The Future of Events: 5 Lessons From 5 Associations

The past year has been one of consistent change for every industry. Everyone pivoted to work-from-home, and digital solutions became the new normal. But that doesn’t work for everything.

Chances are that your association had an event that needed to be canceled last year. Was your team able to come up with an alternative plan for that event? Or did you simply hope that your members would hold out for your next one in 2021?

We’re less than a month into the new year, and once again, the future of live events looks uncertain.


So how do you combat this disruption?

The obvious answer is to go digital. But that isn’t always as easy as it sounds. At Association.TV, we have spent the last year working with our association clients to successfully transition their live events to virtual solutions and improve member engagement. Today we’re going to share the five lessons we learned over the past year to help you create a digital strategy that includes your events and extends the value of your content.


Lesson #1 – Virtual Events Work 

Digital is here to stay. With increased demand for valuable content, associations had to build events that worked for both their members and their sponsors in a virtual setting. Virtual events proved to be successful in both attendance and profit for associations. We found that digital conferences had significantly higher attendance for many of our clients than their in-person events. One possible reason is that they could now reach people who were not able to travel or normally unable to attend.

Our friends at HARDI had to pivot their annual summit to virtual solutions. This new virtual format allowed for some experimentation in how content was delivered through pre-recorded sessions and a mix of live and on-demand sessions. They were able to include a virtual Master of Ceremonies, live Q&A, chats, polls and online voting to engage members in real time. It also enabled them to lower speaker costs and provide unique sponsorship opportunities through signature banners and 10-minute rapid fire vendor showcases.


Lesson #2 – The Future of Hybrid Events is Harmonized

Virtual events work. In-person events work. Now that members have had the experience, they want the added value, but hybrid has always been too costly. With the flexibility offered by a harmonized event, we found that a blend of live-streaming, pre-recorded, and on-demand content helped reach a wider audience while remaining cost-effective.

For example, if you are only livestreaming, your audience has no choice but to tune in at a specific time to attend a session. This may only reach a small percentage of those actually signed up for your event. On the other hand, if you decide to make the sessions available on-demand after the live session, members will be able to access the content whenever they want, increasing your reach, member engagement, and the ROI to any sponsors you may have. Check out ANFP here.


Lesson #3 – Your Website Needs to be Your Event and Member Hub. 

Most events are not one-time only. But how do you keep your members engaged in between events?  You want to give your members incentive to come back for more next year. A virtual event should drive people to the content on your website. If they’re already there for the event, they’re more likely to stay and view your best content on-demand.  

In addition, your website gives you data on your attendees. Create predictable, familiar behavior for your members and develop a one-stop-shop for resources, continued education, and engagement. By doing this, you can learn what their preferences are, when they engage, and discover which formats deliver the best results. Using all of this information, you can create a more enticing content plan for your association’s future. Check out LEA here.


Lesson #4 – Member Value is the Guiding Light

Everything your association offers should give value to your members. Members are the key to your association’s success, and building a member-centric hub gives you valuable feedback to inform decisions and strategies. You can also provide a survey for your members to fill out to discover what they are expecting to see, both at an event and during the year.

Our friends at MHI (Material Handling Industry)discovered that their members needed access to continued education and on-demand content that they did not have readily available. In order to provide that added value to their members, MHI took their top-performing conference content and broke it down into micro-learning videos, along with a subscription podcast so that members access valuable content in a timeline that worked for them. 


Lesson #5 – Digital Transformation Requires Collaboration

In order to get an accurate idea of how your members are experiencing your content, it’s important to take a step back and analyze from a holistic perspective. This means that marketing, events, membership, and education departments need to collaborate when developing your content strategy and shift from measuring transactions to looking at the engagement your platform creates as a whole. Leveraging all departments allows you to deliver value before, during, and after the event.

For example, AANA (American Association of Nurse Anesthetists) discovered that their members wanted a lower cost of Continued Education through surveys. Their unique solution was to implement a subscription-based model for their content (like Netflix), providing their members with unified access to all the content they needed, whenever they wanted. This also allowed for more measured value to sponsors and exhibitors by leveraging all their departments’ impact on the member experience at once. You want to provide value to members, sponsors, exhibitors, speakers, and staff. This requires collaboration to ensure that everyone’s needs are being met.


You can watch the in-depth discussion of these five lessons with industry thought leader and creator of Association TV®, Dan Stevens, in our webinar: "The Future of Events: 5 Lessons from 5 Associations". Or you can contact us and see how Association TV ® can help you successfully design your next event.



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