Archive for May, 2021

[WEBINAR]: Cracking the Code on Event Networking

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What is every meeting owner’s quest for the holy grail? Delivering meaningful networking and connecting experiences in a digital or hybrid experience. In February, our two guests founded the 2021 Virtual Networking Incubator. They were determined to bring together some of the best minds from around the country to crack the code on how to deliver on the promise of making meaningful connections.

Now, for the first time outside of the incubator experience, Amanda and Arianna will share their secrets on how to improve in-person and digital networking experiences.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Learn the new considerations for hosts planning networking events.
  2. Hear about the behind-the-scenes running of the Incubator.
  3. Understand different networking types and how to select the right one for your participants.

Register now for our next VCC webinar, May, 19th, 2021, 12:00-1:00 PM EDT. Space is limited.

Featured Guests:

Amanda Kaiser, a member engagement specialist, predicts associations will radically change how they help members connect, collaborate, and co-create in the virtual space. As a co-creator and host of the Virtual Networking Incubator, she is excited to explore virtual networking and the resulting opportunities to more meaningfully engage dynamic member communities.

Arianna Rehak is the CEO and Co-Founder of Matchbox Virtual Media, which is a virtual production company passionate about hosting conversations that matter. As the co-creator of the Virtual Networking Incubator, Arianna’s curiosity has been her compass. Her fascination with human nature has led her on an endless pursuit of how good intention can translate to meaningful impact. This was the driving force behind her work running, a digital publication and online community for leaders of associations.

The post [WEBINAR]: Cracking the Code on Event Networking appeared first on Velvet Chainsaw.

Strengthen Your Community by Focusing on Individual Members

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A new report shows a downward trend in association membership over the past year. But it points to strong leadership and the ability to serve members in a more customized way as promising factors in ensuring long-term sustainability.

The new McKinley Advisors 2021 Associations Viewpoint report centers on the notion that there is no collective without the individual. That is particularly significant because associations are, of course, collectives, but the report notes that sometimes it is easy to lose sight of the unique needs and perspectives of the members who make up those communities.

The past year brought this tension into stark focus. Considering the individual means really listening to members and responding to their needs, which associations have done out of heightened necessity over the past year. And they will need to continue prioritizing that same proactive, responsive approach to member priorities.

“Associations have traditionally taken a really broad approach to serving their members,” said Shelley Sanner, CAE, senior vice president of industry relations at McKinley Advisors. When associations began to pivot at the start of the pandemic, they “started thinking about how to serve each person in a more customized way.”

The study’s findings reveal, not surprisingly, that the number of associations reporting membership declines has nearly doubled in one year, with professional associations being particularly hard hit. While survey respondents were increasingly concerned about membership and revenue declines, they said they are optimistic about the strength of their leadership.

Top 2021 Priorities

The study also shows recognition that long-term sustainability will require strategic commitments. The top three priorities for 2021, according to respondents, are generating nondues revenue (42 percent), focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion (39 percent), and improving member retention (27 percent).

Associations are going to have to assess themselves and ask big questions, Sanner said. Questions like: “How can we make membership more valuable, not just from a transactional perspective or from a communications perspective, but by making it more meaningful?”

Professional Pride

An area of opportunity is the emotional connection that people feel to their field or profession, Sanner said. Associations need to look at ways to leverage that connection and celebrate the work the industry is doing.

“Have people feel pride in what they’re doing and feel recognized for what they’re doing,” she said. “Everyone wants an emotional connection.”

A possible communications strategy could be a shift to telling more stories about members. Such campaigns won’t necessarily have a rapid or concrete return, but they will be powerful. “Members will talk about that and feel recognized and feel emotional connections” to their professions, industries, and associations, she said.

Sanner is optimistic because she knows associations have problem solvers as leaders. Associations will need to reinvent themselves if they haven’t already, and continue to reinvent themselves. “The challenge and the crisis is the test,” she said. “It’s the opportunity to stretch and be stronger.”

The post Strengthen Your Community by Focusing on Individual Members appeared first on Associations Now.

Weekly Now: People Are Ready to Return to Events … Well, Soon

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Recent research from Freeman finds that attendees and exhibitors alike are warming up to doing in-person events near the end of the year. Also: Understanding the relationship between engagement and value.

