Author Archive for Kristen Parker

22
Jul
14

Association membership is on the rise

association-membership-recruitmentI love my Barnes and Noble membership. Last Christmas, I saved nearly $100 because I was a member. I also love my World Market membership because, well, I enjoy the wine discounts.

And then, there’s my Public Relations Society of America membership, which provides professional development, networking opportunities and member-only must-haves for public relations junkies like me.

Simply put: Membership has its perks.

So that must be why associations are experiencing a steady increase in memberships.

Marketing General Inc. recently released the results of its annual Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, in which 53 percent of associations reported membership growth throughout the last year.

An unprecedented 865 associations responded to the survey, reporting on things such as membership recruitment and renewal, social media usage and marketing budgets.

“The purpose of this study continues to be the development of meaningful benchmarks by which the leadership of individual membership and trade associations can evaluate their own membership marketing strategies and tactics,” MGI wrote.

Associations representing nonprofit companies, health care and professional services experienced the largest membership growth. As for membership recruitment tools, email and world-of-mouth continue to be the most effective, but this year’s results revealed that direct mail is quickly gaining steam.

But membership renewals seem to present separate challenges. Membership may be growing, but data seem to suggest new members – not renewals – account for that.

For a while, association members blamed shrinking budgets and a poor economy for not renewing memberships. Now, the economy is slowly on an uptick, so association leaders believe lack of engagement with members is the reason for stagnant or decreasing membership renewals. Second: If membership ROI isn’t evident, it’s on the chopping block.

In the study, the majority of associations reported a two- to three-month grace period for membership benefits once memberships expire.

bar graphAlso in the report, associations indicated communicating membership value is the No. 1 challenge, while cost remains an obstacle.

Other interesting takeaways:

  • Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the most popular social media platforms (in that order), with Twitter experiencing the biggest boom in usage. Most associations reported their communications staff manages social media accounts.
  • On average, associations send their members about four emails per week.
  • A slight decrease from last year, 56 percent of associations said they increase dues as needed, with 27 percent planning to increase dues this year.
  • Branding and marketing are becoming more important, as 32 percent of associations have increased budget line items for such expenses.
  • Associations with membership growth also saw increases in attendance for tradeshow/conferences and professional development offerings; volunteerism; non-dues revenue; and certifications.
  • Associations with a renewal rate of less than 80 percent are less likely to experience a decline in membership.
  • Most association leaders believe networking is the top reason for joining an association.
  • To improve member engagement, 65 percent of associations have made changes to their websites.
  • About half of associations offer a student membership.

At the end of the report is a Words of Wisdom section, in which survey respondents shared their thoughts and ideas on issues, challenges and lessons they’ve learned as association professionals.

For example, one of the associations indicated it has expanded mentoring programs by 600 percent and has introduced a Visa Reward Card whereby members who have not attended an event in the past year receive cash rewards for doing so. As a result, event attendance is up 38 percent, while non-member event attendance is up 11 percent.

“Don’t just join an association; take full advantage of what we have to offer,” another association leader wrote. “When you come to us for help or resources and can’t find what you’re looking for, let us know so that we can keep improving. We want to be a true partner in your professional success, but we struggle with knowing what it is you need.”

So, where does your association fit into the membership equation? Has it experienced membership growth?

Take a look at the MGI report and see where your association stacks up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15
Jul
14

Is your association a global guru in the making?

Global businessFrom membership to events to publications, associations provide critical services to nearly all industries and professions – not just at home, but around the world.

As industries boost their globalization efforts, associations seem to be following suit, according to a new report, “Achieving Global Growth,” by American Society of Association Executives.

But what differentiates a successful global association from a not-so-successful one? Commitment. Strategy. Good business acumen. Cultural appreciation. Just to name a few things.

The ASAE Foundation and MCI Group, a global network of 50-plus offices providing market development services and conference management, just launched a multi-year, multi-phase research project to better understand U.S. associations’ global strategies and international engagement. In the end, a series of whitepapers and other resources will equip association members with tools to “go global.”

As the first byproduct of the initiative, the newly released report focuses on U.S. associations’ business activities with countries outside North America. One of the key findings: The most successful global associations have a strong commitment to internationalization, with a clearly defined and executed global strategy.

