Author Archive

Leading During a Pandemic: A New Landscape for Global Partnerships

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

COVID-19 has provided a common cause for associations looking to strengthen global connections. But some old rules still apply.

The disruptions created by the COVID-19 era present plenty of challenges, of course. But a few experts agree that there are also opportunities in the new moment for associations to better connect internationally, gaining new audiences for their offerings and bolstering their positions as thought leaders.

Last week, ASAE’s International Associations Advisory Council convened a webinar, “Global Partnerships in the COVID-19 Era,” in which participants discussed this new landscape. As ever, no one global strategy will fit all associations—going global remains a function of understanding your potential members and customers and where workers in your association’s industry can use your support. But a handful of common themes emerged from the conversation.

We saw with COVID-19 how some countries and cultures that value differences in hierarchy reacted versus more egalitarian or equal-opportunity cultures.

Look for where you need help with short-term problems. Magdalena Mook, CEO of the International Coach Federation, noted that one of the most pronounced pain points for members at the immediate moment is handling finances. So in addition to its core mission of providing training for coaches, it looked for ways to help members—who are often small-business owners—navigate options for financial relief. ICF has partnered with an association of financial advisors to provide discounted training.

“Not everybody is very skilled in the financial side of their businesses—different governments, including the U.S. government, created packages to help, but we found out very quickly that our members do not necessarily know how to take advantage of them,” Mook said. “That’s not the partnership we’d normally have, but we’ll continue it because financial aid is something our members can capitalize on not only in times of crisis but also in times of prosperity.”

Use partnerships to broadcast your authority. Joanne Joham, regional director North America for the International Congress and Convention Association, noted that partnerships with other global associations on best practices can broaden your reach in meaningful ways. For instance, last week ICCA released a white paper on reopening business events that it coproduced with two other international convention associations, AIPC and UFI. The shared project at once introduces all three associations to new audiences and establishes them as knowledge leaders on a critical subject.

A country’s COVID-19 response can be revealing. Countries have different ideas about what common association terms like “volunteering” and “membership” mean, which is why U.S. associations are cautioned to do their homework about a country’s culture before exploring partnerships. Şirin Köprücü, principal at the association consultancy StrategicStraits, suggested taking a look at a country’s approach to COVID-19 as a window to how leaders there might think about partnering.

“We saw with COVID-19 how some countries and cultures that value differences in hierarchy reacted versus more egalitarian or equal-opportunity cultures,” she said. “One has set rules, the other one encourages volunteerism. It’s very important [for potential partners] to see associations’ role as empathetic leaders… , that there’s a true curiosity about the needs of the markets and the cultures of the markets.”

Some of the old rules about partnership-building still apply. In a country like China, a local presence still matters, said Steven Basart, vice president, Asia, at the association management company Kellen. And your association’s newfound enthusiasm for Zoom won’t matter much in a country where WeChat is dominant. “In the case of China, I think it’s even more essential to ensure your activities are endorsed by a Chinese partner or a local government to ensure legitimacy or acceptance,” he said. “The activities, the drivers, the business objectives that are motivating their strategies are very different, even though they may be your primary, local counterparts.”

So though virtual conferences and webinars can help bridge global gaps, making headway globally may still require a CEO to step on a plane. “I think it’s very important for senior leadership to meet with the senior leadership of your partners and have delegation visits,” Basart said. “And when your leadership is not in-country, to be under speed-dial for your partner and have that local relationship.”

Have you been able to cultivate global partnerships during the pandemic? Share your experiences in the comments.

The post Leading During a Pandemic: A New Landscape for Global Partnerships appeared first on Associations Now.

NSA’s Influence 2020 is going Virtual for only $497 USD for Everyone!

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News

Influence 2020 logoNSA announced last week that it would be going all virtual for this year’s Influence 2020 event. You may already know that NSA has already started to share weekly programs leading up to Influence.
 
However, the HUGE news is anyone can register for this event now for only $497 USD. NSA will be contacting GSF leaders (and your members) who may have already registered for the full, live event. That communication will provide options for how you’d like to move forward.
 