The comeback of the in-person event is looking a little bit rosier than you might expect.

That’s according to Freeman, which has been analyzing sentiment in the events space in recent months—and found in its most recent analysis that 85 percent of attendees and 86 percent of exhibitors might be ready to return to events by the end of 2021. That’s a significant leap from a February survey that asked the same question and found that 74 percent of attendees and 78 percent of exhibitors were willing to make the same call—reflecting the fact that many companies are expected to lift restrictions on attending in-person events this fall.

Additionally, sentiment for the events sector seems to be on the rise, with positive sentiment improving to 45 percent (up from 30 percent in February) and negative sentiment falling to 36 percent (down from 51 percent).

Freeman CEO Bob Priest-Heck noted in a news release that the firm has already assisted in a number of successful in-person events in recent months.

“We have already been a part of safe in-person events across the country this year in Atlanta, Dallas, Lake Tahoe, Tampa, and Orlando, to name a few,” Priest-Heck said. “The research shows that the interest to return to in-person is increasing, and on an accelerated timeline.”

The full report is available for purchase on the Freeman website.

Other recent headlines:

Task force aims to respond to COVID-19 surges globally. The Global Task  Force on Pandemic Response, a new public-private partnership created by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and backed by Business Roundtable, is working to help address rising outbreaks of COVID-19 around the globe—starting with India. The task force is working to deliver ventilators and oxygen concentrators to healthcare facilities in need this month, while helping to build an action group for human resources officers in the country to assist with business responses. Companies supporting the effort include IBM, FedEx, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, and Apple, among many others.

National PTA gives family reading program a relaunch. The National PTA’s Family Reading Experience program, first launched in 2013, is getting a refresh with an eye toward encouraging families to read more diverse materials, with the program’s refresh built around its “four I’s of family engagement”—inclusive content, an individualized approach, integration with the broader educational system, and impactful lessons. “Families play an essential role in helping children develop their literacy skills, inspiring a love of reading, and providing children with books that reflect the diversity of our world, which helps children do better in school and beyond and plays a critical role in raising informed, inclusive children,” National PTA President Leslie Boggs said in a news release.

Engagement and Value: One and the Same?

“Does engagement equal value?” Not necessarily – and we’re going to talk about this in our latest article below. This article is inspired by a recent conversation we had in Association Chat’s online Facebook group. #associations #pricing

— Dr. Michael Tatonetti, CAE, CPP (@MTatonetti) May 7, 2021

Does engagement automatically equal value, or do they diverge at different points? The answer to that question can have a lot of ramifications for how associations operate. Fittingly, it was a recent hot topic in the Association Chat Facebook group.

In a blog post on the website Pricing for Associations, the firm’s owner, Michael Tatonetti, CAE, makes the case that high-touch events like webinars can have high engagement, but not an equivalent amount of value as something like a survey, which only happens occasionally but generates far more value for an association.

“There are many other metrics beyond engagement that you can place on your product dashboard, and it depends on what type of product it is,” he writes. “Your pricing and value should be looked at as a strategy across your ecosystem of products that range from free components to high-ticket items.”


Is the microconference the post-pandemic meeting format to watch? Meetings blogger Samantha Whitehorne highlights the concept.

“Red flags” that might have stopped you from hiring someone in the past might be a little easier to get past nowadays. Here’s why.

It’s possible to bring the flexibility of remote work to the office when employees return. Learn some strategies to do so.


The post Weekly Now: People Are Ready to Return to Events … Well, Soon appeared first on Associations Now.

Membership Tips for Challenging Times: Keeping Connections

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Members need their association when times are tough, but they may be facing hardships or other impediments to staying connected. Here are three ideas for keeping your members close and engaged with your community.

Associations are based on connections. It’s why people join: to find their people and their place, and to benefit from being with like-minded individuals who share a common purpose and interests. COVID-19 threw a major wrench into togetherness, as we all know. It also magnified how important community—every aspect of it—really is.

Last week, I shared some ideas from a small-staff association executive whose organization was finding creative, low-cost ways to engage and retain members. Continuing the theme of membership tips for challenging times, here are three more membership strategy ideas, with a focus on staying connected with members.

