Archive for July, 2020

Daily Buzz: Find More Social Media Value

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Working in tandem with social media partners can boost your return on investment. Also: Uncover your own cognitive biases to craft better messaging.

Social media has exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic, and not only because of the masses of isolated users—spending on social media campaigns increased 74 percent during the first two months of the pandemic in the U.S. And it’s money well-spent, according to respondents to The CMO Survey: For the first time since 2016, companies are reporting a boost in social media’s contributions to company performance.

Now, the question for organizations is how to extract more value from social media partners. Writing for Harvard Business Review, Christine Moorman and Torren McCarthy recommend four guiding principles for working with partners, beginning with trust. “Trust paves the way for effective decisions, calculated risks, and creative work,” say Moorman and McCarthy. “But building trust takes intention.”

Establishing and sticking with clear communication channels—including a process for conversations that need to be fast-tracked—can help maintain that trust. Finding the right mix of internal and external perspectives helps too, as does establishing clear performance indicators and objectives.

Erase Cognitive Bias From Your Marketing

Cognitive bias and marketing. It’s a thing. Great article. #marketing #cognitivebias #contentstrategy

— Chris Bonney (@GuloChris) July 30, 2020

Marketers regularly leverage cognitive bias to make their points effectively. But as Lesley Vos points out for the Content Marketing Institute, the people crafting messages aren’t exempt from these mental pitfalls.

So if marketers want to communicate well with their audience, they need to be aware of their own tendencies and cognitive biases first. Recognizing the shortcuts one’s own brain takes to work efficiently can result in stronger, more prescient strategy. The alternative is the risk of undermining their own work.

“The first rule of dealing with cognitive biases is: Remember that you are biased too,” Vos says. “The second rule of dealing with cognitive biases is: ALWAYS REMEMBER that you are biased too.”

Other Links of Note

Managing volunteers doesn’t have to be daunting if you follow this six-step plan, according to Wild Apricot.

Membership stagnant? Try a 30-day challenge, among other techniques shared by Steve Pavlina on the Behind the Membership podcast.

Overintellectualization may be hurting your organization if it gets in the way of action, says Vu Le at Nonprofit AF.

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Membership Status Change Bolsters Strength and Purpose

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In an unpredictable and shifting landscape, the Fragrance Creators Association changed its associate members to active members to create a stronger, more unified community to better respond to extraordinary global challenges.

The Fragrance Creators Association recently announced that it is elevating its finished-product manufacturers from associate to active members in a move aimed at giving members better ways to break down silos, share ideas and points of view, and create a safe place to engage on topics that advance collaboration and innovation, according to Farah K. Ahmed, Fragrance Creators president and CEO.

The decision to change its membership model was driven by an understanding that for Fragrance Creators to achieve its mission, all participants in the fragrance value chain need to work together, Ahmed said. The association reaffirmed a commitment to “listening, respecting, and engaging all stakeholders,” she added.

Previously, as associate members, finished-goods manufacturers (makers of products that use fragrance ingredients) collaborated with fragrance manufacturer members to support state and federal advocacy efforts and on key projects such as FCA’s consumer education website, The Fragrance Conservatory. The pandemic heightened the need for collaboration, as fragrance creators and finished-product manufacturers worked together to share ideas and keep critical cleaning and disinfecting products accessible across the country.

What Will the Change Accomplish?

“This change will benefit all Fragrance Creator members. It will support a greater diversity of perspectives—not only on a project basis, but in the overall strategic thinking of the organization,” Ahmed said. Elevating finished-product manufacturers to active status, she said, will help the association increase its influence with key stakeholders, legislators, the Congressional Fragrance Caucus, nongovernmental organizations, retailers, and allied trade associations.

The new active status of the finished-product manufacturers provides the advantage of a broader perspective, which, Ahmed said, will help increase awareness and appreciation for fragrance and promote better understanding of the industry’s safety programs.

That kind of wider industry perspective can bring new vitality and impact to many associations, Ahmed noted, although achieving it can be challenging.

“My advice is to work simultaneously with all levels of membership—board, executive, and technical—to ensure all parties have clarity on the purpose of the association (i.e., serving the industry as a whole) and its mission, and understand that a pivot is a change in strategy, not a change in the mission,” she said.