But, if you have NOT yet registered, this is a HUGE value. The initial programming has been phenomenal, and the rest looks to be amazing as well. Here’s the link to register: https://www.nsaspeaker.org/attend/influence20/register/
 
It’s unfortunate we can’t meet in person this year, but here’s to connecting and learning together virtually!

Daily Buzz: Get Ready to Bring Your Volunteers Back

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

How to prepare volunteers for a different work environment. Also: Train yourself to put work aside when you’re at home.

The ways in which associations engage volunteers has changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this will continue as organizations get ready to reopen. What should volunteer engagement look like during this phase?

“While things are opening back up, we are not just returning to life as it was before March,” says VolunteerMatch’s Jennifer Bennett.

When considering how you’ll re-engage with volunteers in person, let them inform your decisions. “Get a sense of what your volunteers are worried about, or what they need from you, before they come back,” Bennett says. “A survey, facilitated conversation, or focus group can be a great way to identify volunteer concerns or needs.”

Organizations must also remain agile in the face of uncertainty.

“Unfortunately, none of us have a crystal ball, but we can be prepared to continue to find new solutions as the situation evolves,” Bennett says. “But what we can do is continue to ask ourselves, how can we move forward, keep our volunteers safe, and respond in a way that makes sense for our organization and the clients we serve?”

Remote Work Shouldn’t Be 24/7

Remember, your home is your home first—and your office second. https://t.co/9xwTQi2Myo

— The Muse (@TheMuse) May 26, 2020

When you work from home, it’s easy to slip into an unhealthy around-the-clock work routine. To avoid burnout, incorporate a specific activity into your routine that triggers the end of the workday, such as a short walk or meditation.

“Triggers (or cues) can be a powerful way to form new habits. Having a routine that you do every day when you finish work will send a signal to your body and brain that work is officially over,” says Deanna deBara on The Muse. “What you do is less important than doing it every day.”

Other Links of Note

What’s in store for face-to-face events? The future is cloudy, says Velvet Chainsaw’s Lisa Block.

Onboarding techniques don’t have to be pricey. Smooth the Path’s Amanda Kaiser offers several low-tech ways to onboard new members.

The recent switch to remote work may strain existing work relationships. On the MIT Sloan Management Review, Daniel Z. Levin and Terri R. Kurtzberg explain how managers can reinforce a sense of connection.

The post Daily Buzz: Get Ready to Bring Your Volunteers Back appeared first on Associations Now.

Look to Your Resilient Programs to Help Maintain Revenue

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

While the current financial downturn caused by COVID-19 is new, lessons learned from previous recessions can help organizations survive. Finding resilient programs—including certification and microlearning—can help maintain revenue.

With the pandemic having put the kibosh on most revenue streams that require in-person attendance, associations should look for resilient programs to help them maintain a steady flow of revenue in these lean times, said two experts.

“Right now, we need to focus on programs that are most resilient,” said Sharon Rice, managing director of business strategy at .orgSource. “We need to sunset programs that were already on their way out. That sunsetting and managing our product lifecycle is critically important right now: Pulling our resources away from programs that are not resilient and pushing them toward programs that are.”

Rice, who spoke at the webinar “The Impact of a Low Touch Economy on Associations–What is Your Strategy in the New World?” said the programs that are resilient will be ones that are digital and data-driven.

“Resiliency essentially means you have programs that, as we see the economic up and downs, those programs stay important; they’re core to us and our members and people continue to engage,” Rice said. “In the 2008 recession, certification was extremely resilient. Not that we didn’t see downturns in revenue. We did. But it still held onto a pretty high percentage of total revenue in the association. It still contributed at a high level, so certification was resilient.”

After the webinar, I spoke with .orgSource Founder and CEO Sherry Budziak about what resiliency will look like in this pandemic-spurred recession.