Build Virtual Connectivity

Recognizing that its members and nonmembers need a sense of community more than ever, the Council on Undergraduate Research opened up its online member community from April 1 to May 31 to nonmembers so they could participate in sharing information, asking questions, and learning from each other during a critical period, especially as campuses were switching to virtual teaching.

“We converted a high percentage of those members from people who were leveraging the community at that time,” said Lindsay Currie, CAE, CUR’s executive officer. “They got behind it and saw the value and were able to connect with the community.” It didn’t cost any money, and it was an easy lift technologically.

Extend member Grace Periods

In March, the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research experienced a lag in membership renewal. Instead of dropping members, ISPOR allowed members to remain, even after the 60-day grace period expired. Staff continued to reach out to let members know what they were doing for them in light of COVID-19 “to foster that sense of connectivity and a sense of loyalty,” said Jason Cohen, ISPOR’s senior manager of member services.

Rather than sending out typical renewal notices, Cohen worked with the membership team to tailor their messaging to show that ISPOR was mindful of the times and aware that members were struggling and wondering how they would pay their dues.

“Understanding who your members are and making sure you are tailoring your messages is part of building loyalty to the organization,” he said.

That extra few months of grace period helped stabilize ISPOR’s membership. “It also showed good faith,” Cohen said. While ISPOR offers a fee-waived membership option for those residing in a qualifying country, it is not otherwise waiving membership dues. ISPOR is exploring changes that would address the concerns of members who want to keep their memberships but who have budgetary constraints.

Create A Pandemic Field Guide

The National Business Officers Association was able to hold its in-person annual meeting in February, before the storm really hit, and dues renewal began July 1, so the organization was lucky financially—this year.

Knowing that challenges will continue next year, NBOA—whose members are business officers in independent schools—decided to invest in member resources, specifically a 150-page pandemic field guide, “Operating Guidance for Independent School Pandemic Management.” NBOA developed the guide with an engineering firm that has done a lot of research on how schools can operate safely amid COVID-19. The guide is free to members, but nonmembers have to pay a fee. It was released on September 1 and has already been downloaded 700 times.

NBOA announced the upcoming release of the field guide in a renewal email at the end of its grace period, August 31, as a powerful and timely reminder of the value of membership.

“During times like these, associations need to show their value,” said Barry Pilson, CAE, NBOA’s vice president of membership and marketing. “This new environment pushes people to do things we should have been doing and never did.”

What is your association doing that is working right now to engage, retain, and recruit members? Share your thoughts in the comments or send me an email.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to clarify that ISPOR offers a dues waiver for members in qualifying countries.

The post Membership Tips for Challenging Times: Keeping Connections appeared first on Associations Now.

How the Right Tech Helped Drive Conference Revenue for this Association

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One association marketing pro breaks down the power of “set-it-and-forget-it” retargeting tech.

When smart people and the right tech come together, anything can happen. In the case of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, when its marketing team and the retargeting platform Feathr joined forces, it led to new sources of revenue during the past three years.

Like many association marketing professionals, Sarah Dopf, MS, Senior Marketing Specialist at AACD, routinely finds herself pulled in a million directions at once. From social media campaigns to website content curation to event promotions, she and her fellow marketing team members manage a ton of initiatives that have important make-or-break details requiring attention. When the pandemic crushed the association’s events schedule, they found themselves with an additional pressing need: to find a new revenue stream to replace that cavity in the financials.

That was when the association marketing platform Feathr stopped being just an occasionally used tool for AACD and became a vital resource. A rep from Feathr suggested that the organization use the platform to sell retargeting campaigns to its sponsors to make up for some of the event losses. At first, Dopf wasn’t sure if sponsors would go for the new offering or even understand what this retargeting opportunity meant. But in a short time, AACD sold about $10,000 worth of remarketing. Sponsors not only understood it, they loved it, says Dopf. “It’s nice to be able to send our sponsors a live link that they can check whenever they want to see the progress of their campaign,” she explains. “Everyone on the Feathr team—especially our rep Alison Coman—is so amazing at helping us communicate with partners asking specific targeting questions about campaigns.” It’s those tiny details that make all the difference, she adds.

