Your A-Z Guide for Events That Actually Increase Member Engagement
So many of us are getting packed up and heading out to Salt Lake City for the ASAE Annual Meeting this weekend. And with Aptify's own user conference coming up in just a few months, I feel like I'm eating, sleeping, and breathing conferences these days. For those of us who plan conferences and concerts, fundraisers and tournaments, there's so many details to track and remember—each of which can increase member engagement and deliver a higher value for your membership dues. Here's an alphabetical listing (more or less) of important things to keep in mind so that your next event is a resounding success.
From the kickoff of the event until the floors of the venue are swept tidy, everyone in your organization has a job to do. Don't assume workers will do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. Whether you need extra staff on the registration desk, people running microphones up and down aisles, or simple human signs directing attendees from one end of the convention hall to the other, decide ahead of time what the critical jobs are and make sure each staffer has a critical position covered at all times.
At the end of the event, the connections you've made are the most important part of hosting the event. Someone from your association should be networking, making introductions, and responding immediately to member and guest feedback during the entire event. One of the most important keys to member engagement is the ability to keep them well connected with important industry insiders.
What members and guests glean from the event dictates whether or not they will ever come back, and may determine whether they continue to pay your membership dues. Load up a full roster of strong, engaging speakers, and make sure that the topics covered in all sessions deliver relevant and actionable information for your crowd. Don't forget to have backup plans in case a speaker falls ill or has travel issues.
Events like seminars, training sessions, and conferences may seem all business, but there must be some entertainment value or people will get bored and feel they've wasted their time. Entertainment sets the mood and keeps downtime from becoming monotonous and frustrating. Jazz things up with music, short original films, or games to boost member engagement and attract non-members into your circle. Giving attendees the option of bringing a guest to your evening events is another way to add to your budgetary bottom line and get even more people active with your organization.
Don't wait until the end to get feedback! Yes, a post-event survey is important, but as much as possible you should gauge the response of your attendees as the event progresses, making it possible to quickly and decisively address any issues that pop up. Room too warm? Restrooms out of paper towels? Not enough seats to go around? Take care of these issues quickly before they affect the mood of your guests. Stage staffers in key gathering areas to get a read on the thoughts and feelings of your attendees. You can also solicit feedback through your mobile app.
Every event should be held to meet a specific and measurable goal, such as boosting membership attendance by five percent, or signing up 100 new members. Make sure the event planning, from beginning to end, is designed to meet that goal. If you aren't tracking, then you aren't measuring your success. And if you can't measure success, then there's less reason to celebrate (and we all need reasons to do this!).
Devise a plan to follow up with all non-members who attend. These follow-up calls, emails, and social media connects should begin the moment the event ends. If you wait a week, that lead will have grown cold.
Event promotions are as important as advertising and marketing your association. Use all of the traditional advertising venues—TV, radio, and print media—plus all of the digital marketing tricks—email, PPC ads, social media marketing, etc.
Make the registration process as fast and simple as possible. Asking too many questions, failing to accept popular methods of payment, or otherwise slowing down the registration process will just lead to more dropouts during registration (and fewer attendees at your event).
You can't hold a first-class event if you don't have the funding. Most associations turn to relevant industry sponsors to fill the coffers with the funding it takes to present a truly impressive event. Make sure you're offering value to your sponsors as well. Include them in signage, on your website, and allow them to introduce a speaker or two. Just like attendees, if they like the experience, they'll come back for more next year.
What will your attendees leave with that they can't get anywhere else for that price? That's your value proposition. Make it a good one, or it will be tough to convince them to come back to your next event.
Zap Social Media
Social media promotions don't stop when the last ticket is sold. Continue to connect on social by offering check-ins via social media, live tweeting the event, and posting frequent updates. Don't forget to tag your keynote speakers and sponsors so they get the coverage they deserve, as well.
For all of you who are attending the ASAE Annual Meeting, come talk to me at the Aptify booth #431—I'd love to hear your thoughts on event engagement. To see what we have planned at our own event, check out the Aptify Users Conference website. See you soon!
About Jennifer Barrell
As the Director of Content, Branding & Buzz at Aptify, Jen oversees the strategy and execution of brand management and content production across the organization’s global offices. She thrives on bringing compelling content and useful information to associations to help them grow and engage their membership. She's also an avid fan of mid-century modern design and all things science fiction.