“When we talk about resiliency, how do you take those rigid programs that don’t offer enough flexibility to create programs that do?” Budziak said. “Microlearning and micro-credentialing have become very resilient programs, instead of one-and-done programs.”

In general, products that help people improve their skillsets so they look more attractive to their current employer or prospective employers if they have to find a new job tend to be resilient.

“A lot of people are talking about reskilling,” Budziak said. “There are other industries with new jobs being created.”

During the webinar, Rice added that microlearning tends to be more affordable than certifications. “The great thing about microlearning is [that] it’s easier to get your volunteers, your members to develop those,” she said. “We recommend you give them a template, you give them guidance, maybe a little bit of training, and they can start generating those short programs that become super important to the membership base as they try to gain new skills.”

While products that allow for reskilling are a great place to start looking when it comes to determining which programs will be resilient, Budziak said each association is going to be different, so you have to take a holistic look at your programming. As other experts have recommended, Budziak said it’s crucial to cut out programs that are not bringing in revenue at times like this.

“Look at the ones that have historically not brought in the revenue,” Budziak said. “Look at the data, not only the financial data, but the staff resources and what does it take to manage them.”

Budziak said associations should also look at whether their current programs—especially those addressing COVID-19—can be marketed more broadly. One association she works with typically consults on workplace issues for large manufacturers. “They are doing a three-day virtual program on getting back to work,” Budziak said. “They are looking at an extremely broad audience now.”

Finally, Budziak says that if you have a product that members need, you have to make it available to them quickly. “If you’re not getting to market quick enough, they’re going to find what they need somewhere else,” she said.

Budziak noted this can be harder for some associations, depending on the governance structure, as they may need board interaction or approval before launching a product. She recommends minimizing this by putting in place a general framework that the board approves to allow for staff agility.

“You’re losing revenue if you can’t get to those decisions quick enough,” Budziak said. “Put in those guidelines. Say, ‘Hey, we’re having to move quickly on these decisions. Here is where the board will be involved, and here is where the staff will be involved and execute to move quickly to serve our members.’”

Which programs are you finding to be resilient for your association through the pandemic? Share in the comments.

The post Look to Your Resilient Programs to Help Maintain Revenue appeared first on Associations Now.

Keeping Members Close in Socially Distant Times

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

A snapshot of leading associations reveals that successful member engagement in a crisis environment requires a more personal touch that speaks to both the head and the heart.

A new report, Engaging Members From a Distance, examines how 15 leading associations are engaging with their members despite the considerable challenges caused by the pandemic. The report, from the communications agency Finn Partners, analyzes the associations’ websites and social media outreach to determine what’s working to provide takeaways for other associations.

Here are a few insights from the analysis that might help you better connect and engage with your own members during this unprecedented time.

COVID-19 Is Front and Center

No surprise here. The report notes that 13 of the associations had robust content focused on COVID-19 prominently featured on their websites and had quickly launched coronavirus resource centers in response to the crisis. Finn Partners predicts that associations will conduct more research on the how the pandemic is affecting members personally and will shift from more fact-based reporting on COVID-19 to assessing the best way forward to support and advocate for members.

Given the severity of the crisis, the need for information about the pandemic will likely not subside, the report notes, so associations will need to look for ways to provide more relevant and resonant content to connect with members.

Make It Personal

The report praises the more personal approach that groups like the American Nurses Association are taking with flash polls to capture member feelings as they face the challenges of COVID-19. The ANA recently surveyed 32,000 nurses and found that 87 percent of them were afraid to go back to work. ANA’S COVID-19 Resource Center invites nurses to share their stories from the front lines of the pandemic. This gives members a chance to express themselves during a global crisis in their own words, which creates a meaningful—and timely—sense of community.

Social Media Storytelling

Associations are using social media to connect with members directly. In particular, their Instagram platforms are brimming with community-building conversations, according to the report. It points to AARP’s Instagram page, where members recount how they are responding to different aspects of COVID-19. The personal stories range from a teacher talking about challenges she faces with virtual instruction to a worker at a Los Angeles market who explains how his job has changed drastically because of the pandemic.

