Content Marketing For Associations

 

Article Contents:

 

Developing a plan to promote your event is a critical part of conference planning. Marketing can be expensive and time-consuming, and consumers are increasingly skeptical of traditional advertising. This is where content marketing comes into play.

Content marketing is the practice of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract and engage a target audience. This method goes hand-in-hand with your goal as an association: to educate industry professionals and association members.

Luckily, as an event planner, you have a secret weapon: you sit on a goldmine of valuable information. This allows you to:

  • Connect with professionals looking for industry-specific information
  • Remind members of the value your association provides year-round
  • Build awareness of your conference and other events
  • Extend the life of the materials you work hard to collect

These shiny knowledge-nuggets are not something you have to go mining for; they are already at your fingertips.

Why Content Marketing Works for Associations

Content marketing has become one of the most popular ways for organizations to promote themselves online. Associations have some unique advantages when it comes to content marketing:

  • You have existing material. The biggest barrier to content marketing is creating new material. Your existing library of content gives you a head start.
  • Your review process provides authority. You can be confident that your peer-reviewed materials are insightful. This can be especially handy if you are not a subject matter expert.
  • You have access to the latest thinking. Your conference is an industry leader in providing timely, relevant information, allowing you to continue your role as a thought leader throughout the year.
  • You get feedback from the industry. Your conference feedback can provide insight into which topics are most in-demand. Think of this as “focus group” input on the material in your collection.

Reusing your existing content allows you to give your content a second life and extend its use beyond your conference. Using actual event content gives potential attendees a glimpse of the kinds of material at your conference so they can see for themselves why yours is a “can’t miss” event.

Develop a Content Marketing Plan

The first step in launching a content marketing campaign is assessing your existing materials. Determine what kind of content you have available and where it will be located. Your association’s website may seem like a good idea at first, but as time goes on, content can get lost or buried as the site gets updated. It’s best to create a standalone digital conference library. This will give visitors an idea of the broad range of information they can rely on your conference for.

It’s also important to determine a schedule that you will be able to follow. Be realistic. Will you be able to consistently post two pieces of content each week? Or is one piece of content every two weeks more likely? The rate that you choose is less important than your ability to stay on schedule. Readers stay engaged with a blog or social media profile that is updated on a regular basis.

Now that you’ve identified the most relevant materials and decided on how much time you can devote to sharing content online, you’ll need to consider the best ways your association can reach its followers. How can you make your content clickable? One way to effectively grab your readers’ attention is by using images.

Create Images for Social Media

The web is becoming an increasingly visual medium. Adding visual elements to your posts is one of the most effective ways you can increase the impact of your messaging. In fact, posts that include images see 650% more engagement than posts with just text alone.

Here are three conference-specific scenarios where visuals would be an effective way to promote your event. For each scenario, there is an example of an online tool well-suited for creating attention-grabbing artwork with minimal effort.

Scenario #1 – Promote a session by a prominent speaker

The speakers at your conference are a major factor in drawing in attendees each year, so it should be no surprise that speakers make for effective promotional content.

Imagine you’ve just finished your speaker selection process and are ready to announce the keynote speaker. You could certainly type out a post listing their names and the topics they will be discussing (Borrrrrr-ingggg!). A much more engaging approach is to present the same information with a visual design to it.

The Tool #1: Pikiz

Pikiz is an image creator that is perfect for creating simple images that include text. Upload your own background image or choose from the images they have available. Then, double-click on the text box to add a customized message. Another great feature is that each social network has its own preset. This makes it super simple to post great-looking images to your favorite site.

 

Scenario #2 – Present research findings as an infographic

A presentation from last year’s conference coincides with some hot new research that is making the rounds. You know this is a great opportunity to join the conversation and promote your event. Since the presentation is available in your digital content library, it’s ready for people to see. But how do you make sure your post stands out from the crowd of others? Use the findings from the presentation and display it as an infographic!

The Tool #2: Infogr.am

Creating an infographic is a simple three-step process with infogr.am. Choose a design template, enter your data into their spreadsheet viewer and click share. That’s it! The program will create a shareable link to the social media site of your choice. You can also upload your own images or choose different fonts if you want a more customized design.

 

Scenario #3 – Call for award nominations using your own branded graphic

Part of your annual pre-event strategy is to ask for award nominations. You could do what you’ve always done: copy and paste the same text on the same social media networks and get the same results. Or, you can take it to the next level by creating a completely custom design (no designer needed)!