Specifically, the study found associations with successful global operations:

  • Recognize that international business operations are important to their financial health
  • Introduce products to international markets frequently
  • Conduct international meetings, conferences and face-to-face training
  • Develop strategic global partnerships
  • Invest in emerging international markets, rather than those that might be most popular or English speaking
  • Establish global offices or locations

The study also found those associations that successfully engage worldwide have higher membership growth and more non-dues revenue than those that don’t.

In addition, 60 percent said they have staff dedicated to international operations.

An interesting finding: Associations that reported growth in product sales from outside North America are more likely to have board members who reside outside North America. On the contrary, those who restrict board membership to North America have flat membership growth.

All associations (globally engaged and non-globally engaged) reported China will offer the largest potential for globalization throughout the next few years. But successful global associations also recognize potential in Brazil and India, and plan to target those markets.

“Proactive associations are those that reach out to non-U.S. members and customers to better understand their needs, promote the membership or products that are uniquely useful to them, lower barriers to engagement and consumption, give local leadership responsibility and reward or recognize participation.

“The case should be made to find ways to get into [identified emerging] markets now so as to build brand awareness, cultivate demand, build partnerships and improve service delivery capacity,” the report states. “Doing so now may actually be less expensive than waiting, when costs will be higher, negotiating for favorable terms harder and competition is more intense.”

So what do you think? Do you agree with the report’s findings? Is globalization in your association’s future?

08
Jul
14

Six Ways to Intersect Publications and Education Events

This month’s blog post is by Kim Howard, CAE, an award-winning publisher and president of Write Communications, LLC. Write Communications works with association leaders to create mission-aligned content for every channel for measurable results. She is the immediate past president of Association Media & Publishing. Howard can contacted at kim@writecommunicationsllc.com.

Kim Howard

Kim Howard, president of Write Communications, LLC

Delivering content to your members is a cornerstone of not only your publication program, but also your education events. In a perfect world, all our members would attend our events. But because they don’t, how do we share that information while not reinventing the wheel? How do we help sell the value of our education events? How can we showcase the content in the best possible way before, during and after our programs? Here are some ideas.

  1. Go beyond an ad. Cross-promote your events in the publications that you have. When you have a regularly published magazine, your content, if it’s mission-aligned, will likely fall in line with topics discussed at your education events. Is your editorial calendar in line with broad issues that are discussed at your conferences? Are you covering your content through the applicable lens for your members? Many associations have membership that runs the gamut, from students to c-suite executives. While it’s difficult to serve them all in one publication or conference, you can successfully integrate your content to cater to the cross-section of members. I use the term education events loosely because this could mean an in-person conference, webinar or podcast, lunch and learn or brown bag, etc. Have staff, freelancers or volunteers cover the event and write an article about the topics and subsequent discussion during the event. This is an excellent way to generate content for your publication and showcase the discussion. It’s also a great way to showcase your volunteers. Many members covet a byline on your association’s blog or in your publication. Covering select sessions at your events drives home the message to those members who didn’t attend that the event’s content is something to hear first hand. Think of it as your indirect sales guy.
  1. Give sidebars new meaning. Sidebars help break up your content and add an element of information that otherwise may be awkward to include in the main story. You are likely housing your speaker’s content somewhere on your website and the subject will also pertain to something you’re covering in your publication. Remind your readers that the content is still there and provide access to it by showcasing it in a sidebar. You could have content available from a webinar, a whitepaper or a slide presentation from an annual conference session. Use it. You don’t have to showcase the entire resource—just use a link, headline and blurb. And don’t forget your association’s other resources such as whitepapers, reports, webinars, podcasts, blog posts and other nuggets of information that show your members they have access to solid industry or profession information.

