Meeting and event planning is often discussed and executed in the corporate world, but for those in association management, planning and implementing strategic events and meetings is just as critical. Associations, primarily comprised of board and voluntary members, rely on events to implement their missions and visions, as well as communicate important information. There are millions of associations in the U.S. alone—more than 1.9 million, to be exact, according to stats published in 2009 by The Center for Association Leadership (and imagine the growth in the last 8 years!).
Numbers aside, associations often have similar goals to corporations: build brand recognition, engage and empower employees and brand ambassadors, and use meetings or events to help share critical information like business goals and what’s ahead for the organization.
And that’s why it’s just as important for those in association management to ensure they’re working with qualified, innovative and strategic event and meeting partners. Take annual association meetings, for example a yearly gathering of marketing managers or health and fitness professionals. These are incredibly important opportunities to not only gather people that are scattered across the U.S. and the globe, but also to update them on what’s happening in the association, what’s coming up and how they can get (or stay) involved.
If your association has hosted past annual meetings, it’s easy to fall into a routine of developing an event formula and sticking to it without much adapting or innovating. After all, associations are sometimes challenged with tighter budgets and less staff (and time) than a corporation, which can make hosting an entertaining, engaging and memorable meeting seem downright impossible.
Yet that’s where a strategic event and meeting planning partner comes in. It’s a relationship that goes beyond that of merely a vendor and client. Instead, your meeting and event partner should be just that—your partner, ally and advocate. They should understand your association, your membership base, your goals and your event. They’ll work with you to understand what you want to accomplish during your event or meeting—not only what you want attendees to learn, but what you want them to do both during and after the event. They should push you to dream big, yet understand possible constraints on your vision (budget, for example).
They’ll also help ensure your attendees enjoy a truly unforgettable experience. The Center for Association Leadership reported that 44 percent of professionals surveyed said they anticipated an increase in the miles they travel to association meetings. Your members quite literally make an investment in your association—and, in return, you should give them a chance to connect with your association and its members in a way that’s as empowering as it is memorable.
Beyond meetings and events, your event partner should also be prepared to help you excel at other association-related tasks—membership management, for example. It’s not easy to keep track of a growing membership base, especially one that spans the globe. A trusted partner with deep experience in strategy, vision and logistics can help give you solutions that make membership tasks like communication and dues tracking simpler, more streamlined and more cost-effective.
As your next association event or meeting approaches, now is an ideal time to reexamine not just the event itself, but the people and companies that help make it happen. Are there opportunities for improvement? A chance to break out of a rut and do something different?
It also helps to think about what you want to accomplish at your next meeting or event, then check to be sure you have the partners in place that can make that vision a reality. A growing demand for experiences continues to drive the evolution of annual meetings and events, and with a strategy-minded partner at your side, your association can help lead the way in delivering a remarkable meeting or event that transcends traditional conferences and gatherings. Take this opportunity to do a bit of brainstorming. And when you’re done, we’d love to hear what you came up with—then we’ll show you how we can make it happen.