Tool #3: Canva

Canva is like working with a design pro that has dozens of designs ready for you to choose from (but doesn’t charge by the hour). Once you log in to Canva, you’ll see dozens of customizable templates sorted by format. Whether you are looking to create an image for social media, your blog or a poster, Canva has a file ready for you to start designing with. It’s also flexible enough to work with your existing elements. Just add your association logo, a picture of the award and text asking for nominations. You then have the option to share online or download.

 

Catch Their Eye

A well-designed image is critical in catching the attention of busy professionals, so having a visual presence online these days is essential. Presenting your existing content visually is a great way to keep your event in front of the attendees you want to attract.

Thankfully, the web is full of fast and intuitive ways to create custom graphics. With little effort, you can create designs that convey your message in an interesting and engaging way, and most importantly, in a way your audience enjoys seeing.

The next step is sharing those images and other content on platforms that will help you build and connect with your audience.

Promote Your Event on Social Media

Social media platforms are great hosts for content marketing pieces, particularly visuals. The best part about social media is that it’s not only for sharing content—it’s also great for building communities of like-minded people, just like your association! Each platform has its own strengths, so it’s important to assess these and plan content accordingly when designing a content marketing strategy. Below are a few of the most popular social media platforms to get you started.

Instagram

Another platform that’s useful for engaging members is Instagram, a photo and video-sharing social media app. Instagram is great for sharing eye-catching graphics and photos to promote your event and attract potential attendees. Users can accompany their photos with captions and hashtags, which help the posts be seen by non-followers.

Instagram is popular with your youngest members, making it the ideal platform for appealing to Millennials and Generation Z. By sharing posts on Instagram, you have a much higher chance of attracting and engaging a younger demographic to your conferences than on other platforms like Facebook. The most important aspect to Instagram is to make sure your posts are visually appealing and include appropriate hashtags to make sure they are seen.

Twitter

Twitter can be a fantastic tool for event professionals. Its design works well for promoting a conference or creating year-round awareness of your association. Being active on Twitter lets you connect with industry thought-leaders and attendees on a platform that they prefer.

Using original and industry hashtags, retweeting interesting industry sources and sharing quotes and links to your association’s content can transform your Twitter feed into a hub of relevant, valuable industry information. This way, you can keep current members engaged while attracting future members from other parts of the industry.

Twitter is also a great place for personal engagement with industry experts, your conference speakers and your members. Mention speakers in tweets; follow and retweet thought leaders; and like, retweet and reply to your follower’s tweets to create a sense of community while spreading the word about your event.

 

Snapchat

To reach younger members, try using Snapchat to promote your next conference. Snapchat is a particularly useful social media platform during your event, but can also be used before the conference to build anticipation. Snapchats stories, which last for 24 hours, allow you to share behind-the-scenes photos and videos of event set-up. Your speakers can also “take over” your stories to share some insider information about their presentations or industry topics.

A branded Geofilter can be designed specifically for your event and applied the day of the conference, so your attendees can use it when sending snapchats to their friends or story throughout the day. Not only will the Geofilter feel exclusive due to its limited availability, helping engage your attendees, but it can help spread the word about your association.

 

Facebook

Facebook is one of the most-used social media platforms across all age groups, which makes it the perfect place to provide event information and promote the sharing of your conference. Create a Facebook Page for your association where you can post conference information and other content.

You can also create a Facebook Event for your conference and invite current members, encouraging them to invite people who may be interested, as well. This is a free and easy way to spread the word and potentially reach new members through current advocates of your association.

 

Discover Your Audience’s Interests

Now you know that using conference content as a marketing tool is a great way for your audience to learn about your event and the value it provides.

But did you know that it can also be a great way for you to learn about your audience?

By analyzing the data from your content marketing posts, you can learn a number of important things about your audience. First, you can see what parts of the world your visitors come from; this can help you find speakers from those particular regions to boost attendance at your annual event. You can also identify which sites or platforms best connect you with your members, helping you tune your messages on the most critical platforms moving forward.

Most importantly, you’ll be able to identify which types of content your visitors prefer. This feedback can guide future conference planning as well as future content marketing efforts to best connect you with your audience.

Content marketing can also inform you about your own content. By recognizing what messaging is most effective with your audience, you will be better prepared for conference promotion techniques. Additionally, analytics can teach you which topics generate the most interest among your followers; consider including these topics in your next conference event.

