Boost association annual conference attendance

Embassy Suites in Rogers is perfect place for your next meeting, with plenty of room for a small board or staff meeting, or a larger company meeting or convention

Phase II of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) Decision to Attend study surveyed 9,000 conference attendees from a cross section of organizations. 92% said they attend for education, 78% for the destination, and 76% for the networking opportunities. How are you thinking about these three critical factors in order to build your attendance? Looking for a few tips? 

1.  Education—Are you content marketing? 

Chances are your events wouldn’t be financially viable without top notch industry relevant content. However, how actively are you leveraging that in your marketing strategy? A simple way to dip your toe in the water with content marketing is to ask attendees at the event or in a post event survey for a quote or key takeaway from a session that stuck with them. That is valuable material for social media posts when promoting next year’s conference. During Destinations International’s 2018 Annual Conference, Cindy Decker, the VP of Market Strategy for Visit Houston, said something specific that hit home for me that would be perfect to use in a social post promoting next year.

2. Destination—Safety and cleanliness as important as accessibility? 

Transportation options to a community were important to 89% of respondents to the IAEE study. Planners have always known location and ease of access can make or break attendance for an event. 89% and 86% ranked the safeness and cleanliness of a destination, respectively, as important to making the decision to attend a conference. Some destinations may have more direct flights or may be a shorter drive for most of the membership, but as important as that is, it is equally important to your attendees that they feel safe at your event. 

In Rogers and Northwest Arkansas, we are proud to emphasize safety in our community, as our crime statistics are significantly lower than the regional average. They don’t always tell the full story, but be sure to search the crime rates in whatever city you are considering hosting an event in. Cleanliness is a little harder to directly compare when weighing destination options that are new to you. While the best way is to evaluate in person, if that isn’t an option look at online reviews or ask a colleague that has planned an event in that destination before. Or you can ask the local CVB representative to connect you with an event planner familiar with the area. 

3. Networking—Are you providing opportunities for interaction?

49% of Gen Y Millennials rated networking as very important, the highest of all generations. It is important to give attendees plenty of opportunities to get to know each other through exercises and a variety of projects that facilitate interaction. Some groups ask repeat attendees to reach out to others via email beforehand to promote relationship-building. Getting to know at least one person is vital so that attendees feel comfortable with someone there that can introduce them to new contacts and help to build their professional network.

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