Conferences, meetings, and symposia are the hub of an organization, the value-added benefit that lures members in and keeps them coming back for more. SBI supports over 250 events a year, so we turned to some of our staff for their best advice on how to make the most of your association’s event:
- Define and Differentiate: Analyze what makes your conference unique and appealing to attendees. Evaluate what the competition is offering and change up your format to reflect your conference’s unique assets. Find ways to differentiate and offer what no other organization is offering. “Maybe you can expand a traditional one-day conference to a two or three day intensive by teaming up with another regional group. Or, bring in a rock-star speaker whose insights your members are eager to hear,” suggests Louise Miller, a SBI Association Executive. Or, find an opportunity, as have several of our clients, to fulfill an essential industry role, such as providing certification training to meet new state or federal guidelines for the profession.
- Committee v. Task Force? Committees can lose momentum through fatigue or ennui, but several goal-oriented task forces operating on parallel tracks are often able to accomplish distinct “bites” of a larger conference smorgasbord. Activity-specific teams of volunteers can manage each facet of a conference that excites them most: New Members Reception, Trade Show Party, Programming or Break-Out Sessions. “You want people tackling issues and activities that they not only want to, but about which they have knowledge and experience,” Miller continues.
- Doing it All, or Not? There are always sub-groups or special interest groups in any organization. You may even see spinoffs – in the form of a new association or a competing conference. And while their perspective can be exciting or new, some issues can distract from the core mission of your association. Look for ways to bring sub-groups under the “big tent,” because their interests may present new opportunities that benefit your entire membership. Perhaps you turn their issue into a task force with measurable goals or assign the group a time slot or educational track in your upcoming conference. The conference presents a way for everyone to engage in meaningful work that benefits your association and your profession.