published

  1. Ask speakers to convert their presentation into an article, or interview them. This approach works best if you have your editorial staff attend the selected sessions and figure out which ones will translate into content for your publication. It also helps to weed out the presenters who were less than stellar: You probably don’t want to showcase their content in your publication. And it’s unlikely their content would translate well in a new format. Add an editor’s note at the beginning or the end of the piece letting readers know the topic was first discussed at “XYZ” conference, webinar, etc. I have used this approach for years and our publications have received many excellent articles that we published.
  1. When you have a hot, timely topic of discussion, ask the speaker or panelists to write blog posts about the subject before the event. There is always some piece of relevant information that speakers wish they could include, but can’t because of time constraints or because it diverts from the subject a little too much for an event. Not only is this a good way to showcase the content, but also it creates buzz about your event and may even increase the numbers from last-minute registrations or day-pass registrants.
  1. Cross-promote your education event through Twitter. If you know that certain members are into social media, especially Twitter, and they have fast fingers, ask them which sessions they would consider covering for you. This approach works best live, but after the event, consider picking out the top five or 10 tweets from the meeting and using that information as a sidebar to post-event coverage. The great thing about this approach is that you are covering a session that may not be covered a traditional way. It’s yet another insight into the education content that your meetings and events offer.
  1. Additional ideas might include:
    1. Videos or other enhanced content in digital publications. Careful planning and scheduling can yield good video clips from members when they are onsite.
    2. Executive summaries of content, ideas or discussions to share with attendees/those who were unable to attend as resources rather than simply as informational articles. (Think of this as a note-taking service or perhaps even enhance these notes with new information to make them that much more useful).
    3. Leverage sample content/learning outcomes/ROI/testimonials in next year’s event marketing materials to make the promotion that much more compelling.
    4. Consider year-round opportunities to position your annual meeting vs. only the two to three months leading up to the conference; keep the conversations going.
    5. Consider repackaging content into an infographic or other visually interesting format to help members/attendees digest the information in a new way.

Even if you can’t implement all these ideas, pick one that you know will work with your membership and any internal constraints you may have. Starting small will be the first step to yielding better results for your educational events and content that you deliver to your members.

01
Jul
14

Bonus content: Event Garde e-news – July edition

Cally Hill, Director of Client Relations

Cally Hill, Director of Client Relations

Q & A with Cally Hill, Director of Client Relations

Q: When you’re not working for Event Garde, what keeps you busy?
A:  I enjoy spending time with my family and watching Tigers baseball.

Q: If you could meet one famous person, who would it be, and why?
A: Tom Hanks. He has been my favorite actor since he was on the sitcom “Bosom Buddies” in 1980.

Q: What song best describes your life, and why?
A: My favorite song is “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel because it is the first song I remember hearing as a kid and it reminds me of my dad.

Q: What is your secret talent?
A: I don’t have any secret talents, as I think they’re out there for everyone to see. (Editor’s Note: Cally is very skilled at making everything run smoothly. Her secret talent is definitely multi-tasking! – KP)

Q: Which color do you think best represents you, and why?
A. Orange. It’s a bold color that stands out.

24
Jun
14

5 Cool Things Associations Are Doing at Meetings and Events

This month’s guest blog post is by Samantha Whitehorne, deputy editor for Associations Now. Contact Whitehorne at swhitehorne@asaecenter.org.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne, deputy editor for Associations Now.

As the weekly blogger (and deputy editor) for ASAE’s AssociationsNow.com, I write about some of the innovative things that associations are doing for their meetings and conferences. While it can be stressful to come up with something new each week, it gives me a chance to spotlight association meetings, which sometimes are wrongly perceived as unable to keep up with the likes of bigger conferences such as SXSW or TED.

Here are five ideas executed by associations throughout the past year that I think are the best of the best.

Have Staff Wear the Latest Technology
In April, the Washington Restaurant Association outfitted its onsite staff with Google Glass to provide a live video feed of the event.

During the two-day event, WRA staff wore Google Glass while walking around the show, producing a video feed that streamed on its web site to give people an idea of the event’s layout and provide additional exposure for exhibitors via “on-camera” interviews.

“It allows us to go to a lot of the exhibitors and industry experts who are part of the trade show and interview them in a casual manner,” Lex Nepomuceno, WRA’s director of communications and technology, told Associations Now.

Keep Attendees’ Health in Mind
More associations are helping to keep attendees on track when it comes to their health and fitness while they’re onsite. For example, the annual conference and exhibition of the Health Information and Management Systems Society offered a three-day Wellness Challenge this year.

Here’s how it worked: Attendees had to sign up through the meeting web site and were required to have a fitness tracker to participate. They could either purchase a Misfit Shine activity tracker for $59 through HIMSS, which they picked up onsite, or use their own.

