By: Karli Horn, MarCom Coordinator
Each year, association meeting managers are challenged to utilize new technology, engage attendees, increase non-dues revenue and keep the meeting experience top of mind, long after it is over. These are all elements that make a meeting extraordinary and as each year passes, some elements are added and some diminish. Keeping up with the changing environments is key
During the 2013 and 2014 meetings season, several of AH client partners implemented ideas that left an impression on attendees and made the meeting experience a memorable one.
This year, both The Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses’ Society’s (WOCN) annual conference and the World Transplant Congress (WTC) used mobile applications (apps) to assist attendees with their meeting experience. While conference apps have been used for a few years, these particular apps included advanced features such as interactive maps and GPS guidance for the exhibit halls. Attendees were able to use the apps prior to the conferences for registration, as well as building their itinerary. In WTC’s case, after only one week of promotion and with 10 days until the meeting, 800 people had already downloaded the app. These associations were also able to bring in non-dues revenue with sponsorships through their apps.
WOCN utilized live streaming technology to not only benefit members and non-members who could not attend the meeting and be physically present to attend sessions, but also capitalized on the non-dues revenue potential through sponsorship. All sponsors were promoted through emails, Web pages and on-site, which offered a lot of exposure. Archived sessions were also available after the meeting and the society charged for access to view the sessions. As an added educational bonus, members gained CE credits for attending the live stream and/or archived sessions.
In recent years, gamification has become popular, especially at trade shows and large conferences of AH client partners. Gamification is the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate people. Gamification can provide the shared goals and simple rules that will guide a group of people towards collective action. It can motivate people to share their ideas within a community, vote up the best ideas and encourage people to build upon the ideas of others. It is a collaborative, crowd-sourced approach to innovation, which invites people to pull in the same direction and take part in something larger than themselves.
One of the most common games used by AH client partners is a “show floor scavenger hunt.” An attendee receives a bingo-style playing card that must be stamped as they visit each exhibitor on the show floor. Once they have all of their stamps, attendees turn in their card to enter to win a prize at the end. This incentivizes attendees to visit the exhibitors. Gamification has taken off as a top trend of 2014 because it takes activities like visiting exhibit booths and turns it into a game-inspired challenge.
This past year, AH client partner The American Association of Heart Failure Nurses (AAHFN) handed out pedometers to their attendees and held daily contests where the people with the most steps at the end of each day won a prize. It was well-received by attendees and they can also continue using the pedometer long after the meeting is over. This resonated with this group since they were promoting cardiovascular health through a simple contest that everyone could participate in.
AH recently used the concept of gamification in another creative way when developing a presentation for a strategic partner. Participating exhibitors were allowed two slides and one minute to present their organization to attendees during lunch. This was fast-paced, fun and included a quiz and prizes at the end of the lunch. It kept everyone’s attention and since each presenter did something different with their slides, it was intriguing for the entire 30 minutes. Attendees really got into the quiz at the end, knowing that a prize from each exhibitor was coming their way.
LONG LASTING TAKE-AWAYS
Being able to give attendees something to leave the meeting with that will not be forgotten is not an easy task. So many times we attend a conference and come home with a pen or a lanyard and it ends up in “the drawer.” Everyone has that basket or drawer that holds all of your giveaways.
Knowing that few people will take the initiative to get a professional photo taken on their own, WOCN and the American Society of Transplantation (AST) gave attendees the opportunity to have a professional head shot taken during their annual meetings. This quick, easy, long-lasting keepsake was not only inexpensive but practical, and in the AST’s case, allowed them to showcase how important members are to the society while also providing a valuable service. The digital photo files were emailed to individuals after the conference by AST’s membership team, allowing for an additional touch point after the meeting ended. A print of each photo was affixed to an outer wall of the exhibit, which was overflowing with photos by the end of the meeting.
AAHFN also offered a more social photo shoot to their attendees using Hollywood- and New Orleans-themed backdrops to commemorate the 2014 and 2015 meeting locations. Pictures are fun, easy and something that an attendee will want to hold onto and even display. Having New Orleansthemed props and beads helped keep the 2015 meeting top of mind for future attendees so they can plan accordingly.
Getting your conference attendees engaged in different networking and learning forums, aside from regular sessions, is important to keep the energy up.
AH client partner, NADCA, the HVAC Inspection, Maintenance and Restoration Association, held a hands-on session where attendees tested and interacted with some of the large equipment that they might use during the course of cleaning or maintaining HVAC systems. If you’re interested in offering something similar, be sure to check with the hotel/conference venue and understand the rules and regulations before bringing in large pieces.
If large machinery isn’t your thing, consider the Dermatology Nurses’ Association’s (DNA) fashion show that featured sun protective clothing from various sponsors at their annual meeting in 2012. The “S.P.F. Sun Protective Fashion” show heightened awareness for skin cancer and melanoma, increased member participation and resulted in a memorable event for all convention attendees while enhancing the relationship between the DNA and its sponsors. Each clothing sponsor was given the opportunity to grow their revenue by addressing attendees and talking briefly about their clothing/apparel line.
After the event, members said that the show was upbeat and engaging, and inquired about how to volunteer to be a model in the 2014 show. The planning of the show allowed the DNA staff to engage directly with members. As a result of the member outreach, several of the models were not only new members to the DNA, but also first-time convention attendees. Posts related to the fashion show increased social media traffic by 31 percent per fashion-related post. Following the show, members were posting, tweeting and commenting on their own photos as well as photos posted by others. They consistently commented that the event was a fun activity for attendees that broke up their long day of sessions. Sponsors were very happy with the outcome of the show as well as the exposure they received in person and through the DNA’s social media outlets. The DNA successfully raised awareness of the event and its purpose, rallied sponsors and board members behind the cause, increased the value of membership participation and expanded and improved sponsorship relationships while increasing revenue for the DNA. This was a huge way to increase the interactivity between the society, its members, sponsors and volunteers.
A solid educational component is central to an annual conference, but staying on top of fun, new trends is key to keeping members engaged and coming back year after year. Take time to gather feedback after trying something new, and tailor your approach to your audience. All audiences are different, and some trends may resonate with certain groups while others will not. Finding the niche is what makes a memorable meeting experience.