While it’s fair to say that people don’t actually dread meetings, they do dread poorly run meetings and ones where nothing gets done. In the conference format, a stuffy chain hotel and talking heads discussing the usual subjects doesn’t get people excited. It’s also tougher than ever to justify time out of the office and expenses. For trade organizations that traditionally use industry meetings to bring together members, share best practices and raise revenue, it’s important to bear this in mind. Evolving practices around conceptualizing meetings, making them more valuable and enjoyable, and enhanced technological capabilities may enable you to attract younger attendees and reinvigorate the interest of your current members in attending your trade organization events.
Today’s technologies enable trade organizations to set up a dedicated registration page. With just a couple of clicks, attendees can reserve their spot, submit their information, provide payment via credit card, and elect to participate in special sessions. Hassle free registration is a big selling point. Fewer attendees are willing to go through complex registration processes that require phone calls, mailing in paper forms, or sending payment by check. Implementing a simple, affordable technology to streamline registration can yield big returns.
Studies have shown that millennials are more willing to attend events that have lower registration costs. In a tight economy where professional development and events are a luxury, lower costs help companies on tight budgets participate. It’s also easier for individual members to convince employers that they’re likely to see a return on investment for their costs incurred. Lower costs further open up membership to a wider group of people, increasing the diversity and wealth of experiences available through your membership.
Personalized educational opportunities
More and more, successful events are focused on micro-offerings that allow for specific educational tracks and custom attendee experiences. Attendees are able to listen to specific areas that interest them, and as such are likely to get more value out of attending your event. Conferences and industry events can accomplish this in multiple ways, including offering different content tracks; hands on workshops; and customized consultations with industry professionals. The more customized your offerings are to your attendees needs, the more your meetings will move from the “I should go” category to the “I must go” category.
Technology has evolved significantly to allow conferences to offer members many different features to enhance the event experience. Some include the ability to connect with other attendees via social media networks prior to the event. Others use social media accounts to share insights from conferences during key sessions and events. Another approach that has proved popular is conference specific apps that allow users to download schedules, customize their itinerary, and keep track of notes all on their mobile devices.
Envisioning a new format for conferences, meetings, and workshops requires creativity and imagination. But changing the way that your trade organization offers these services can increase attendance, attract younger members, and provide a better overall experience for your membership.