A trade association’s relationship with its membership is built on mutual respect, trust, and leadership, Ahmed said, and is strengthened by a shared understanding of purpose. “We strive to elevate that common purpose, instill a culture that promotes consensus building, and strengthen teamwork among the members, so that when great challenges arise, industry can come together to meet the moment and be a force for good.”

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Why Associations Should Emphasize Brand Strategy Amid COVID-19

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Right now, your brand may be the most visible part of what you do. For that reason, your association should lean into efforts to strategically raise the brand. Here’s why.

Most of the time, once you have a brand set, you leave it alone and let it do its thing.

But this is not most of the time, and suddenly, the brand is more important than ever—In fact, when you can’t hold meetings and receptions, it may be the glue holding everything together.

With that in mind, here are a few considerations to keep your brand strategy in focus:

Tighter budgets require a tighter strategic focus. Recent Gartner research found that nearly half of chief marketing officers had seen budget cuts in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, and that has led many of them to reprioritize brand strategy. According to a Marketing Dive analysis of the data, a third of respondents moved brand strategy to one of their top three priorities—despite it being “near the bottom of the list in 2019.” Ewan McIntyre, a Gartner for Marketers analyst, said that the shifting economy required a shifting focus on brand awareness. “We are seeing successful brands take action that is authentically connected to their brand strategy and value proposition,” he said.

It will allow you to think beyond the crisis. Putting a focus on branding right now could also create a path forward beyond the current moment. In a resource page on the COVID-19 crisis, PwC recommends that businesses take the current moment to do some planning for a point when things are a bit closer to normalcy. “What we see today may be dramatically different in six months. In the long term, it will be essential to take a pulse of your customers to determine the need to make fundamental changes to core markets or business models,” the page states. “This is also a time to reassess your brand relative to competitors to understand your differentiating capabilities and where your company could win market share.”

It will allow you to emphasize visually what you can’t physically. In a lot of ways, brand strategy is about positioning. Now is a good time to experiment with what a brand could be. A recent Forbes piece shows how many retail brands are using digital and sensory experiences online as a way to highlight their work—and they offer a lot you can borrow from.

You should be willing to keep up right now. The one downside of brand strategy at the moment is that the uncertainty of COVID-19 means that associations, like many others, could find themselves shifting with the times. AdExchanger notes, for example, that many brands have had to adapt to the shifting attempts to reopen and close states and countries. Lindblad Expeditions, a firm that offers luxury adventure cruises, has leaned into online content marketing in its messaging as it’s had to pause service. “It’s a week-by-week thing,” noted Kim Kyaw, Lindblad’s director of advertising and digital, in comments to the website. “A lot of factors go into it, like the willingness of guests to travel, the willingness of people in those communities to allow guests and whether the airlines are going to those areas.”

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Will Hybrid Meetings Become the Standard Event Format?

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Although associations may be able to hold smaller, in-person events that follow social-distancing mandates, a lot of people may still not feel comfortable traveling or attending. To navigate this, more associations will implement a hybrid strategy for all of their meetings.

With travel and gathering restrictions still in place in many locations around the world and not expected to ease anytime soon, large conferences and tradeshows are likely not in the cards for associations in the coming months.

At the start of the pandemic, that meant associations had to pivot their events to completely virtual. But now associations are looking at the hybrid model as the way to offer attendees two options: a smaller, in-person event that adheres to social-distancing requirements or a virtual experience.

The format is rapidly gaining popularity. According to a recent survey by Etc.venues, 73 percent of event professionals say they are planning to host a hybrid event before the end of the year.

While implementing a hybrid meeting structure will raise additional logistics to work through, it also comes with benefits. For example, you may be able to attract new attendees to the online component, such as working parents, those with compromised immune systems, caregivers, and international participants. In addition, hybrid meetings could provide new ways to deliver content and allow you to extend the life of your event by giving attendees the ability to watch sessions on demand.

More importantly, a hybrid format will allow those who may be uncomfortable traveling to take part remotely and connect with fellow industry professionals. This shows that your association is putting its members’ and attendees’ comfort first—something that could translate into better retention and loyalty.

A few groups already have plans to host hybrid meetings in the months ahead. For example, November’s Event Tech Live conference will take a hybrid approach. ETL will expand its typical two-day tradeshow in London to include five virtual days of content as well.