As increasing vaccination rates allow for more business opportunities every day, AACD has a big, new goal. “We want to increase our membership numbers and drive conference registrants for our first in-person conference in three years,” says Dopf. “Increasing our numbers is a win-win for both the academy and our members. The education and resources that members have access to allows them to take on more complex cases, which in turn increases their revenue,” she explains. “It’s very rewarding to be able to help others bounce back in a time like this.”

The association is also crediting Feathr’s ability to retarget members and non-members who abandon their conference registrations as a driver of its success. “I think people visit the site and want to start registering for courses, but they stop because they want to consult with their associates and team members to figure out who’s going to which course and things like that. And then they lose track and forget to follow through,” she explains. “But Feathr provides a friendly reminder with retargeting ads that have proved very effective.” In fact, Dopf reports that nearly 2,000 registrants for their past three annual conferences interacted with their Feathr retargeting campaigns. At an average of $2,000 per registration, that represents significant revenue that could have otherwise been lost.

Feathr’s ease of use allows Dopf and her team to take a “set-it-and-forget-it” approach to many of these initiatives, giving them more time and energy to devote to their most important asset of all: their members. “I love communicating with our members and working with the feedback they provide us,” she says. “Feathr has been a great resource to help us do that. It’s gratifying to offer something that can really help dental professionals bounce back [from the pandemic].”

Feathr has thought of everything to help get associations up and running with digital advertising. Their dedicated flock of experts advise on unique revenue-generating campaigns and provide graphic design and implementation services to ensure successful marketing campaigns. Partnering with Feathr will ensure your association’s success for years to come.


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Three Questions You’ll Need to Answer When Planning Hybrid Conferences

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Hybrid conferences may be the next big thing in meetings, but because they involve face-to-face and virtual participants, they come with their own unique set of planning challenges. As associations begin executing hybrid events, here are some questions to ask during the planning stage.

Associations and attendees alike are eager for the return of large, in-person events, and with vaccination numbers continuing to rise, that may be on the horizon soon enough.

But even with this renewed optimism, many groups are planning hybrid conferences in the near term. Planning a conference that includes both in-person and virtual components is no easy feat and requires meeting professionals to consider additional logistics and possibly new technology solutions. Before you get too far into the weeds, here are three questions to answer during the early stages of planning.

How do we staff a hybrid conference?

Association meeting pros have long known exactly who they need on their team to execute a flawless in-person event, and the pandemic has taught them how to do the same for virtual conferences. But hybrid meetings will require even more staffing adjustments to make sure attendees have a worthwhile experience, whether they join online or in person.

In a blog post this month, Bizzabo outlined several key roles to consider making part of your hybrid events team. For example, on the virtual side, they suggest an event technologist to help select the right technology for the event and get the most out of your technology stack, and an executive producer to keep the virtual aspect of your event running smoothly. As for your in-person event team, Bizzabo recommends an onsite technician to make sure microphones and internet connections are working and even a speaking coach who can help your presenters communicate effectively to both audiences.

Do we need different marketing strategies?

According to MeetingPlay, organizations should market a hybrid event using the same channels they would use to promote live events. This includes social media, content marketing, email marketing, paid advertising, and so forth.

However, marketers will need to plan differently when it comes to timing. For example, registration numbers for virtual conferences typically increase dramatically the week before and even past the event’s start date. This is a different trend than what planners typically see with in-person events. To maximize their online audience for a hybrid meeting, associations should consider increasing their marketing efforts the week before the event kicks off.

How do we facilitate connections between in-person and virtual participants?

This is a true challenge of hybrid events. After all, it’s easy to see how in-person attendees would wind up chatting with each other during a break between sessions, while virtual attendees might step away from their screens.

Some ways that organizers have overcome this challenge: putting a screen onstage to allow remote attendees to take part in a presentation and ask questions, hiring a virtual emcee to who collects questions and comments from the remote audience, and handing out tablets to in-person attendees to allow them to have one-on-one chats with virtual participants.

And, if these connections between audiences can’t be made during the live event, consider using the digital platform as a place for all attendees to connect post-conference. For instance, Michelle Hopewell, regional marketing director at the Duke Energy Convention Center, offered these suggestions to the Northstar Meetings Group blog: “Keep session chats open following the event to create a community resource center and continued networking opportunities,” she said. “[Allow attendees to] trade virtual business cards, and encourage guests to share and create connections based on the virtual meeting.”

