Creating Immersive Face-To-Face Event Experiences

It’s important for associations to not only provide valuable learning opportunities for attendees at conferences, but also to create a memorable and immersive experience that will keep them coming back for more. Here are a few ideas to consider for your next conference:

Offer diverse and interactive sessions.

Instead of solely relying on traditional lectures, consider offering a mix of panel discussions, workshops, and breakout sessions that allow attendees to actively participate and engage with the content. This could include hands-on exercises, group discussions, and activities that apply the concepts being learned.

Utilise technology.

Leveraging technology can help enhance the conference experience for attendees. This could include using virtual reality to transport attendees to new locations or using augmented reality to bring interactive elements to the physical conference space.

Provide networking opportunities.

Conferences are a great opportunity for attendees to connect with others in their industry. Consider hosting networking events, such as happy hours or group activities, to encourage attendees to make new connections and build relationships.

Partner with local businesses and organisations.

Consider partnering with local businesses and organisations to add an element of the community to your conference and provide attendees with unique experiences. This could include hosting events at local attractions or offering discounts to attendees at nearby restaurants.

Incorporate wellness activities.

Many conferences offer long days of sessions and networking events, which can be physically and mentally draining for attendees. Incorporating wellness activities, such as yoga classes or guided meditation sessions, can help attendees recharge and feel their best throughout the conference.

Offer unique social events.

In addition to traditional networking events, consider hosting social events that offer a unique experience for attendees. This could include a guided tour of a local landmark, a cooking class, or a recreational activity such as bowling or escape rooms.

Make use of attendee feedback.

Solicit feedback from attendees after each conference and use it to make improvements and enhancements for future events. This could include gathering input on session topics, speakers, and overall conference organisation.

By implementing these seven strategies, you can create an immersive and engaging conference experience for attendees. From interactive sessions and the incorporation of technology to wellness activities and gathering attendee feedback, there are many ways to create a memorable conference for all who attend.

Want to learn more? I will be attending and presenting at the Association Event Innovators Retreat in Melbourne (15-17 February). If delivering exceptional events is important to you, then please register. This inspiring event is run by Answers for Associations  and I would love to see you there.

How to Evolve Your Events Faster Than Your Competitors

In the association sector, events are a key element of organisational success, providing opportunities for networking, education, and community building. However, there are many competitors for the time and attention of association members, and it is important for associations to ensure their events are evolving to remain competitive and to keep their members engaged. Following are the key trends associations need to be capitalising on to keep members engaged.

The rise of virtual events

One of the biggest trends in association events is the rise of virtual events, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the way we do business. Virtual events provide associations with an alternative to in-person events and allow them to reach a wider audience by eliminating the need for attendees to travel. Associations can capitalise on this trend by investing in the technology and infrastructure needed to host successful virtual events, and by developing engaging and interactive content for these events. By offering a mix of virtual and in-person events, associations can provide value to members who are unable to travel and remain competitive in a crowded market.

The importance of sustainability

Another trend in association events is an increased focus on sustainability. As the impacts of climate change become more evident, associations are under pressure to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and to take steps to reduce their environmental impact. Associations can capitalise on this trend by incorporating sustainability into their event planning, such as by using eco-friendly materials, reducing waste, and offsetting carbon emissions. By demonstrating their commitment to sustainability, associations can differentiate themselves from competitors and provide value to environmentally-conscious members.

The role of technology

In the digital age, technology is playing an increasingly significant role in association events. This includes the use of virtual events, as mentioned above, but also the use of technology to enhance the in-person event experience. Associations can capitalise on this trend by investing in technology such as mobile apps, social media, and other digital platforms that can help to engage attendees and provide a seamless event experience. By leveraging technology, associations can create more interactive and engaging events that stand out in a crowded market and provide value to tech-savvy members.

The need for flexibility and agility

In a rapidly changing world, it is important for associations to be flexible and agile in their event planning. This may involve being prepared to adapt to changes in the market, technology, or regulatory environment, and being willing to pivot to alternative formats such as virtual events if necessary. Associations can capitalise on this trend by being proactive in their planning and by being prepared to adapt to change as needed. By being flexible and agile, associations can remain competitive and provide value to members who are looking for events that are responsive to their needs.

