Survival of the fittest – what’s the future of event planning for associations?

Have you noticed numbers declining at associations’ annual conferences and tradeshows? If you are a professional member of an association, do you know why more of you aren’t coming out? Are you unsatisfied with the education and networking?

Is meeting and event planning a hospitality, tourism, or business discipline?

If you are an exhibitor, are you tired of standing around a tradeshow floor and looking at the colour of the carpet? Are you going back to your offices with less and less leads?

Why is this happening? Is it the economy? Is it how difficult travel has become? Is it because people don’t want to be away from their families? Is it because work is piling up because we are doing more with less? I suspect it is all of those things…and more!

As always, it’s about change. As humans, we seem to be frightened of it. Instead, let’s embrace change and see how we can adapt and move forward our associations.

In Sarah Sladek’s book, The End of Membership as we Know It, a few of the many topics covered in the table of contents include: offering better benefits, furthering your reach, building online communities. This article will talk about just the three of these.

Offering better benefits

  • When was the last time your association sat down and looked at the benefits they are providing members, sponsors and exhibitors? What other revenue streams can you come up with? What current revenue streams aren’t bringing any money? Why are you still offering them? Get rid of them now and replace them with more relevant benefits. Could you offer your members scholarships to better their professional development? Could you offer sponsors a more meaningful way to contact their customers – your members? Can you offer your exhibitors a better way to contact their customers? Does your tradeshow become virtual only, or a combination of on-site and virtual to reach more potential leads?

Furthering your reach

  • Who are allied organizations you could join forces with?
  • Where can you look for new exhibitors/sponsors? I’m betting all your members have some sort of smartphone and use a bank. Have you approached these companies with opportunities to get to your members?

Building online communities

Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Facebook and so much more! What are your associations’ social community strategies? It isn’t as easy as everyone thinks. Take the time to create a strategy.

  • Are your members mostly on Facebook? Ask them! If they are, then that’s where your sponsors/exhibitors and your association needs to be.
  • What can you offer your sponsors/exhibitors as they get involved in your online communities?

Remember, your association will only grow if you offer what the members want and need and you offer access to your sponsors to those members. Our population is changing. We can get almost any information online. We still meet because we crave face to face. Make it worthwhile. Make sure you look at benefits, see how far you can reach and let online communities help you further that reach!

Association planners, executive directors, members and those who want to reach those markets, run, don’t walk to the nearest bookstore and get the book! Oh wait, change-we can download it on our e-reader and order it online without leaving our desk or park bench. Imagine if the Amazons and Apples of the world didn’t change! You’d have to find a bookstore to get the book! Look at your associations in the same way – change to thrive; remain the same to die!

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