).

Best Practice – Set a firm date for making your decision to move forward, postpone, cancel or shift to virtual. Promise your community that you will update the website every two weeks leading up to that. Don’t break that promise.

Refunds and FAQs

For refunds, take the lead from what airlines and hotels are doing for individual cancellations. The best practice that has evolved is to give exhibitors and attendees options:

  1. Apply all or part to next year or a virtual experience
  2. Opt for a full refund, or
  3. Donate to the foundation

Whatever options you provide, it is wise to put together a good FAQ page on your event website. The Institute of Food Technologists recently pulled the plug on their July show in Chicago. Since McCormick Place is now a hospital, that’s probably a really smart move. We are very impressed with the FAQ they put together.

Check out more ideas and rationale in With Event Refunds, Do the Right Things.

What advice would you add for scenario planning and predictions? What other refund options have you considered?

Other posts in this series: Leading Through the Pandemic: Generosity + Empathy = Future Brand

The post Conference Go/No-Go Decisions in a Pandemic appeared first on Velvet Chainsaw.