What other questions are you keeping in mind as you plan your upcoming hybrid conferences? Please share in the comments.

The post Three Questions You’ll Need to Answer When Planning Hybrid Conferences appeared first on Associations Now.

Focus on Lowering Expenses Rather Than Raising Membership Dues

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Keeping members and finding ways to lower expenses is more important than raising membership dues right now, according to an expert. Here are some ideas to consider.

Raising membership dues is often a tricky proposition, as I covered in a recent blog post. And that’s during a normal year. The past year, as we all know, has been anything but normal—and the financial hardships have made the proposition even more difficult. Added to that, what happens when your dues structure is directly tied to a percentage of your organizational members’ budgets during a year when the pandemic shut down most, if not all, of their regular in-person business?

Organizations often look for short-term solutions in situations like this, said Sheri Jacobs, FASAE, CAE, president and CEO of Avenue M Group. While a long-term strategy that usually works is to have small, incremental dues increases instead of implementing a large increase every 5 to 10 years, when faced with the current situation, associations tend to go back to familiar tactics and not think creatively, she said.

Now is a good time to assess what you don’t have to spend money on until things become more stable. Look at ways to lower expenses rather than ways to raise membership dues. “You can’t squeeze money out of people that doesn’t exist,” she said. Jacobs advises keeping the members you have and pausing any dues increases—even if it means tapping into reserves.

Driving Nondues Revenue

Data shows associations are becoming increasingly more innovative and looking at ways to drive nondues revenue. Marketing General Incorporated’s fall 2020 Association Economic Outlook Report and upcoming data from its 2021 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report show signs that associations are not only looking for creative solutions by offering different kinds of products, services, and benefits but are also open to change. For example, in MGI’s 2020 economic report, only 22 percent of respondents said that barriers to change were due to institutional resistance to risk, compared to 31 percent the year before.

One potential new revenue generator to try could be a staff-run consulting service. Benchmarking information is also popular and could be a quick way to drive nondues revenue by collecting data and creating an online access portal. The information is useful for members and they would likely be willing to pay to access it, Jacobs said. “There’s never been a better time to test any idea, no matter how outrageous it is,” she said.

Another possibility is offering a tiered approach where a lower tier of member benefits is more affordable, and the current membership is the higher tier. The risk, however, is that everyone might move to the lower tier. To counter that, Jacobs recommends thinking through what the one key benefit is that you know from past performance will keep members in the higher tier. Organizations could also consider creating a lower-cost tier for younger members. Also keep in mind that younger generations like more flexibility with payments and so installment options might be preferable for them rather than annual dues payments.

Bottom line? “Keep your members and figure out other strategies to lower expenses, much as you would do with your own household budget,” Jacobs said.

The post Focus on Lowering Expenses Rather Than Raising Membership Dues appeared first on Associations Now.

Is It Time to Revamp Your Association’s Job Titles?

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Finding the right person for a role starts with an effective job title. A title that’s confusing, vague, or inaccurate could keep your best candidates away. Here’s how to make your job titles stronger.

A good job title is a little like good marketing:The right words can entice the right audience. On the other hand, titles that are outdated, too broad, or too niche can give the wrong impression of the job and can get in the way of finding the talent you’re after.

“Job titles that don’t accurately reflect the role within the organization or are written to be cutting-edge will lead to prospective employees not searching for, or finding, an employment posting,” say Nonprofit HR’s Lori Kipnis, managing director of strategy and advisory, and Lisa McKeown, managing director of benefits and compensation.

Understanding how to better align job titles with the roles they’re meant to describe can give your association a leg up on finding talented people who fit the organization. But how do you know when a job title needs reworking? There are a few indicators, one being when there’s no correlation between compensation and title. For example, having a manager, an advisor, and a director on the same pay grade could indicate that your titles need an overhaul to more accurately reflect each job’s level of responsibility.

If prospective employees or staff members often ask for clarification on what a job entails, your job title may be too vague or complicated. And if certain tasks come as a surprise to those who apply, the title might not align with the job’s purpose.