Each of the three days featured a different challenge. Participants used their trackers to calculate each day’s measurements and then posted their numbers online to qualify for daily prizes, which included two $300 gift cards and an iPad mini. To ramp up the competitive spirit, participants and other attendees could visit a booth in the exhibit hall to see who was in the lead each day.

Perfect the First-Time Attendee Experience
Conference newbies can be just as anxious to attend a meeting as they are excited, especially if they don’t know anyone, which is why the first-time attendee experience is so important.

The Society of American Archivists, with the help of its Students and New Archives Professionals Roundtable, put together a first-timer’s guide for its 2013 joint meeting with the Council of State Archivists. It includes a list of what to pack and a guide on how to best network at the conference. In the latter section is a breakdown of networking opportunities made specifically for first-time attendees, including the Navigator and Lunch Buddy programs. SAA also has two other resources on its site for first-timers: One has interviews with three previous attendees highlighting their tips and tricks for making the most of the conference and the other focuses on how to best navigate the meeting.

The American Homebrewers Association also has a fun first-timer’s guide for the National Homebrewers Conference on its site. My favorite tip — written by “AHA Conference Veterans for Fun” — is this: “As delicious as it is, beer is not really food. Don’t get carried away with your conversation on hop glycosides and hot side aeration and forget to eat.”

conferenceDesign a New Learning Experience
Well-known keynoters, high attendee numbers and hundreds of education sessions are nice, but they don’t guarantee a successful meeting. What does? Designing a learning experience members can’t re-create or find elsewhere.

With member feedback in mind and a desire to create a more engaging learning experience, the National Association of Secondary School Principals made a fundamental shift in how knowledge was acquired and delivered at the NASSP Ignite 2013 Conference.

The backbone of the strategy was the Connected Learning Center, located in the middle of the exhibit hall. The center featured a technology showcase to demonstrate new tools and included a place for speakers to hold mini-sessions to dive deeper into concepts and topics they presented on during their larger, 75- to 90-minute learning sessions held earlier the same day.

To further encourage this dialogue, presenters also were able to hold “office hours” in the center. These open-door meetings gave speakers and attendees the opportunity to discuss the work they’re doing.

Let Members Do the Planning
In an effort to get members more involved in the meeting-planning process, the National Association of Plan Advisors — a sister organization of the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries — let members select session topics for its NAPA 401(k) Summit, which took place in March in New Orleans.

The best part was that it was inexpensive and simple. ASPPA used the free, open-source platform All Our Ideas for the voting process. The tool was easy for members to navigate. They were given two session ideas, and they could either pick their favorite or add their own idea into the mix for others to vote on. The process was then repeated. The platform’s algorithm sorted and ranked the ideas in real time, allowing members and ASPPA staff to see what topics were in the lead.

What other cool and innovative things do you think are occurring in the meetings space, association-related or not? Share in the comments or shoot me an email at swhitehorne@asaecenter.org.

17
Jun
14

MOOCs: A myth for the masses? Not so much

MOOC infographic

An infographic by Online-PhD-Programs.org summarizing MOOCs.

Massive Open Online Courses – or MOOCs – seem to be all the rage. And why not, when learning is just a click away?

MOOCs are online classes that are available to anyone with a computer and/or Internet access. Some MOOCs are free, but others aren’t. It’s a bit confusing as MOOCs are still trying to find their place among social media, 24-7 access to news and a society that thrives on convenience.

It seems higher education has embraced MOOCs as a way to foster global education, but what about other industries?

According to Online-PhD-Programs.org, 4.7 million people participate in MOOCs through Coursera. But only 8 to 10 percent of those enrolled actually complete the class. So is it worth it?

It’s a constant source of debate, which may explain why associations have been reluctant to enter the MOOC market.

Tagoras recently released a whitepaper on fringe trends, and MOOCs were included in the report. “Fringe” refers to the fact that based on Tagoras’ research, only 10 percent of participants have adopted burgeoning trends.

“MOOCs aren’t just disrupting how training is delivered; they are changing how companies interact with their employees and others on a much grander scale,” said Bryant Nielsen, founder of corporate training firm Your Training Edge.

Throughout the last few weeks, Nielsen has written about 13 megatrends of MOOCs. Perhaps most relevant to associations is lifelong learning.