Use the information you gain from your content marketing plan to inform future events, connect with key members and create a more successful content marketing strategy overall.

Make Your Content Work Year-Round

The whole point of content marketing is to show your followers you have value to offer with tangible pieces of content you’ve worked hard to collect. Choose the platforms that best connect with your audience and help your association achieve goals, whether that includes your website, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat or one of the many others available online. Most of the content you share can be used across multiple platforms, giving you lots of opportunities to reach new people and prove the value of your event all year long.

If you’re interested in how to take your association’s content marketing strategy to the next level, download our free whitepaper, “Promote Your Event With Conference Content Marketing.”

What Facebook’s New “Fundraiser” Pages Mean for Associations & Nonprofits

About two months ago, Facebook announced that it would be creating a Social Good team, with the purpose of building tools that will help contribute to good causes around the world. In typical Facebook style, they have wasted no time announcing a new tool with the release of “Fundraiser” pages for the sole purpose of helping nonprofits ‘reach new supporters, engage their community and get the valuable funding they need to continue their good work.’ (source: http://newsroom.fb.com/news/2015/11/introducing-new-tools-for-nonprofits/)

The Details

First of all, it looks like they’ll require your organization be a US-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Fundraisers are meant specifically for nonprofit organizations for a specific campaign. This could be anything from raising funds for homeless in your area, or maybe building clean water wells in impoverished areas. Whatever your organization’s great cause may be, this is a fantastic way to leverage social media and the community you’ve built to support it. Those who wish to support your cause will now be able to donate without having to leave Facebook with a newly improved Donate button.

Here are the Features via Facebook:

Reach more people who care

  • Share fundraisers with Page followers
  • Invite key supporters to join
  • Anyone can share a fundraiser and invite friends

Engage Your Supporters

  • Add photos and videos to tell your story
  • Start a discussion and encourage others to post
  • Provide updates and let supporters know when you reach a goal

Increase Donations

  • People can donate in a few taps, without leaving Facebook
  • Customize donation amounts and collect funds from all around the world
  • Donors can share that they’ve donated, and all shared posts have a Donate button

What It Means for Associations & Nonprofits

So what does this truly mean for associations and nonprofits? Here are 3 ways this new tool will help your cause:

1) Ease of Access, Ease of Donating: If you’ve ever been part of a fundraiser in today’s digital age, you know one of the biggest setbacks associations and nonprofits face is allowing simple access for donaters to sign up and contribute. Some times they are required to create an account, which takes up their valuable time. With Facebook Fundraisers, a majority of contributors (1.55 billion monthly active users) will already have an account. They will simply login to their Facebook account, hit donate, and their done. That’s easy!

2) Leverage the Mobile Movement: Another one of the biggest hurdles that online fundraisers face is finding a program that is mobile-friendly for the thousands of different devices that are out there. Since this tool is built within Facebook, that’s not a worry because Facebook is a leader in user-experience and mobile-friendliness.

3) Centralized Donation Collection: No more trying to figure out how much you’ve raised between the five or six different programs you’ve had to use to collect donations. You can now use Fundraisers as your centralized donation collector, and send all interested contributors to your page. Never doubt how effective your campaign is again.

Learn How Your Organization Can Start Raising Funds

Although Facebook is only currently testing this capability with 37 partner organizations, you can still get more information by visiting Facebook’s Charitable Giving page.

Is Your Annual Conference Fulfilling Your Attendees’ Needs?

Conference attendees expect a lot out of your association’s annual event, don’t they? So, how do you make sure you are not only meeting your attendees’ expectations, but exceeding them?

If you took a Psych 101 class back in college, I’m sure you learned about Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” theory states that human motivation is based on individuals seeking fulfillment and change through personal growth. Further, Maslow explained that an individual could not achieve needs at the top of the hierarchy before meeting the basic needs at the bottom of the hierarchy.

As a meeting professional, you understand planning an annual conference is about more than booking a venue and choosing a caterer. It’s about creating an experience where industry professionals can take away vast knowledge from experts to share with and improve their organizations.

