Following is a summary of a recent presentation I delivered on Association Event Trends
When COVID-19 hit most associations responded by replicating their existing events online. Most had a very positive experience and intend to integrate online events into their regular programming.
However, many also realised that most face-to-face formats don’t lend themselves to an online format. Some of the key challenges include:
- Engaging attendees effectively (overcoming the “Zoombie” effect)
- Demonstrating compelling value to sponsors.
- Differentiating in a highly competitive market (where free content is easily available.
To overcome these challenges, many associations are experimenting with different online delivery formats to determine those that work best for their members. These are now evolving rapidly to create entirely new types of events.
Online events are a powerful activation tool that can be used as a pathway to generate more delegates to face-to-face events. Many association staff are now reviewing their entire event strategy to determine how to best integrate online and offline to create a seamless ongoing experience for members. It’s a shift from having a number of one-off events towards a 365-day-a-year calendar of engagement opportunities.
Associations are keen to run face-to-face events again and will do so once the COVID-19 crisis is over. However, these will look somewhat different than before as associations will be looking to:
- Construct an events schedule that integrates online, face-to-face and hybrid events,
- Overcome delegate concerns about COVID,
- Ensure their face-to-face events create a delegate experience that far exceeds what they could get online, and
- Generate a surplus to ensure online and offline activities are sustainable.
There is no question that navigating the COVID
crisis has been enormously stressful and challenging for many. However, the
innovations required during this time have led to fundamental changes to the
way associations structure their event programming.
These will have a long term and highly positive impact on the quality and variety of events available for members – and the ability of associations to create a tangible, positive and compelling impact on those members.