“One of the biggest impacts MOOCs have had is to make education available to people of all ages,” Nielsen said. “As a result, lifelong learning has become one of the biggest trends in recent years: In their spare time, people who once might have flipped on the television are now booting up their computers to learn and accessing learning resources on their mobile devices whenever they have a few minutes of downtime. Companies can capitalize on this lifelong learning trend both by offering engaging courses to the public and by recognizing their employees’ independent learning endeavors.”

But how does an association know if a MOOC is a right fit?

The key is to decide what it wants to accomplish, Tagoras says.

online-educationThe massive nature of MOOCs makes them incredible marketing tools. A MOOC can establish an association as an expert in a topic or field, while also turning curious learners into members. But a word of caution: As with anything new, there’s risk. Associations are often leery about giving away their content for free, but that’s the name of the game when it comes to MOOCs.

The key to creating successful MOOCs, according to Tagoras, is to make content general – to appeal to the masses. While it’s a good idea to showcase your best experts, a MOOC may not be the best option for a specific professional development topic.

In addition, MOOCs probably aren’t going to generate revenue, at least not at first. So it’s best to think of a MOOC as a long-term investment. Rather than making money, an association can build upon a brand while creating ambassadors, who will eventually help recruit members.

Finally, associations need to remember that completion of a MOOC isn’t a sign of its success, Tagoras says. Instead, associations should focus on the takeaways participants get from a MOOC and on the importance of educating the masses.

“While only 6.6 percent of respondents offer MOOCs and only 4.6 percent more plan to begin offering MOOCs in the next year, according to the survey behind our 2014 Association Learning + Technology report, we’re excited about the massive models enabled by MOOCs and expect more associations to embrace it in the coming years, as they realize the ready-built audience of their profession or industry could benefit from a MOOC offering,” Tagoras says.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to MOOCs. You’ll continue to hear about them as more people embrace online learning, and as such, I’ll be doing a couple follow-up posts.

So if your organization offers a MOOC, please contact me. Or if you’re an expert on the subject, please reach out. Have you ever participated in a MOOC? Tell us about it.

10
Jun
14

Post-Relay reflection: passion and public relations

The Event Garde-ians

The Event Garde-ians, from left to right: Jenny Hill, Ashley Jones, Cally Hill, Aaron Wolowiec, Kristen Parker and Sara Mller. All are employees of Event Garde, LLC.

It was 3 a.m. Sunday and I’d been up since 6 a.m. Saturday. By now, the midnight coffee was wearing off and I was punchy.

But the jokes were rolling as Aaron Wolowiec, president and founder of Event Garde, LLC, and I sat in the glare of stadium lights trying to stay awake. We’d been at East Lansing High School for the East Lansing Relay for Life since early Saturday morning. Our team, The Event Garde-ians, decided a year ago that we would do our part to help find a cure for cancer.

Wolowiec sat on the committee and chaired the luminaria event, while I served as a team captain.

So why did we do it?

Because a sleepless night is nothing compared to the battle of cancer. And because each of us on the team has been affected by cancer. I lost my dad and my father-in-law to lung cancer eight years ago. For our team, “Cancer Sucks” is more than a bumper sticker or a magnet – it’s reality.

Our team raised nearly $3,500 and placed fourth out of 20 teams. We walked hundreds of miles, sweated buckets, wore silly costumes and participated in three-legged races in the middle of the night – all in the name of cancer. During the luminaria ceremony, we cried as we remembered loved ones who lost the battle to cancer and celebrated the survivors among us.

Overall, the East Lansing Relay for Life raised more than $44,000 for the American Cancer Society. And while The Event Garde-ians were inspired by personal stories of loss and triumph, we also realized the importance of giving back.

As you may remember from previous blog posts I’ve written, giving back and community engagement are wonderful ways to say “thank you” to the community that supports your organization. And people notice: If a member is trying to decide which association to join, your organization’s commitment to social responsibility could make that decision a bit easier.

“The association community is founded upon the passion, integrity and commitment of members,” Wolowiec said. “As consultants, industry partners and association staff who understand the complexities of volunteer management, it’s incumbent upon us to use our considerable knowledge and expertise to help our local communities organize around and raise money for causes that are poised to imagine a better tomorrow – in this case, one that is cancer free.”