Conference Attendees’ Hierarchy of Needs

Here’s how Maslow would explain how to create the full attendee experience at your annual meeting:

Hierarchy of conference attendee needs

5 Steps to Fulfilling Your Attendees’ Hierarchy of Needs

Step 1: Physiological

This is the no-brainer. In order to meet your attendees’ most basic needs, you need to provide food, beverage and rest. Food and beverage can be taken care of by booking a caterer, but are your conference sessions scheduled back-to-back? Make sure you add 15-minute breaks throughout the day to allow conference attendees to get a drink of water, recharge their brains or use the restroom without having to miss out on speaker presentations!

Step 2: Safety

Again, this is a meeting planning basic. You need to provide a shelter for your annual conference to give your attendees a sense of safety and well-being. Choosing a safe venue with nearby lodging for overnight stays in critical. And, as you know, holding your actual conference at a hotel where attendees can stay ensures their ultimate comfort and safety.

Step 3: Belonging

Once the basic needs are met, it’s important to fulfill your attendees’ social needs. One of the main reasons attendees go to your annual meeting is to network with other industry professionals, so make sure you are scheduling plenty of networking time!

Step 4: Esteem

Next, you need to make sure attendees feel confident, accomplished and respected. You should always be looking for opportunities to allow attendees to contribute to your conference. Sessions should consist of two-way conversations between the speakers and attendees. They should engage with games, surveys and break-out sessions. Your conference should also have an active Twitter hashtag for the event along with an event mobile app to get attendees to participate and contribute virtually.

Step 5: Self-Actualization

Are you providing your attendees with innovative ideas and knowledge that they can bring back and implement in their organizations? The knowledge doesn’t end when the conference does, which is exactly why your session handouts, recorded sessions and conference proceedings need to be made available in a digital publishing platform. If attendees can access conference materials online year-round, they are more likely to implement what they learned. By providing innovative ideas that advance their organizations, attendees will reach the ultimate self-actualization.

 

How is your association making sure you are fulfilling all the needs of your conference attendees? Let us know in the comments section below!

5 Ways to Make Pinterest Work for Your Association

Is your association ignoring Pinterest in hopes that its popularity falls stagnant like Myspace or iTunes Ping?

If you’re looking to grow your association’s membership and promote your valuable educational content, avoiding Pinterest could be a big mistake.

I recently saw this great infographic called “Pin It to Win It” that does a great job of breaking down Pinterest for marketers. Here’s what I learned.

Defining Your Target Market

Before deciding to add Pinterest to the list of your association’s social media sites, it’s important to determine if their typical users align with your target market.

Here are a few facts about typical Pinterest users:

  • 87% of Pinterest users are female.
  • The most popular age range is 35-44 (29%), followed by ages 25-34 (27%).
  • The average income of users is between $25,000-$49,999 (37%), followed by $50,000-$74,999 (33%).

If this profile sounds like the members your association is trying to attract, then it’s time to fit Pinterest into your social media strategy.

5 Tips for Targeting the Right Audience on Pinterest

  1. Research your target market. How are the members you want to attract using Pinterest? What categories are they interested in? What content are they pinning? You want to make sure your association is posting relevant content your potential members will find and be interested in.
  2. Utilize the “Pin It” button. Your social media widgets should already be front and center on your association website or digital publishing platform. Simply add the “Pin It” button so users know your association is active on Pinterest, too.
  3. Make your content “pin-able.” Since Pinterest embraces the use of visual content, you should audit the images on your association’s website. Are there images on every page of content? Try to pin each page of content on your website. If an image isn’t available, users will not be able to pin content onto their boards.
  4. Don’t use Pinterest solely for self-promotion. Yes, your ultimate goal may be to expand your brand and increase membership, but Pinterest users don’t necessarily want to be “sold to.” Post content they will find valuable such as past conference proceedings, publications and other content you house in your digital publishing platform. Think of Pinterest as another way to promote your content marketing efforts.
  5. Learn from other associations on Pinterest. Do a search for associations on Pinterest. Who is showing up? How are they ensuring they’re found in searches? What boards have they created that have gained a significant number of followers? Apply some of what seems to be working for other organizations.

How have you seen other associations use Pinterest to attract more members? Give your input in the comments section below!

Pinterest for Associations – Visual Content is Key

With travel budget cuts affecting your meeting attendance, engaging members year round with your association content is more important than ever.

Finding the right way to deliver educational content is critical, and more and more associations are taking advantage of social media sites to reach their members and attract new membership. Chances are if your association is doing this, Pinterest is already on your radar.

Pinterest is a popular virtual pinboard where users can bookmark all the fun and inspiring content they find on the Internet. But just because it’s popular, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for your association.

