What Associations Can Learn from Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

For years, associations have been satisfied with an industry average of only 15% of members attending their annual conference1. With a strong economy, this has been enough to satisfy revenue expectations for most associations. However, when the economy shifts, (like in 2008) many associations feel an impact on all areas, including event attendance. 

Well, COVID-19 is showing us that it is not just the economy that can impact attendance and engagement. We are already starting to see the impacts of Coronavirus:

  1. One of our global clients (and many others across the industry) has canceled their largest international event - a big decision, but the safety of attendees, partners, speakers, and staff must always prevail.
  2. Some associations are implementing robust health safety measures for those who are attending. 
  3. A fear of traveling is starting to be seen in lower registration numbers for upcoming events, and lower attendance rates. 
  4. Some locations are even refusing to admit entrants until there is more evidence that Coronavirus is under control – or even better – there is a cure.
  5. For more information, review Association Now’s Coronavirus tracker, ASAE’s Issue Roundup, and a collection of stories from Association Forum. (Additional resources at the bottom of this post.)

As most associations depend on their largest events to provide the non-dues revenue needed to succeed, you now need to become more agile, and able to respond to changes in demand caused by situations outside of your control.

Additionally, associations should not be complacent - i.e. accepting of a 15% or less attendance level at conferences. This may be fine for event revenue, but it is not the best way to maximize partner (exhibitor and sponsor) satisfaction, or member engagement and retention. (85% of your members miss out on your best annual content!) Without this experience and education, your members are at risk of not renewing and may seek other alternatives.

It is time for every association to have a “Digital Event Strategy!” 

This includes livestreaming and after-event content consumption. The strategy should impact the 3R’s (retention, recruitment, and revenues) that are near and dear to every association. 

By recording or livestreaming your event, you can provide access to key content (but not necessarily all content) for registrants who are not able to make it in person. You can provide paid access to members who didn’t register for the event or non-members who are considering joining. This positively impacts recruitment and retention, while creating a new revenue stream. By integrating key sponsors, exhibitors, and partners into the programming, you can provide measurable exposure opportunities and increase their value as well. Finally, when allowing remote attendees to participate with polls, chats and questions, (through services like Conferences i/o) you will increase engagement and therefore retention.

We know livestreaming is not the same as being there in person. But it provides the next-best alternative to improving engagement with your event content and maximizes revenues – when we are in crisis and when we are not. 

By expanding access to your content through livestreams and on-demand viewing, a larger percentage of your membership base is able to experience the event content that you spend hours-and-hours curating, and your partners receive the exposure they desire.

Now, for the promotional part - Here’s how we can help:

Association TV® (by WorkerBee.TV, Inc.) has the ability to livestream from many major locations in the world using our global crews and online platform. When capturing a session for livestreaming, we are also able to record that content and repurpose it for distribution post-event - in video, audio and text, as desired. Our online video and podcast platform makes it easy for you to monetize this content with pay-per-view, sponsorship, and in-video solutions, to maximize revenue and sponsor value. 

Above all, we hope for a cure and control of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). We also hope for healthy event attendance for all associations. Finally, we hope that associations can be agile (when in crisis, and when not) and embrace digital change to continue to provide their members with excellent content. At Association TV® our purpose is to constantly search for ways to help associations become more profitable, purposeful and predictable – even when faced with adversity.

We are here to help. 

Contact us today to learn more.



Daily Coronavirus Tracker, Association Now

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Emergency Preparedness and Response: Coronavirus (COVID-19), U.S. Travel Association

Issue Roundup: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), ASAE

Coronavirus Resources, Meetings Mean Business

Lead Your Business Through the Coronavirus Crisis, Harvard Business Review

Cancellations and deferrals: How global agencies are reacting to coronavirus, Conference & Incentive Travel


(1) ASAE Experience Institute
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