Relay for Life sign

Event Garde was a bronze-level fundraising team for the East Lansing Relay for Life event.

In addition, participating in such events is good – and easy – public relations. In our case, Event Garde was listed as a supporter and a bronze-level fundraising team on an American Cancer Society web site. Event Garde was included in promotional material and mentioned in word-of-mouth conversations. As a committee chair, Wolowiec networked with key community leaders and vendors to earn support.

That’s not all. Event Garde was tagged in social media posts and we engaged media. In fact, I did an interview with WLNS, one of Lansing’s main news outlets, talking about the importance of rallying together to some day find a cure for cancer.

So the next time an event such as Relay for Life comes to town, consider signing up. Your commitment doesn’t have to be expensive; you can easily start a social media campaign. If you choose a well-established organization like American Cancer Society, chances are, vendors will cut you a break – especially if you cross-promote their services.

Poll your members and staff to learn which causes they support and about which issues they’re passionate. If you can, donate to those organizations. Become a sponsor. Form a team and walk at midnight wearing your swag.

And get in front of the camera. Talk about your efforts to support your members’ causes. Don’t be afraid to get personal, because those are the stories your members – and potential members – will remember.

In closing, thank you to everyone who supported The Event Garde-ians’ crusade against cancer. Keep fighting, and we’ll do the same.

Luminarias spell hope

Luminarias spell the word “hope” on the East Lansing High School bleachers.

01
Jun
14

Bonus content: Event Garde e-news – June edition

If you’re not yet signed up for our quick, fun, easy-to-read tips, news and association industry information, click here to join our mailing list.

 

Ashley Jones

Ashley Jones, Event Garde intern

Q & A with Ashley Jones, Event Garde intern

Q: When you’re not working for Event Garde, what keeps you busy?
A: When I’m not working for Event Garde, I am either watching Netflix or spending time with my family in Lansing. Watching Netflix usually wins out.

Q: If you were a superhero, what would your power be?
A: I think if I were a superhero my power would be to be able to stop time. I think being able to stop time and take a quick nap and be able to wake up right where I left off would be the best power in the entire world.

Q: If you had to pick a movie that best captures your life thus far, which would it be, and why?
A: If I had to pick one movie it would probably be, “That Awkward Moment” with Zac Efron in it. My entire life always seems to be one big awkward moment with men and just interactions in general.

Q: What one thing could you absolutely not live without?
A: I think one thing I could absolutely not live without would be pizza and diet coke. I know that’s two things but they go together like peanut butter and jelly so you can’t just have one!

27
May
14

The Connection Factor

Elsbeth Russell

Elsbeth Russell, senior editor, Naylor, LLC

This month’s guest blog post is by Elsbeth Russell, senior editor at Naylor, LLC, who works with association executive clients to produce content-targeted print and online publications. Contact Russell at erussell@naylor.com.

 

As an editor who works exclusively with societies of association executives, much of the content that crosses my desk each day involves different theories and trends based on the same core areas. From generational differences to governance and strategic planning to technology and leveraging data, it’s enough to make your head spin.

I would argue that while each of those areas are important to keeping an association running, the connections that you facilitate – which members can’t get anywhere else – are equally important.

While attending CalSAE’s annual ELEVATE Conference this spring, opening session speaker Sarah Michel, of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting, asked the audience to think of reasons why it would belong to an association. My friend and colleague turned to me and asked about my Twins’ Club and immediately a light bulb went off.

It’s the connection factor.

When my husband and I decided it was time to start a family, we never imagined our journey would include having two babies at the same time. Not one to join clubs or sororities in school, I’ve always described myself as “not a joiner.” Suddenly, though, I found myself searching out groups where I could find others like me.

What I found was a huge community of moms of multiples, ready and waiting to offer advice, support and often just a compassionate ear to listen to questions and comments that only someone in my shoes would understand. I guess I’m a joiner after all.

For an association, the most logical place to start in facilitating these connections is at your events.

I love the idea of a simple survey asking three to five questions that aren’t necessarily conference related. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? Which celebrity would you most like to have dinner with? Keep the answers multiple choice and pair the vanilla lovers and those who’d love to dine with Oprah. This gets the conversation started and builds a sense of community with peers who might have, moments ago, been strangers.