Kipnis and McKeown recommend a few ways to take a closer look at your job titles:

  • Connect with your recruiting team or staffing agency for insight on job titles.
  • Search similar associations’ LinkedIn pages or websites to see what titles exist in their organizations.
  • Participate in salary surveys conducted by a third-party organization. From there, that organization can point out discrepancies between job titles and compensation.

If you determine your titles need tweaking, use the following guidelines.

Be Specific

If your job titles are vague or unusual, candidates might never even see your listing, as they’ll be looking for more common descriptions. For example, the title “human resources director” will probably get more attention than “people champion,” even if the latter is more distinctive.

“In this instance, employers may not receive as many applicants, since candidates are more likely to search for ‘human resources director,’” Kipnis and McKeown say. “Save the cutting-edge titles for internal use, and align the job posting title to reflect the external market.”

Clever or whimsical titles—such as “number ninja” for an accountant or “data guru” for an IT position—might be eye-catching, but they could hurt you during the hiring process because they don’t provide a clear explanation of the job’s role, level, or responsibilities.

Avoid Industry Jargon

While titles need specificity, they should also be broad enough that they’re understood by those outside of your organization or industry. Kipnis and McKeown say a poor job title is one that uses technical or industry jargon, is abbreviated, or refers to specific project names.

Keep It Simple

You want your job title to describe the position accurately, but there’s no need for an overly long title that explains every detail of the position. Let your job description fill in the gaps. Research suggests that titles containing 50 to 60 characters generate more applications than titles outside that range. A good rule of thumb is to be as concise as possible, Kipnis and McKeown say.

Stay Grounded


It might be tempting to give a position a title that inflates the job’s importance or level of responsibility to generate more interest. Examples include adding “senior” to a title without increasing the role’s job responsibilities, or labeling someone a “manager” when the person won’t actually manage a team or project. When titles are misleading, prospective employees go into the application process, or even begin the job, with an inaccurate idea of where they stand in the organization.

“Often, titles are used to provide a sense of promotion when an opportunity may not be available at a higher level in an organization,” Kipnis and McKeown say. Don’t make that mistake.


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What Should Future Conferences Look Like?

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A new report from the American Institute of Physics examines how scientific groups should reimagine their meetings to better meet stakeholder needs. While the report is geared toward scientific audiences, its suggestions can benefit all association meetings.

With COVID-19 affecting how scientists and other people gathered, the American Institute of Physics assembled a panel of experts in various parts of association conference planning to reimagine meetings of the future to be more impactful for and valuable to society stakeholders.

The resulting report, “The Future of Association Convening: Envisioning for the Sciences,”  offers suggestions on how scientific conferences can integrate lessons learned from retooling in-person meetings for virtual formats over the past year, while also meeting changing demands of their research communities and the conduct of science.

Although the report, released earlier this month, focuses on scientific conferences, it has applications for the broader association community as organizations plan upcoming meetings. Here is a look at three areas of the report that may help inform how you execute your future events.

content and engagement

In the report, the panelists describe their desired end-state: “Our vision is that science exchange will be more broadly accessible—before, during, and after scheduled scientific conferences—and will foster dynamic interactions between presented content and conference participants,” they write. “Whichever way one attends a conference (in-person/virtual/hybrid), the experience will be equitable and useful to all participants.”

To reach this desired state, organizations must rethink conference content and increase audience engagement. The report offers several ideas for content. One I found interesting: Having poster and oral presentations take place virtually ahead of the face-to-face event, which “would allow the focus of the actual conference to shift toward questions, discussions, and networking, which have been the primary drivers for in-person conferences in the past.”

To boost audience engagement, the report suggests leveraging technology to foster interactions before and after the conference. For example, anyone chatting online during a session could be prompted via text or email to continue their conversation or to consult repositories of sessions on similar topics.

Accessibility and Audience Reach

The report also dives into how scientific societies can engage audiences more fully, help all members of the conference community feel that they belong, invite in new participants, and share the story of science to an expanded audience and an interested public.

These efforts must begin during early planning stages, the panelists write: “When designing conferences of the future, it’s critical to consider the important values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the planning process. People from underrepresented and marginalized groups must be actively included in conference planning decision-making bodies to advance those goals.”