SHRM’s Instagram page has a popular post about six skills to develop for future success, and on International Human Resources Day, a post recognized the contributions of HR professionals around the world and asked them to share what inspired them to join the profession. This kind of personalized approach to communicating with members, the report notes, is effective and will likely grow.

Virtually Together

Virtual events are the new go-to as associations rewrite their established frameworks and adapt rapidly to a new landscape for convening their members. Nearly half of the associations reviewed in the report are holding virtual events. It cites the American Psychological Association as a good example of combining the networking value of a live event with online learning in its webinar this week, “Job Searching During the Pandemic and Beyond.” The workshop touts the need to be prepared in an uncertain job market as COVID-19 markedly alters nearly every industry.

Online Learning

Virtual learning events are the coin of the realm as more members need to learn remotely. All 15 associations included in the report are currently offering online programs. Finn Partners applauds the American Bankers Association’s training center and community-building platforms for ease of navigation and use. And it gives high marks to the American Chemical Society’s program on making digital presentations better.

Overall, providing relevant information while connecting more intuitively—and more personally—is a key to member engagement success, now and always.

“Communications that balance fact-based delivery with the power of good, succinct storytelling tend to break through the clutter and get consumed, remembered, and shared,” the report says. “This is not new news; the more things change, the more they remain the same.”

The post Keeping Members Close in Socially Distant Times appeared first on Associations Now.

How to Effectively Manage Your Staff’s Return to the Office

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

Much of the advice about reopening the office has focused on the logistics of floor plans, cleaning, and new norms. Now, experts discuss the practical policies related to smoothly managing your people and addressing their concerns as they come back.

As states reopen following coronavirus closures, associations may start considering the same with their workspaces. While industry groups and building management companies have offered guidance, a lot has been focused on the building. Recently, the Society for Human Resource Management put out a checklist of HR-related items to help employers manage the staff portion of the return.

When it comes to bringing employees back, there are several factors to consider. I spoke with SHRM Senior HR Knowledge Advisor Julie Schweber about those factors, and have some real-world advice the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) offered at a recent ASAE webinar, “Preparing Your Office and Employees for Returning to the Workplace.”

Deciding who to bring back first. Most reopening plans suggest bringing back employees in tiers, because social-distancing requirements won’t allow for the return of all staff. So, how does one choose who to bring back? “A lot of it may depend on the business needs,” said. “Who are they servicing? Is it a group of professionals who can work from a laptop, or is it a front-facing business?”

While bringing back essential personnel first, or allotting it based on seniority are fine ways to go, there are some things you don’t want to do. “An employer doesn’t want to base it on age, race, gender, or any non-job-related factor,” Schweber said. “Give it some thought, have a strategy, and communicate that strategy to the staff.”

Mandy Frohlich, APTA chief operating officer, noted that they are planning to start small, and consult with staff as they bring employees to their new headquarters building. “At APTA, our phase-one staff will be very, very limited, and we’ll bring the majority of our staff back much later—September or later,” Frohlich said. She noted that APTA plans to communicate “with staff about what their preferences are based on their personal situation.”

Childcare issues. With schools, camps, and childcare providers still closed in many places, it makes returning to work difficult for some employees. If those factors have already been considered in the reopening decisions and it’s still a problem, Schweber reminds organizations they are still bound by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which requires them to provide two-thirds pay for up to 12 weeks to workers whose childcare is affected by coronavirus closures.

Immunocompromised staff. If a person is immunocompromised or has other health concerns that would preclude them from working safely in the office, Schweber said, “they may need to look at an accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act.” That could include continued remote work or an in-office accommodation. “It’s really very employee-specific based on circumstances and facts.”

Communicate. “Prior to rolling it out and saying, ‘Everyone reports to work on Monday,’ start communicating,” Schweber said. “It’s going to be more than once and continue through a variety of methods: email, memos, conference calls. It’s almost impossible to overcommunicate.”