3 Questions: Is Pinterest Right for Your Association?

  1. Do you have visually appealing content?
    Does your association have fun infographics, engaging eBooks and free on-demand webcasts to share? It may be the perfect time to consider making over the first page of your association eBooks, or the cover page of your white papers. If your content is extremely text heavy, stick to Twitter and LinkedIn. Pinterest is all about creating a visual representation of your association content.
  2. Do you have somewhere to link out to that makes sense?
    Remember… You’re dealing with visual learners, so you don’t want to send them to a page with long paragraphs and little white space. Make sure you’re linking your “pinned” content out to visually appealing websites.
  3. Are your members using Pinterest?
    If your current members aren’t using the new social platform, chances are your target market isn’t either. Make sure the social sites you are choosing to present your association on are the ones where new membership can find you. But remember, just because your members aren’t using Pinterest or other social media sites today, doesn’t mean they won’t be using them in the future. Keep these social sites on your radar.

If you’re still not sure if Pinterest is the right social media platform for you (or maybe you’re a visual learner who needs an infographic rather than a blog article to decide), check out this decision tree by Column Five Media and published by Intuit : Should Your Business Be On Pinterest?

3 Content Marketing Lessons Associations Should Learn From The Hunger Games

Have you heard about that movie,
The Hunger Games
?

Judging by the grossed $68.2 million on opening day alone,
I’m guessing you have.

But, I’m also willing to bet you heard about the movie long before it hit theaters either on Facebook or Twitter. The Hunger Games took on social media by storm!

But what made Lionsgate’s marketing such a success (on such a small budget nonetheless)?

Social Media Marketing with a Content Strategy

Most major film studios follow the same approach to social media where they use inexpensive content (i.e. a still photo of a gorgeous actress), post it on Facebook and Twitter, and rely on a viral marketing strategy where fans get excited, and amplify the buzz by liking and retweeting.

So what was different about Lionsgate’s social media marketing approach with The Hunger Games?

Lionsgate actually created valuable content that went far beyond a photo or video clip. For example, they created an interactive tour of the Capitol where fans were able to register as citizens by connecting to their Facebook or Twitter accounts and providing their email addresses. Once a citizen, fans can gain access to tour different areas of the Capitol as seen in the movie.

Lionsgate didn’t just create another movie advertisement; they created an interactive experience sparking fan engagement before and after they watched the movie in packed theaters. They also didn’t rely on viral marketing. They clearly planned out how they were going to promote their content across multiple social media platforms.

The Bonus: Lionsgate was operating on a promotion budget HALF the normal block buster movie.

What Associations Can Learn About Content From The Hunger Games

Social media marketing is very powerful in combination with a solid content strategy.

You shouldn’t need to create a social buzz for your content. Your content should create a social buzz for you. Here’s how:

  1. Create Engaging Content. Of course it’s a good idea to look at what other associations are doing with their content, but don’t be afraid to take it one step farther. For example, if you want to create a webinar series for members, try incorporating live polling or interactive gaming to keep them engaged. Also, when creating content, always consider what will keep members engaged before and after the content as well. For the webinar example, gain momentum ahead of time with social media sites, and make sure your recorded webinars are made available to share with friends after the series has ended.
  2. Allow Access and Make Your Association Found. Don’t be afraid to share content with non-members to entice them to join your association. Stake out where your members are hanging out… are they on Twitter? LinkedIn? That’s where you should be promoting your content because where there are members you will find your future members. Marketing across several social media platforms, as seen in the tweet above (where you promote access to exclusive video content on Twitter for playing a game on Facebook), also helps extend your association’s reach.
  3. Be a Baller on a Budget. Be conscious of your budget. Creativity doesn’t always have to cost a lot of money. As an association, you naturally have tons of archived content from annual meetings and publications, so all you need to do is repurpose it in a fun way for your members and non-members.

What are some creative ways you are engaging members with content?

Tell us about it on Twitter: #omnipress

Get Attendees to Network Before Your Conference

I recently read a fantastic article by Bernie Mitchell entitled, “5 Ways to Break the Ice with Social Media at Events,” which talked about how meeting and event professionals can get attendees to network and “break the ice” before the conference with social media.

