Engaging attendees with your association events can seem challenging when you have a small staff. Here’s how small associations can engage event attendees in big ways.

Events can be a powerful tool for your association. They can help you deliver learning and networking opportunities to members and help your organization drive non-dues revenue.

With all that events offer your organization and members, they need to stay vibrant. That means they need to engage attendees from start to finish.

Of course, engaging attendees with your association events can seem challenging – especially when you have a small staff. But even small associations can engage event attendees in big ways.

Here are five great ways to increase event engagement for your association:

1. Fill every event seat.

Get more attendees to your events in the first place. Doing so helps attendees feel as if your event is THE place to be. It helps to build buzz and a “can’t-miss” feeling around your events, keeping attendees more engaged.

One way to make sure you get the greatest number of people to attend your events is to automate your event wait list. By eliminating manual steps from your event wait list process, you can boost the efficiency of your event management and help to ensure you fill every attendee spot for your events.

More people at your events means more opportunities to engage with members and potential members as well as more event revenue for your association.

TIP: Wait list functionality in YourMembership association management software (AMS) by Community Brands helps you remove manual steps in the wait list process by allowing you to set attendee limits, let potential attendees add themselves to the wait list once the limit is reached, and automatically invite the next person on your wait list when a space opens.


2. Engage attendees before, during, and after the event.

Event engagement isn’t just about connecting with attendees at the event. Engagement should start before the event and continue well beyond it.

One highly effective tool for engaging attendees, before, during, and after the event is your online member community. Here are some tips:

  • Drive interest in the event. Promote your event by posting announcements about it in your online community.
  • Start discussions before the event. Create a discussion group in your online community about the event for registered attendees, and then invite them to use the group to talk about the event and connect with each other ahead of time.
  • Offer content previews. Post previews of upcoming event content, such as an outline of a session or short videos from session speakers that offer previews of topics that will be covered. Then, invite members to comment on and discuss their thoughts about the topics in your online community.
  • Encourage discussions during the event. Set up discussion groups in your online community that align with topics from your event sessions. After each session or event, point attendees to the corresponding online community group to discuss ideas from the session. Kick-off discussions by posting questions that get people talking.
  • Keep the conversations going. Watch event-related discussions to find members who are most engaged and experienced on specific subjects, and then invite them to comment and offer insights when those discussion topics come up again in your online community. This is a great way to continue to boost event engagement beyond the last day of the event.

TIP: YourMembership includes functionality to help you develop a thriving online member community. By using the “Quick Announcement” area in the online community, you can easily promote your events. You can also set up discussion groups in your online community so that members with similar interests can share ideas and information with each other.


3. Create “wow” moments to engage event attendees.

Your events must be vibrant to engage attendees. They need to capture attendees’ attention from start to finish. Here are some easy ways to add engaging moments to your events that delight attendees:

  • Schedule lively meal-time activities or sessions that provide a fun break from more intense learning sessions.
  • Offer networking events that connect attendees and get them talking.
  • Provide live entertainment; this can be anything from a band to a cooking class/demonstration.
  • Set up sessions that focus on interviews with industry experts or panel discussions about hot topics in your industry, and set aside time for Q&A with the audience.
  • Use a mobile event app to keep attendees engaged through surveys, polls, and audience response systems that assist with learning, awareness, and overall participation.
  • If you offer a virtual event experience, keep virtual attendees engaged by:
    • Offering virtual-only interviews with industry experts or panel discussions with thought leaders
    • Providing an online green room where virtual attendees can have exclusive access to presenters for Q&A
    • Enabling virtual attendees to make appointments with exhibitors
    • Allowing virtual attendees to ask live questions during sessions
    • Asking registered virtual attendees for questions ahead of time to incorporate live during the session or for a post-session Q&A interview that you stream for virtual attendees

TIP: YourMembership AMS is built for small to mid-size associations like yours and includes robust event management functionality to help you easily create, host, and manage your organization’s events. Using the mobile event app from YourMembership, you can also keep attendees informed and engaged throughout your event.


4. Remember your sponsors.

Your association’s event sponsors are attendees, too. Be sure to give sponsors more opportunities to engage with your events. Doing so helps to demonstrate value to your event sponsors while making all attendees feel more engaged.

Here are some ideas for getting sponsors more engaged with your association’s events:

  • Get them involved with sessions. Many of your sponsors and exhibitors work in your industry and have insights and experience to share. Beyond asking them to sponsor a session, ask them to participate in session development. For example, they might serve on a thought leadership panel, or they might co-develop and present a session.
  • Give sponsors the opportunity to provide videos or ads that you can play on screens between sessions. This allows sponsors to give attendees additional information or entertainment throughout the event.
  • Ask them to share data and resources. Your sponsors and exhibitors might have timely industry data and other resources. Ask them if they have recent research data, papers, articles, or other resources that could be shared with attendees.
  • Invite them to provide giveaways. Offer drawings for prizes throughout the event and ask sponsors to donate items for the giveaways. Be sure to recognize each sponsor as you announce each winner. Another option is to create and promote scavenger hunts that encourage attendees to visit sponsors’ booths to ultimately win prizes. These approaches have the benefit of incorporating a fun element to your event that engages attendees.


5. Ask for feedback.

Send surveys to all of your attendees after the event to get their feedback on your event engagement activities. This will help you find out what engagement activities work and which ones need improvement.

TIP: YourMembership AMS has survey functionality built in, making it easy to build and send targeted surveys and get feedback.


Discover more tips for successful association events.

Even with a small staff, your organization can create engaging experiences for your event attendees. Learn more ways to plan engaging association events. Watch "Making Memorable Events Easier with YourMembership AMS".

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