Policies. Organizations may want to revise or look at certain policies when people come back, particularly reminding people not to come to work if they are sick. “If they’re well enough to work but coughing and sneezing, maybe they can work from home,” Schweber said. “Though, employers need to tread carefully. If someone truly is sick, we can’t have employees feeling like they have to work through sickness and can’t take leave.”

Health screenings. Schweber said the government has said it’s OK to do temperature checks in the workplace, but noted that many people are asymptomatic, so that might not help. She did note many organizations are asking their employees to do daily health checks. APTA has adopted this approach.

“We are going to [ask] our staff daily do a checklist of their health,” Frohlich said. “We are going to ask, ‘Can you go through this daily and make sure you are not having these symptoms? Also make sure no one in your household experiencing these symptoms.’”

Employees who are not ready. There may be people who don’t have underlying health issues or other concerns who still don’t want to come back to the office due to general coronavirus fears. Schweber has advice for addressing them. “The general guidance is to listen to an employees’ concerns privately,” she said. “Have a conversation. Say, ‘tell me what you’re concerned about,’ and listen. Say, hey, ‘I hear you.’” The employer should tell the employee any safety measures that address concerns, and if the concern is reasonable and not addressed, they should look to address it.

What is your association doing to help employees transition back to the office? Share your response in the comments.

The post How to Effectively Manage Your Staff’s Return to the Office appeared first on Associations Now.

Daily Buzz: Design Strategies for Your Virtual Exhibit Hall

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

You can still let your sponsors shine when you move your in-person event online. Also: ideas to make your June newsletter special.

Did your conference go virtual? You can still put together an exhibit hall, which gives you a way to include your sponsors and provide an important resource center for attendees.

“Exhibit halls can be converted to an online format easily and can be just as informative for attendees,” says CommPartners’ Julie Ratcliffe. “A virtual exhibit hall is a home base for all your sponsors.”

Your virtual hall can include resources that sponsors would typically provide to attendees in person. Only this time, they’ll take the form of PDFs, links, videos, and other digital formats. Ratcliffe says going virtual doesn’t mean you lose the exhibit’s visual and branding opportunities.

“Sponsor logos can be presented in a carousel or posted in various positions around the conference site. Informational and educational posters can be displayed in each sponsor booth, or you can show them all in a collection on a separate posters page.”

Additionally, try to make your virtual exhibit hall interactive, just as it would be at an in-person conference. Implementing a chat feature, such as a discussion board or instant messenger, will allow exhibitors to speak with attendees.

“Sponsors are an important part of the vitality of your conference, and learners should engage with them,” Ratcliffe says. “Unlike at an onsite event, where exhibitors are confined to exhibit hall hours, your virtual exhibit hall will be open 24/7.”

What You Can Do With Your Newsletter This June

To make next month’s newsletter memorable, highlight the unique days and events going on in June. For example, take advantage of Best Friends Day, which takes place June 8.

“Who are your organization’s best friends? Feature your most passionate supporters and volunteers,” says Nonprofit Marketing Guide’s Kristina Leroux.

Or think of ways to incorporate Father’s Day, which takes place June 21. “Plenty of opportunities here,” Leroux says. “Who is the ‘father’ of your cause or organization? How can your supporters honor their fathers in a way that’s consistent with your cause?”

Other Links of Note

Want to improve your nonprofit website? There are a few quick and easy ways to do it, suggests a recent article from TechSoup.

If we reopen, will they come? Colleen Dilenschneider from Know Your Own Bone examines the factors influencing intentions to visit cultural organizations post-COVID-19 restrictions.

If you’re worried about your job security, do these five things, says The Next Web’s Yessi Bello Perez.

The post Daily Buzz: Design Strategies for Your Virtual Exhibit Hall appeared first on Associations Now.

Daily Buzz: Build Your Online Community During a Crisis

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

The keys to bringing others together even when they’re physically separated. Also: how virtual meetings can get more members to contribute during conferences.

Can’t see members in person? There are still ways to nurture community and connect remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Chloe Blair on Association Success.

