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3 Things to Do at This Years Annual Conference to Make Next Years Even Better.

It’s that time again, for the last year you have been writing endless eblasts, going through 50 draft reviews for the conference program guide, and planning every detail of your on-site social media strategy. But, for as much effort you put into marketing an annual conference, what do you get out of it? Seriously? Sure, the conference was a success, registrations were up from last year, the lunch you planned in the exhibit hall was a huge hit, but really, what concrete information can you take away to help you market the next years event?

I know what you’re thinking, another thing to do on-site? In the midst of the conference craze, here are 3 things to do that will result in valuable takeaways, and in-turn help you market next years event even better.

  1.  Talk to your members! Take note of those ribbon colors and have a quick conversation. See a new member? Ask why they joined. See a first time attendee? Ask them how they made the case to their supervisor to get the funding to attend. What would make it easier for them? Did they utilize the justification letter you worked so hard on? Track down a loyal attendee and ask them why they keep coming back. How did they think this years event compared to years past? In their opinion, what is the most pressing issue in your industry? Video this with your phone, or write it down. Testimonials are often more candid and easier to come by when requested at the spur of the moment. Attend a conference social event and actually be social! Introduce yourself to facilitators and speakers. This is an enormous networking opportunity for you and your organization. Don’t just let the event staff have the pleasure of putting a face to a name.
  2. See your collateral in action. Observe your members and how they interact with your collateral. Is your booth or marketing table getting the appropriate traffic? Is there a resource there that could have been communicated more effectively? For those who are visiting, are they taking more of the upcoming event flyers, or more information about your organization’s lobbying efforts? Why are they taking materials? Are they bringing them back to their organization to share? Would they be more likely to see your masterpieces in digital format?
  3. Sit in on a session. This seems like a no brainer, but during annual conference time its all hands on deck. Try to pry yourself away from the registration table or the book store for an hour and sit in on a session with subject matter you know little about. You would be amazed at what you can learn about your audience in an hour. Listen to their questions, this can tell you what is important to them. Hint, you have next week’s blog post or social share.

Your association’s annual conference is as valuable an experience to your members, as it is for you as a marketer. What observations or questions do you ask your members every year? Tweet me at @HeatleyE so I can add them to my list.

3 Things to Do at This Years Annual Conference to Make Next Years Even Better.

It’s that time again, for the last year you have been writing endless eblasts, going through 50 draft reviews for the conference program guide, and planning every detail of your on-site social media strategy. But, for as much effort you put into marketing an annual conference, what do you get out of it? Seriously? Sure, the conference was a success, registrations were up from last year, the lunch you planned in the exhibit hall was a huge hit, but really, what concrete information can you take away to help you market the next years event?

I know what you’re thinking, another thing to do on-site? In the midst of the conference craze, here are 3 things to do that will result in valuable takeaways, and in-turn help you market next years event even better.

  1.  Talk to your members! Take note of those ribbon colors and have a quick conversation. See a new member? Ask why they joined. See a first time attendee? Ask them how they made the case to their supervisor to get the funding to attend. What would make it easier for them? Did they utilize the justification letter you worked so hard on? Track down a loyal attendee and ask them why they keep coming back. How did they think this years event compared to years past? In their opinion, what is the most pressing issue in your industry? Video this with your phone, or write it down. Testimonials are often more candid and easier to come by when requested at the spur of the moment. Attend a conference social event and actually be social! Introduce yourself to facilitators and speakers. This is an enormous networking opportunity for you and your organization. Don’t just let the event staff have the pleasure of putting a face to a name.
  2. See your collateral in action. Observe your members and how they interact with your collateral. Is your booth or marketing table getting the appropriate traffic? Is there a resource there that could have been communicated more effectively? For those who are visiting, are they taking more of the upcoming event flyers, or more information about your organization’s lobbying efforts? Why are they taking materials? Are they bringing them back to their organization to share? Would they be more likely to see your masterpieces in digital format?
  3. Sit in on a session. This seems like a no brainer, but during annual conference time its all hands on deck. Try to pry yourself away from the registration table or the book store for an hour and sit in on a session with subject matter you know little about. You would be amazed at what you can learn about your audience in an hour. Listen to their questions, this can tell you what is important to them. Hint, you have next week’s blog post or social share.

Your association’s annual conference is as valuable an experience to your members, as it is for you as a marketer. What observations or questions do you ask your members every year? Tweet me at @HeatleyE so I can add them to my list.

Elizabeth Heatley

Elizabeth Heatley is the marketing communications associate at AACSB International. She primarily provides support to the member services, seminars, and business development teams including content creation, member engagement/retention strategy, and social and interactive elements of external exhibits. Prior to joining AACSB in 2013 she had the opportunity to work with three membership associations in the Washington, D.C. area. Heatley holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Widener University.