The report offers several tactical measures to cultivate inclusivity and belonging. A couple of suggestions: Invite people from diverse groups to be plenary or keynote speakers and session presenters, and reach out to people to learn about difficulties they may face and barriers that may prevent them from fully participating. The latter can help organizations create solutions tailored to their individual communities and goals.

Conference Partnerships

This section of the report focuses on how societies might engage all types of partners—sponsors, exhibitors, industry, academia, and other societies—to create a more beneficial conference for all involved.

One idea is to partner with other societies. “The collaboration does not have to result in a joint conference; it can start small. Societies might agree to offer reciprocal attendance or discount prices to each other’s members,” the panelists write.

Enhanced outreach to exhibitors will be key, they note: “Recorded demos and information sessions can be used to reach potential consumers, and societies can extend the vendor-participant connection opportunities beyond the duration of the conference.”

How does your association plan to build better opportunities for engagement, accessibility, and partnerships at its upcoming events? Please share in the comments.

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How Leaders Can Transform the New In-Person Meeting

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Associations still need to be cautious and limit their goals when it comes to in-person meetings. But that leaves room for creativity too.

The face of meetings is changing, which means leaders have to think more about what they’re having meetings for.

In the spring issue of Associations Now, I wrote about the outlook for in-person meetings in 2021. To sum it up in one word: Better. But it’s also more complicated than that. Associations can’t completely reject virtual meetings, because they often opened the door to new audiences in 2020. And economic constraints mean that meetings may be shorter this year, or co-located with a related association, or simply smaller. As we reported in March, one poll of scientists found that a large majority (74 percent) wanted virtual meetings, while 69 percent lamented the lack of in-person networking.

So while virtual meetings are unlikely to disappear soon, some kind of in-person meeting is increasingly seen as essential. As Graham Kirk, director of sales and marketing at the Audio Engineering Society (AES), said of their decision to meet in person this October: “So much business is done in person, and so much information is passed along that way, so we made the decision that it was vital that we be present again in some form.”

So much business is done in person, and so much information is passed along that way, so we made the decision that it was vital that we be present again in some form.

That means that leaders will need to be creative about their in-person meetings formats, building on input from members and customers to determine the best fit. AES is co-locating. One organization I spoke with, the Coin Laundry Association, revamped its regional meetings for a socially distanced environment; the New York Society of Association Executives decided to host a smaller version of its tradeshow in September after a majority of past attendees asked for it.

But the new environment doesn’t just mean you need to tweak the meetings you already have. It’s also an opportunity to create new meetings you hadn’t previously considered. As the story was going to press, the Association for Advancing Physician and Provider Recruitment (AAPPR) was making plans for a new hosted-buyer event in Dallas in April. Its member surveys showed that the idea was appealing and that members would likely be comfortable flying to a conference then, if costs could be kept low.

That event wrapped up last month. How’d it go? “All positive feedback,” says AAPPR CEO Carey Goryl, CAE. “So successful between acceptance of the concept and overall logistics and execution of the event.” The meeting brought in 112 people, about evenly split between members and vendors. Some attendees were vaccinated and some weren’t, and they had different attitudes about masking, but over the course of two days the group established a sensible behavioral protocol, Goryl says.

“It is hard to have strict adherence to CDC guidelines between people who are long-time friends,” she says. “It’s also challenging because events are so much about the eating and drinking—it’s happening nonstop so people are always pulling their masks down. It was interesting to watch the group take nonverbal cues from each other about whether to leave masks off or put them on quicker.”

The Dallas event became a way to feed content for AAPPR’s follow-up virtual annual conference last week. Keynotes at the in-person event were presented online, and Goryl says they improved the overall vibe of the virtual event. “The production value looks so much better with a speaker on stage, who you can tell is getting energy from the audience and they’re talking in real time,” she says. “Many of our virtual conference attendees were unsure if it was live or recorded.  Our virtual conference looks so much better because of it.”

Challenges remain—the association discounted attendance fees for members and vendors for the annual meeting. But Goryl says the mix of smaller regional in-person events and virtual conferences makes sense for now.

“My bigger challenge is continued member travel and professional development budget reductions,” she says. “But I think we can manage.”

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