Start by reaching out to members to see how they’re doing. This will strengthen relationships and give you a sense of what your members are really going through.

“Taking time to ask someone how they’re doing can bring some positivity and understanding into their day. Staying engaged in what’s happening in their lives creates meaningful relationships,” Blair says.

Do what you can to be relatable when reaching out to members. Instead of treating it like a business-as-usual conversation, acknowledge that this is a stressful time and talk about your own challenges.

“Imperfection and openness establishes more relatability than trying to appear as if everything is OK,” Blair says. “Some of the ways you can be more relatable include sharing a little about what’s going on in your life, a mistake you’ve recently learned from, or expressing emotions around what’s going on.”

Treat this uncertain time as an opportunity to connect in new ways. Your organization can still host video calls, social media challenges, and group chats where members get to engage with each other.

“Not only will you create a breeding ground for great ideas, friendships, and creativity, but you’ll establish a loyal community for people to turn to in times of need,” Blair says.

The Team-Building Benefit of Virtual Meetings

A prediction for virtual #conferences in the future. https://t.co/QGwx4elz8p #AssnChat pic.twitter.com/DKVaAgZ2Te

— Amanda Kaiser (@SmoothThePath) May 19, 2020

While some thrive during in-person conferences, others struggle with anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. The environment is different with virtual meetings, thanks to the ability to chat without speaking in front of a group.

“One happy outcome of the recent online conference trend may be that the people who feel shy, awkward, or overwhelmed at in-person meetings get to experience conferences in a new and perhaps seemingly safer way,” says Smooth the Path’s Amanda Kaiser.

Other Links of Note

Should marketing be in your association’s budget right now? Tony Rossell of the Membership Marketing Blog breaks down why it should still be a priority.

Looking for a way to back up your valuable data? Clone your hard drive. PC Mag’s Whitson Gordon explains how to do it.

In-person events will return when potential attendees feel safe. A recent post from Northstar Meetings Group examines how to reduce health risks at conferences.

The post Daily Buzz: Build Your Online Community During a Crisis appeared first on Associations Now.

How to Curate Valuable Content for Members During Uncertain Times

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

As associations struggle to serve their members and deal with the economic fallout from the pandemic, experts say it’s crucial for them to cut through the clutter and provide valuable information tailored to their industry.

Providing content is a key way associations can help their members navigate tough times. But in a world overrun with content, it’s important that associations curate properly, say two experts.

Hilary Marsh, chief strategist for Content Company Inc., and Elizabeth Weaver Engel, M.A., CAE, chief strategist for Spark Consulting, recently released “Cut Through the Clutter: Content Curation, Associations’ Secret Weapon Against Information Overload” [PDF]. The white paper offers some strategies to help associations provide the best, most valuable content for members.

“The baseline is providing value,” Marsh said. “The way we need to show value is through the content.”

Associations provide a variety of content. Often, they are curators of knowledge that is important for the industry, but not necessarily tailored to the industry. But just sharing that information is not enough.

“They’re sharing stuff with no context, like the latest industry headlines aggregated from another source,” Marsh said. And while outside experts are useful to members, the context to frame that expert information is how associations show their value.

“You don’t need to reinvent that [outside expert] work,” Marsh said. “You need to add the right context for your particular members. Between your staff and your members, you do have the extra layer of context to add to the raw data.”

Engel added, “The sense making and context providing, that’s what you bring to it. You can say, ‘This is why it matters for us.’”

Since the world is overrun with information, Engel and Marsh said associations can make the mistake of adding to that overflow by not coordinating internally. When departments each put out their own information via social media or various newsletters, members can feel overburdened.

“If that information is not orchestrated internally, are getting tons of information from that association, which may or may not be consistent,” Marsh said. “It’s a content ecosystem; it has to be orchestrated in a way that makes sense.”

Engel suggested that various departments who share content get together and talk so there can be some consensus about what is going on. From there, content can be centralized under one person or group, or coordinated by the groups. “Find the way that works for your association and your structure,” she said.