“There is no doubt that COVID-19 has accelerated our plans to go fully hybrid just as we have seen many events around the globe pivot to online-only to keep their community connected and provide value for their sponsors,” said ETL cofounder Adam Parry in a press release. “What’s most exciting to me is using this opportunity to push the boundaries, to once again experiment with the formula of an ‘exhibition.’”

Other associations that have hybrid meetings planned include the American Fats and Oils Association, American Trail Running Association, and New England Water Works Association. Even the behemoth CES 2021—which is currently expected to have an in-person component in Las Vegas in January—says it will “continue to make the show’s content accessible for our digital audiences” and “provide a platform for our exhibitors to showcase their groundbreaking product launches and technology breakthroughs digitally, as well as physically in Las Vegas.”

While these are only a few examples, I expect the list of associations taking a hybrid approach to grow. In fact, to use a cliché, I expect hybrid meetings to become “the new normal.”

How are you incorporating hybrid meetings into your event strategy in the months ahead? Please share in the comments.

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Ease Exhibitors’ Doubts About Virtual Events

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A recent survey by Tradeshow Logic confirms that many exhibitors consider virtual events risky compared to in-person events. But there are ways to win them over.

Associations are well along in pivoting to virtual meetings this year, but there’s no guarantee that their exhibitors will follow suit. In fact, many won’t, according to a new study from the show management company Tradeshow Logic, which surveyed nearly 350 exhibitors.

According to Redefining Value for Today’s Exhibitors and Sponsors [registration], more than a third of respondents (35 percent) said they don’t anticipate participating in any virtual tradeshows in the next 12 months, while another third (32 percent) anticipate attending between one and three. In comparison, just 14 percent of respondents said they don’t plan to attend in-person events, and 38 percent expect to attend up to three events.

Exhibitors were significantly more likely to say they’ll take part in in-person events on a repeat basis: 17 percent of respondents anticipate attending at least 10 in-person events, compared to 8 percent that expect to attend 10 or more virtual events.

The report’s authors suggest that the results highlight how risky moving exhibitors to a virtual event by default could be. The firm recommends offering multiple options to exhibitors who would traditionally take part in an in-person event, including refunds.

“Based on this response, it’s not a given that your exhibitor/sponsor base will engage in your virtual event. Internal budget restrictions or reduced staffing are indicated barriers,” the report states. “Automatically re-allocating your customers’ deposits to your virtual event will alienate a certain segment of your market who are simply unable to participate.”

Easing Virtual Event doubts

One major challenge is that virtual events are still largely an unknown quantity for exhibitors, who often aren’t convinced of their value.

“Even though virtual platforms are touted as ‘turnkey,’ they still require significant marketing and promotion investment from your exhibitors and sponsors in order to get a worthwhile return,” the report notes.

The report offers advice for easing exhibitors’ doubts about the virtual format:

Maximize face-to-face time. Direct interaction with potential customers matters for exhibitors at virtual events, who want to offer education or product demos to attendees.

Ask for guidance. Keeping exhibitors in the loop can help ensure better engagement for sponsors.

Make the value of participating clear. Exhibitors want to gain leads and make sales, and they’re not sure a virtual experience can deliver them. Articulating how those results are possible will help ensure exhibitor investment, the report notes.

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Daily Buzz: Member Expectations and How to Meet Them

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Associations need to deliver on a few key things to satisfy member expectations. Also: what the surge in virtual events means for the future.

Members join associations for a variety of reasons, including professional development, networking, advocacy, and continuing education. But all members share a few underlying expectations, says Callie Walker of MemberClicks.

One of them is a seamless online user experience.

“People are used to interacting with sites like Amazon and eBay—intuitive and highly personalized,” Walker writes. “That said, when they go to other websites—your organization’s website included—they’re expecting a similar experience.”

More specifically, members want easy navigation; it shouldn’t be difficult for users to find what they’re looking for on your site. They also want a simple and secure online purchasing process. If they have to enter all of their information every time they make a purchase, you might be discouraging them from completing transactions.

Members also want to be up to date on the latest industry news. They’ll likely look to their association to provide it, so be ready to deliver timely information across your communication channels.

