As an Association, you know that your organization lives and dies on the success of your Annual Meeting. For years, Associations have been trying to find ways of increasing attendance to their meeting. Today, most meeting attendance is dictated by the location and the state of the economy.
If your marketing effort consists mainly of sending out brochures and emailing your members a link to your conference web site, I would like to share with you several ways that you can step up your marketing game that will positively impact your physical attendance and grow your face-to-face meetings.
1) Build Relationships
Many professionals attend your event to see old friends, keep up on business relationships or establish new connections. Whether I go or not could be impacted by whether other people go that I want to see. By running online events (Webinars, Re-Broadcasts, etc.) throughout the year you provide the ability for people to build relationships with people they know and establish new relationships with people they meet online. Professionals meeting online usually have a yearning to meet face-to-face at some point. Your annual Meeting is the perfect place. Increase your online community and watch your face-to-face events grow as well.
2) Create a Promotional Video
If you haven’t done so already, a promotional video is a key ingredient to promote your conference and generate new attendees. Video allows for you to share the “emotional factor” that takes place at your event with those that are not coming. Passion draws other people in, and when people see other people with passion, they want to be part of that experience. There are lots of ways you can use a promo video – on your web site, in social media, attached to emails or as part of your newsletter. Today, we are in a video world, especially if you are trying to reach the millennial generation, who are all about video.
3) Re-Broadcast Sessions
If you have recorded sessions from last year’s conference, re-broadcast those sessions on a monthly basis as a free Webinar for your members. Attach your promotion for your next conference to these Webinars. As you get closer to the conference, start offering discounts to those who attend the Webinar. This will help you build your online community, which will convert to physical attendees.
4) Live Stream Your Meeting
I know what you are thinking, if I live stream my meeting then people won’t come. That’s not going to grow my meeting, it will shrink it. Well, the truth is, that what actually happens is the opposite of that. Associations live streaming their meeting have seen very little cannibalization and in fact has allowed them to reach a new market of people not being reached by typical marketing materials. Just like the video factor, experiencing your conference live makes people want to be there next year. In fact, many Associations have reported as much as 30% of their virtual audience has attended their physical meeting the following year. That may not seem like a large number, but an extra 30-60 people attending every year adds up.
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5) Utilize Social Media
By now you have read article after article on the benefits of social media and the good news is, it’s true. Utilizing Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other popular social media avenues will connect you to those people who live in those environments. If you are trying to reach your next generation of members, you need to be where they are, so they see, hear and get, your message. By using these tools, you are also demonstrating that you are a forward thinking Association that is designed to meet the needs of professionals in their 20’s and 30’s, not just an Association for professionals in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. This is an important part of reaching and attracting new members.