Final Notes from e4 Cafe “The Evolving Value Proposition of F2F Association Meetings”

Judy kent profileBy Judy Kent, Experient

Thanks to all who attended our session at e4.  I hope you all enjoyed the topic.  We loved the passion that you all showed in coming up with “What will the meetings of the future look like?”.  We looked at five burning areas/questions and focused our attention on them.  Below is a recap that you as a group developed through your sharing.  Stay tuned for a great study that will be released in October from Oxford Economics on this very topic.  It will be very educational and pivotal to our industry.  We will post it once we received.

1. Grow/Retain Membership and Attendance – What role do conventions and meetings play in increasing and maintaining membership for an association, driving attendance or motivating people to attend an association’s meeting?  Will larger meetings be a thing of the past associations shift to smaller regional meetings costing less to produce?   Do you believe associations will begin merging or partnering with other similar accredited associations to build attendance?

  • Considering tying together annual meeting fees with a free 1-year membership.  However, are associations doing a good job of converting non- members to members? Consensus says “no”.  This is an easy way to recruit new members.  People interested enough to attend the annual meeting should be prime candidates for membership.
  • On-line tool kit – See ASAE website as they have a great justification tool kit outlining reasons why you should attend the meeting, how to calculate the ROI, etc….Don’t recreate the wheel.  Use these resources that already exist.
  • Voice broadcasting – Consider having the Executive Director/President of the association do broadcast voicemails to grow attendance and retain current membership.  PCMA has done this on many of occasions.
  • During a tough economy consider extending membership dues, allowing grace periods or setting up a payment plan for those that are on a limited budget or have lost a job.  It is easier to maintain a member than acquire a new one.

2. Technology – How will meetings of the future differ from those of the past and present due to the advancement of technology?  Will social networking sites and teleconferencing and video conferencing eventually totally replace face to face meetings?

  • Use technology to enhance F2F meetings, especially with social media.  But don’t assume  everyone is up to date on all social media.  Provide education on how to use social media from the very basic through the advanced technology.
  • Incorporate audience response systems in meetings, not just for general session but also for break-out sessions.  Interactive services are important especially with the X and Y generations.
  • Don’t just use technology during the meetings but also pre and post events.

3. Marketing to Many Generations – How will the fact that we have four “generations” in the work place affect the growth of association membership and convention attendance? How do we market to the various generations so we can grow membership and attendance?

  • Make certain you have an effective marketing plan that is focused on hitting all generations.
  • Spend time training to educate on the various generations.
  • Are you asking your members / non-members how they heard about your association and / or meeting?
  • Are you maximizing your “viral” marketing ?
  • Does the three touch rule apply when marketing to various generations?
  • Develop focus groups representing different generations to solicit their feedback on what works and what does not work when marketing to them.

4. Deliver Increased ROI to attendees – How will meetings of the future differ from those of the past and present in order to deliver increased ROI?  What will this increased ROI look like?

  • Increase networking opportunities – These can fall into several areas; peer to peer, mentor protégé, vendor/buyer and having the access to network with executive leadership.
  • Educational Content – Keep it fresh and relevant, can attendees receive CEU’s/CME’s while at the meeting?  If so, it will drive ROI, provide case studies and fan panels of hot topics.
  • Offer flexibility while at the meetings so attendees can still get their job done while away from the office.

5. Leverage the importance of F2F – Will the need for F2F meetings ever change or disappear? If yes, what will it look like?   If no, what will it look like?

  • F2F meetings will change but never disappear.
  • Technology will enhance F2F meetings but not replace meetings.
  • We need to tailor F2F to service all generations and cater events to target and accommodate all attendees.
  • Supplement F2F using technology rather than replacing the meetings.  Look for companies who can assist with integrating F2F with technology.
  • Understand the makeup of your audience when determining what media to use.
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