One of my favorite parts about my twins’ group is the fact that I know there are moms to whom I can go for answers anytime I have a question or concern specific to raising identical twin boys. That same concept is easy to replicate by simply polling your members to see in what competency area they’re seeking more knowledge before they attend your event.

Are your members looking for information on marketing? They get a red dot on their nametag. Looking for ways to better utilize their AMS to engage members? They get a blue dot on their nametag. Now let’s connect those dots.

Helping members — and potential members — realize how helpful these connections can be in their everyday life helps make the value proposition for membership clear. It’s important, then, to continue to facilitate the connections even after your event is over.

One group Michel referenced in her session found that the bond it made at the conference became so important that the members found each other online, forming online communities through social media platforms like Facebook and Google+.

Similarly, despite sometimes vast geographical differences, my twins group has forged a bond between its members so strong that many moms have planned meet-ups in centralized cities around the country. I’ve been lucky enough to meet several moms in person during travels to different cities for conferences.

The group Michel mentioned is now planning a reunion at next year’s conference. Are your attendees doing the same?

20
May
14

It’s an emergency! So now what?

Flooding in WellsImagine: Your conference is thriving. Rooms are packed and vendors are happy. Things are going swimmingly well and then it happens. You get the call that one of your attendees had a heart attack and has died.

Imagine again: You’ve taken a chance on a new event venue that sits beautifully on a river. Your vendors seem to love the locale and the packed expo hall. But overnight, the weather turned ugly and a torrential downpour caused the expo hall to flood. And in a matter of minutes, products and displays become waterlogged.

Both these scenarios are very real nightmares for event planners. Crises happen, and there’s nothing you can do – except plan ahead.

So ask yourself: How ready is your association to handle a crisis? If something happens at your next event, do you have communication channels defined? Do you have an emergency management plan?

It’s important food for thought. So important it was the topic of Destination Michigan’s Michigan Meetings Expo 2014, which was held on May 8 at the MotorCity Casino and Hotel in Detroit.

In a session titled “Emergency Action Plans: Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best,” participants swapped stories and advice for emergency management. After the event, Destination Michigan compiled scenarios and recommendations from the idea exchange.

The report includes 10 scenarios: participant death, flooding, ice storms, fire alarm, hospitalized CSM, tornado warning, intoxicated board member, concealed weapon, power outage and unruly protestors.

Let’s take weather, especially ice storms, considering the awful winter we Michiganders experienced. We all remember Icepocalypse and the damage it caused.

It’s best to keep an eye on the forecast and cancel ahead if you can, participants reported. And it’s important to communicate the cancellation via telephone calls, emails and text messages the night before. If you decide to hold the event, make sure to have a plan for no-shows and latecomers. If you cancel, there will be a cancellation fee, and one option for the venue is to apply 50 percent of the cancellation fee to future events – if you reschedule.

Admittedly, social events are participant favorites. Often, there’s a mixer or a reception during a conference, which means there will be lots of alcohol. And sometimes, people overindulge. But what if one of your leaders, i.e. a board member, has a bit too much to drink and becomes unruly?

As an event planner, you should find out with whom the person came to the event and alert him or her. Ask if he or she can help remove the person respectfully and quietly. However you do it, it’s important to get the intoxicated person out of the room, even if it means calling security. At the same time, you should strive to maintain the dignity and reputation of the person, so diffuse the situation delicately and swiftly.

In this scenario, the venue should immediately contact the event planner and stop serving the guest. After informing security, the venue should make sure the intoxicated person has a safe ride home or offer him or her a hotel room.

And the list of scary situations goes on and on. So I encourage you to read Destination Michigan’s peer recommendations for the 10 scenarios.

crisis-communicationAs a trained crisis communicator, I echo all the recommendations but I’d like to remind venues and event planners that communication is key. It’s better to over communicate than hide behind fear, and it’s easier to communicate when there’s a plan in place. Plans should include talking points, messaging, target audiences, a list of stakeholders and other key elements (which I’d be happy to share if you contact me.)

But even if you don’t have a plan, act quickly, think clearly and communicate. Say something, even if it’s just acknowledging the situation and expressing concern.

What other scenarios have you encountered in the meetings industry? If you’d be willing to share your plan, please email me at Kristen@eventgarde.com.

 




meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, hot yoga, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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