The importance of personalisation and customisation

Another trend in association events is the importance of personalisation and customisation. Attendees increasingly expect events to be tailored to their individual needs and preferences, and associations that are able to deliver on this expectation are likely to be more successful. Associations can capitalise on this trend by offering a range of options and activities that allow attendees to customise their event experience, and by collecting and using data to personalise the event experience for individual attendees. By providing a personalised and customised experience, associations can differentiate themselves from competitors and provide value to members who are looking for events that are tailored to their needs.

The role of experiential marketing

Experiential marketing, which involves creating immersive experiences for attendees, is another trend in association events. This can include incorporating interactive elements, such as workshops or hands-on activities, or creating a memorable atmosphere or setting for the event. Associations can capitalise on this trend by developing experiential elements that align with their brand and mission, and that provide value to attendees. By creating immersive and engaging experiences, associations can stand out in a crowded market and provide value to members who are looking for events that are more than just a series of presentations.

The need for data and analytics

Data and analytics are playing an increasingly key role in association events. By collecting and analysing data on attendees and event performance, associations can make informed decisions and better understand the needs and preferences of their audience. Associations can capitalise on this trend by investing in tools and technologies that allow them to collect and analyse data, and by using this data to inform their event planning and decision-making. By using data and analytics, associations can create more targeted and relevant events that provide value to members and help to keep them engaged.

In a crowded and competitive market, it is important for associations to ensure their events are evolving to remain relevant and valuable to their members. By capitalising on the trends above, associations can create engaging events that will ensure the ongoing success and relevance of your association.

Want to learn more? I will be attending and presenting at the Association Event Innovators Retreat in Melbourne (15-17 February). If delivering exceptional events is important to you, then please register. This inspiring event is run by Answers for Associations  and I would love to see you there.

JOURNAL: Associations Evolve: 2023 & Beyond Journal Released

We are excited to announce the release of Associations Evolve: 2023 & Beyond Journal, a compilation of articles from over 50 association thought leaders from around the globe.

This journal offers a unique perspective on the future of associations and the role they will play in shaping industries and communities. From innovative ideas for growth and sustainability to strategies for adapting to changing environments, the articles in this journal provide valuable insights and inspiration for association professionals.

As the association landscape continues to evolve, it is important for professionals to stay informed and stay ahead of the curve. The Associations Evolve: 2023 & Beyond Journal is a must-read for anyone looking to drive positive change and impact within their organisation. Get your copy today and join the conversation on the future of associations.

JOURNAL: Associations Evolve: 2022 & Beyond

Forty-six association experts from around the world have collaborated to produce a collection of articles showcasing contemporary thinking on governance, membership, revenue, events, and much more.

This is a great resource for those looking for inspiration and motivation to make 2022 your best year ever. It makes great holiday reading for those who are feeling particularly enthusiastic (tip: this publication pairs well with red wine and cheese).

Download “Associations Evolve: 2022 & Beyond”

This publication is part of our Associations Evolve project which looks for ways to help associations to thrive into the future. 

Thanks to Beau Cummin from Visual Traffic for his fabulous work designing this publication, Northern Territory Business Events for their great support of this project, and all our wonderful contributors.  

We hope you will find this collection of articles from experts in the association space as informative, inspiring, and motivating as we did. 

All the best for a fun and relaxing break over the festive period. I hope you arrive back at work refreshed and ready for an awesome 2022.

Warm regards,

Association Event Trends

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.  

WHITEPAPER: Association Apocalypse

The operating landscape of associations is undergoing a seismic shift. Associations need to act now to ensure they can navigate these shifts to emerge stronger and more relevant than ever before. In my new whitepaper, Association Apocalypse, you can read more about the:

  • Six fundamental shifts occurring in the association operating landscape,
  • Three key models associations will need to re-invent, and
  • Eleven core operational enablers associations must get right along the way.

This whitepaper has been designed to assist association leaders to understand the scale of the change coming and create a platform for productive discussions within their associations about appropriate pathways forward. If you have more questions please feel free to contact us to find out how we can assist.

Read the whitepaper.