“The easiest way is to send out a weekly or bi-weekly newsletter with curated content from your particular industry (think news articles and blog posts),” Walker says. “How do you find that type of info? Follow thought leaders in your industry; like their pages on social media and/or subscribe to their blogs.”

Will Virtual Events Last?

Virtual events have grown in usage exponentially as a result of the pandemic. But will the trend stick around in the years ahead? We take a look at the possibilities. #eventprofs #assnexec #assnchat

— Michigan Society of Association Executives (@mymsae) July 14, 2020

Online events have surged in the last few months, but are they here to stay? While it’s hard to predict, consumers are getting more comfortable with virtual events and organizations are saving money, says Wes Sovis on the Michigan Society of Association Executives blog.

“In-person events require travel, lodging, and dining reimbursement, which means that the investment in sending staff to events can quickly balloon out of control from smaller associations,” Sovis says. “Comparatively speaking, registration for online events is usually very affordable. Eventbrite says the average ticket price for a virtual event is just $29.”

Other Links of Note

A safe return to live events? Event Manager breaks down what events could look like in the near future.

Zoom is expanding into hardware, The Verge reports. The company announced a $599 touchscreen device for remote workers.

Need to move your desktop PC? Lifehacker’s David Murphy shows you how to do it safely.

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Hitting a Membership Milestone Despite Adversity

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One association’s unwavering commitment to achieve a membership goal sustained it through a crisis, allowed it to reach its goal, and gave it a blueprint for future success.

The Association of Proposal Management Professionals was firing on all pistons headed toward a lofty goal of reaching a 10,000-member milestone when the pandemic struck. Instead of suspending membership dues, Rick Harris, APMP’s CEO, decided on a counterintuitive approach. He doubled down on the membership goal and kept moving forward, conducting business as usual.

APMP amped up promotional and outreach efforts, and members responded. “When things are so disturbing and upsetting, there’s a comfort in normality,” Harris said. “We took the approach: We’re all in this together and we’re all moving forward as a team, an association, and an industry.”

Harris recalled using a similar strategy after 9/11 when he was at the helm of a much larger association. During that crisis, some associations relaxed on membership, but Harris had a hunch that wasn’t the right approach. It was important to “work through the pain,” show continued engagement, and deliver value, he said. APMP encouraged members who were experiencing hardship to call if they needed help. Fewer than 10 people called.

Since COVID-19 arrived, APMP has increased its standard one webinar a month to as many as four per month. Harris’ team knew that members needed the influx of information on navigating the pandemic and combined that stepped-up content delivery with an ongoing membership push to 10K.

Their steadfast dedication paid off: They reached the milestone at the end of May. It was an impressive achievement—even more so because they did it in the midst of a pandemic. “Reaching the milestone was one of the most gratifying things that has happened to me in 32-plus years as an association executive,” Harris said.

A 10-Year Effort

APMP set the goal 10 years ago, and in nine of the 10 years it has experienced a 10 percent or higher growth in membership. Harris attributes this to leadership and staff buy-in—from top to bottom—and an absolute commitment to reaching the goal.

APMP branded everything with the 10K initiative. Every new staff member was asked to commit to the drive to reach 10,000 members, and the goal was formalized in the strategic plan. In making decisions about programs and other expenditures, the staff committed to looking at three things before investing even one dollar: Will the investment grow membership? Does it escalate the professional development of current members? How soon will we see a return on investment on the first two points?

Over time, the increase in membership began to fuel APMP’s financial growth. With more money, they could create more programming for members, which improved member retention: It was a circular process that board members understood, and it helped solidify their support.

The Secret Sauce

Harris credits the book The Art of Membership by Sheri Jacobs as the guiding principle for reaching APMP’s membership goal. His main takeaway? “Keep membership front and center, and make it the center of your universe. Everything is ancillary after that.” For any association, particularly a small one, to grow, he said, “membership is your secret sauce.”

The upshot? Harris and his team will adjust their tactics based on what they have learned in the past several months and use that information to inform how they move forward. Harris said they learned their members want them close in a crisis, and they appreciated the additional content and support, so APMP will continue to be a beacon in the storm—and beyond.

Someone recently asked Harris what’s next. “Easy,” he said, “20K.”