The other key to curating useful content is by asking questions to determine if it’s a good fit.

“We have a tendency to ask members and other audiences what they want,” Engel said. “You have to ask better questions: What challenges are you facing? What goals are you trying to achieve?”

Member responses to those types of questions can drive the content an association is producing and sharing.

Finally, once the content is produced and published, look at how people respond.

“Pay attention to what happens,” Engel said. “We sometimes create the great thing, and say, ‘Woohoo! It’s finally released.’ Then we don’t pay attention to whether anyone is responding to it. We have to pay attention to what happens.”

Marsh said the metrics can help you figure out ways to improve your content. “We have to go back and look at the metrics,” she said. “We can make some assessments. Is it too long? Is it the wrong headline? Are we speaking in too flat of a way?”

The post How to Curate Valuable Content for Members During Uncertain Times appeared first on Associations Now.

How to Safely Host Face-to-Face Events Post-COVID

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

Once in-person meetings start taking place again, health and hygiene are going to be a top priority. A new report offers ideas, processes, and protocols and how they could play out in various elements of in-person events.

Once your association can resume holding face-to-face events, things are going to look a lot different. A newly released resource from the event consultancy Freeman offers insights into how planners can create an experience that makes health and hygiene a top priority.

“Gone are the days of ‘what we’ve always done,’” Freeman writes. “Event professionals will make conscious decisions on what to do, when, based on the overall business objectives versus a date on a calendar.”

In “The New Normal: Considerations for Business Events in a Post-COVID World,” experts from across the company outline ideas, processes, and protocols to help ensure the safety of controlled business events. Here’s a look at how some of those could play out in six elements that are common to most meetings.

Pre-event marketing. While in the past organizations may have touted the size of the event as a way to get exhibitors and attendees to register, Freeman’s experts say to avoid this in today’s environment. Rather, event marketers should shift their focus to the smaller, more intimate connections that will be made.

“Recognize that many attendees will be balancing the desire for connections and community with their fear of crowds,” states the report. “Address this by promoting the connections that can be made within smaller settings (e.g., matchmaking programs, a CEO breakfast, an LGBTQ reception, a mentor program, etc.). For exhibitors, focus on the quality of the attendee you are attracting through your marketing campaigns.”

Registration. “It’s time to up your reg game,” the firm writes. This could include an entirely digital process and staggered check-in times to avoid a mass rush. In addition, organizations should consider mailing attendees their badges in advance or allowing a print-at-home option.

Navigation. To help attendees maintain proper social-distancing protocols, use floor graphics to illustrate how far apart they should stand while in line. Also employ a chatbot or AI-driven service to help with navigation and answering common questions. “Show organizers can benefit from improved efficiency and reduced person-to-person interaction,” stated the report.

Education. “We must optimize face-to-face events for activities that are best accomplished in person, such as discussions, networking, and discovery, rather than long-form speeches and one-way information delivery,” Freeman writes.

That will likely involve reimagining the traditional general session. “Use your general session for high-value moments that can only be delivered live,” the report recommends. Freeman also suggests using second-screen technology for audience engagement by having attendees use their own devices to participate in polls and ask the presenters questions.

Networking. Associations are going to need to think differently about helping their attendees make connections. Digital matchmaking and business-card-exchange tools are one way to go. However, groups are also going to want to allow for in-person connections, which will require rethinking layouts and venues. For example, Freeman suggests using open-air venues and creating conversation pods with appropriately spaced seating and even an antibacterial screen between the two sides.

Expo floor. “While show floors may need to be reimagined with fewer crowds, this is an opportunity to enhance and personalize the experience,” Freeman says. A few ideas: larger lounges with individual seating, one-way aisles, measurement technology and heat maps to determine and control capacity levels, and multiple cleanings throughout the day.

What changes are you considering when the time comes for you to host face-to-face meetings once again? Please share in the comments.

The post How to Safely Host Face-to-Face Events Post-COVID appeared first on Associations Now.