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Daily Buzz: How to Get New Members Comfortable

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Show members they belong by helping them connect to your organization and its community. Also: Ways you can improve your work-from-home setup.

First impressions count for associations, too. Make sure your first interactions with new members are memorable and positive.

“Your new members will begin forming their opinion about the value of your association the minute they hit the ‘join’ button on your member form, so the way you welcome them is critically important,” says YourMembership’s Tirrah Switzer.

As you welcome members, remember to thank them for joining your organization. At the very least, Switzer says, be sure to provide a “thank you” confirmation page and auto-email once they sign up online.

Beyond that, associations can get creative with member praise; a welcome gift with useful resources or materials could start the relationship on the right foot. For a more personal message, have welcome messages come from fellow members instead of an association staff member.

“Have a member of the membership committee or board of directors reach out to say thanks and see how they can help provide resources, knowledge or ideas,” Switzer says.

Making members comfortable is also essential. As soon as they join your organization, direct them to online resources like an event calendar, career center, and online community. You can help new members more easily connect with that online community by assigning each new member a buddy who helps them get to know the organization and its people.

“These may seem like simple gestures, but people can decide if they’re going to participate in your organization long-term within the first days, and even minutes, of joining your association,” Switzer says.

Spice Up Your Remote Work Routine

Getting Antsy? 9 Ways to Shake Up Working From Home

— PCMag (@PCMag) July 9, 2020

You might be tired of your remote work regimen, but there are ways to take advantage of your home environment to shake up the daily routine. At home, you have a chance to customize and redesign your workspace in a way that you probably can’t in your office.

“You can use common objects around the house, such as a small pillow for lumbar support, to improve your setup,” says Jill Duffy on PC Mag. “At home, you can also add candles or aromatic diffusers, which aren’t usually welcomed in a shared office environment. Bring in a few potted plants to boost your mood and clean the air.”

Other Links of Note

Nobody likes dealing with angry customers, but they can actually be good for your business, argues Kaya Ismail on CMSWire.

What are the benefits of abstract management systems? Eventsforce identifies eight reasons to invest in the software.

Want to create better visuals for your marketing? Social Media Examiner offers design tips for non-designers.

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A Look At Some New Meeting Roles

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A lot has changed in the events industry, particularly in the past few months due to the impact of COVID-19. As the industry evolves, so will the skills and job roles required. A look at some possibilities.

A few weeks ago, I came across a blog post I wrote seven years ago about new staff roles for meetings and events.

In it, I called out three that I thought could benefit association meetings at that time: an attendee concierge who would call participants after a meeting to see what they liked most and least, a conference connector who would help attendees engage and network with one another, and an exhibit hall experience manager who would be dedicated to both the form and function of a tradeshow.

While some of these roles may still be useful to your association, a lot has changed since 2013—and even more so in the past few months given the impact COVID-19 has had on the industry. In the current economic environment, hiring new staffers is probably not on the table for most organizations, but here are two roles—one related to the pandemic and one not—introduced recently that may be worth considering if you do have the opportunity, even if through partnering or expanding a current staffer’s role:

Event health advisor. Earlier this month, the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau announced that it was partnering with Dr. David Nash, dean emeritus of the Jefferson College of Population Health, to serve as PHLCVB’s chief health advisor. In this role, he will provide advice and guidance to meeting and event planners about health guidelines and protocols.

“By instituting the proper public health protocols, our hospitality industry should be able to safely and effectively support and protect travelers when the time comes …,” Dr. Nash said in a press release. “By incorporating the already sound and thoughtful guidelines presented by the CDC, as well as state and local public health officials, I’m confident we can develop a safe and healthy plan for all visitors.”

He’ll also work closely with PHL Health Advisors, an 18-member committee of experts from the city’s medical community. Together, they’ll relay updates to PHLCVB regarding medical information and local medical advancements in the fight against COVID-19. The team will also be tapped as an internal review board for the PHLCVB on public health and safety best practices and protocols.

Meetings accessibility coordinator. Last summer, the American Anthropological Association brought Nell Koneczny on board as its accessibility and meetings coordinator. In this role, Koneczny is responsible for accessibility and accommodation initiatives for AAA’s meetings, conferences, and communications. She also supports logistics and the call-for-papers process for several of AAA’s meetings.

In an interview with CEO Update last month, Koneczny said her role is about more than complying with the legal requirements for accommodating people with disabilities.

“My position actually goes a step beyond that, to include disability culture and to actually think about accessibility more broadly … instead of waiting for a disabled person to reach out to us and request an accommodation,” she said.

Since joining the team, Koneczny has done several things, including updating the associations’ poster session guidelines for accessibility, creating an annual meeting location accessibility and health information webpage, and expanding the accessible presentation guidelines.

In addition to these roles, as more associations host virtual and hybrid meetings, I imagine we’ll see current meetings teams learn new skills and take on new roles like event producer or virtual meeting concierge.

Whether pandemic-related or not, what new roles or skills do you think will become a part of association meetings teams? Please share in the comments.

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Virtual and Hybrid Meetings: Bridging the Gap and Driving Connection

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Here’s how Phoenix’s event business has adapted deftly in the pandemic.

While association meeting planners have long-been creating “virtual” or “hybrid” events, these terms might have once seemed jargon-y or even foreign to the casual attendee. But when the coronavirus pandemic changed the landscape of traditional face-to-face events, the general public suddenly understood the notion of both types of events as practical ways to connect, communicate—and keep doing business—even amid the most challenging of circumstances.

Hybrid events (with both live and off-site audiences) and virtual events (those with only online audiences) are not new formats—they’ve been especially popular as a way to connect large constituencies of employees, clients or members spread across the country or globe. But the COVID-19 crisis only expanded these formats’ utility.

“Before COVID, 50 percent of our clients had their events broadcasted live to create a hybrid event—we even brought in keynote presenters remotely,” says Ross Snyder, president of the Phoenix-based production company White Tie Productions. But now, he says, “We’ve seen an increase in 100-percent virtual events over the past few months, and are starting to see a comeback of hybrid events with smaller in-person audiences as cities start to relax restrictions.”

The key to making these events work well for the audience, Snyder adds, is allowing for two-way communication throughout the course of the program—not just blasting out content without the possibility of meaningful engagement and interaction.

“Answering questions from the audience in real time, using polling functionalities to get the audience’s opinion, creating engagement activities that the audience can do while watching, and facilitating small group breakout-style meetings are all great ways to keep your audience connected when they can’t be together,” Snyder says.

Being creative also opens the door for many new possibilities, says Rob Hill, CEO of Merestone, a full-service, Greater Phoenix-based production company that has specialized in streaming events for 15 years. By adding in a cooking class, a virtual happy hour [or] virtual entertainment for excitement and the ‘wow’ factor, he says, you provide attendees with an opportunity to experience the flavor of a destination.

“The challenge of these events will always be trying to recapture the excitement and energy of a live, in-person event,” he says. “To truly engage audiences in this new highly competitive, digital landscape, you need to deliver a top-notch, virtual event experience that offers superior production value to its audience.”

In addition to engagement, maintaining a visually interesting environment is key. To keep things stimulating and eye catching, Snyder suggests presenting from a unique venue or backdrop.

Phoenix remains competitive in the meetings market, thanks to its abundance of unique venues and expert event professionals. “We are fast growing with more and more talent choosing Phoenix as home,” Snyder says. “Most importantly, we are a big city that feels like a small town.”

With a significant spike in confirmed U.S. coronavirus cases since Memorial Day, it seems clear the pandemic is likely to remain a concern for the country, and certainly the live-event industry, into the future. But it’s through creative solutions, like the rise of innovative virtual and hybrid meetings, that association planners can help their memberships remain informed, connected and mobilized.

“The key to getting through this is working together and being adaptable. Everyone is ready to get back to it, but recognizes that the packed meeting spaces we are used to aren’t an option just yet,” Snyder says. “The audiences are itching for content, and even though we can’t all be together in person, groups still need to get their messages out.”

Indeed, the restrictions on gatherings have provided plenty of opportunities and incentives to innovate with virtual or hybrid components. And even—or especially—when innovative ideas come out of a crisis situation, the attendee experience can be overwhelmingly positive. “Although they’d rather be there in person, they appreciate that we just didn’t toss in the towel—and got creative [instead],” Snyder says.

For more information on how to plan your next meeting in Phoenix, contact Visit Phoenix at

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