In short, Mitchell suggested:

  1. Creating a unique Twitter hashtag and promote retweeting
  2. Recording speaker video interviews or a podcast and write blog posts
  3. Collecting attendee Twitter handles and reach out individually
  4. Asking questions on Twitter to get attendees engaged and interacting
  5. Making sure attendees know about the hashtag before the conference

Yes! I couldn’t have put it better myself, but I do think we’re missing a #6, which might make 1-5 a little easier.

6. Create an online event community for attendees to network.
Online event communities are the one stop shop for all your attendees’ conference needs. Give your attendees (and speakers, sponsors and exhibitors) an online hub where they can create user profiles, develop their personal conference itineraries and connect with other attendees who are scheduled for the same sessions. Then, post the conference final program and session handouts onto the branded homepage of the event community next to your Twitter wall and blog posts, and there you have it a one-stop social media shop!

Online Event Communities – Help Attendees Avoid the Awkward Silence

Social media has been a gift to meeting planners and attendees alike. Social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook have provided attendees a virtual place to get the introductions out of the way. Attendees no longer need to go into an annual conference not knowing anyone (which is a blessing if you’re anything like me and a little shy). Plus, this increases the quality of conversations at the actual meeting, allowing attendees to get right into the conference content.

Not sure if an online event community is exactly what your association is looking for, but you still want a place to put speaker presentations or proceedings online? Read here to find the right place to put conference materials online.

 

How to Create an Active Online Community

Wondering how to create an online event community where attendees, sponsors and exhibitors are logging into (and actively involved with) as much as their email accounts?

As a meeting or event planner, you understand creating a networking opportunity is critical for attendees, sponsors and exhibitors of your conferences. And as your conference participants become more engaged in online networking and social media sites, it is critical to create an online hub where your conference participants can network before, during and after your events.

3 Ways to Create a Successful Online Event Community

  1. Have a strategic plan.
    This is probably the most important aspect of having a successful community. What is the goal of the community? What will deem it successful? You need to be sure your online event community is in alignment with your bigger picture goals and objective. Write down these objectives as it provides you with a basis for measurement. Some core objectives might include: Visitors to the site, repeat visitors, number joined vs. total attendees, activity within the site. Who will manage and run the community? What will the technology be? How will you incorporate this with your other event marketing initiatives? What content or topics will draw people into the community and engage participants. By having a plan, you have a much greater chance for success. Plus, you’ll have something to measure against as you go.
  2. Assign a leader.
    Someone must own the community and make it theirs. It can’t be owned by everyone or a group of people, it really needs a leader who is passionate and unselfish. Someone who knows and understands relationships and social media. Giving this responsibility to someone because they have the time or because they are in marketing doesn’t cut it. They must have solid project management skills, excellent communication skills. They must understand the big picture and have the authority to drive the community. Failure to have the right person lead your community usually results in a stale, unused web site and a poor representation of your efforts.
  3. Outline your communications plan.
    This is essential to knowing who’s doing what, what’s being created and when it’s being shared. It will involve formal communications, promotional content as well as informal and just informational content. This plan will involve many different participants in your community. For example, you will want the speakers to create content and engage attendees by asking questions and providing insights to their sessions a few weeks out from the event. The key is to know the members of the community expect action and communications. They didn’t sign up to the community to just create a profile and never come back to the site again. Your plan should address how you and others will engage all participants.

What other ways can you think of to create an active community?

Is Your Association Attracting Generation Y Membership?

In the words of Bob Dylan, “The times they are a changin’.”

I’m not sure if Bob Dylan was intending for his 1964 hit to reference associations, but it’s fitting, isn’t it?

Recently, Steve Manicor and Tracy Gundert sat amongst other association professionals at the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives (WSAE) meeting where a hot topic was the changing demographic in associations. Networking and educational content were big talking points, and here I’ve mixed in my Generation Y perspective.

Associations are Facing a Shift in Demographics

If we look at associations today, it’s becoming clearer that the median age of members is continuing to rise. In order for associations to continue to grow, it’s important to start looking at ways to attract the next generation.

The problem with attracting Generation Y is that we are of a different breed. As a “Gen Y-er,” I can attest I need more than a face-to-face annual meeting with keynote speakers and a printed manual to join your association.

As you know, networking and educational content remain critical to attracting new members, but technology and the generation gap have complicated things.

Networking Isn’t Just Face-to-Face Anymore

Are you providing your members with a place to network year-round? Are you leveraging your association on Twitter and other social media sites?

Networking remains an important factor in gaining new members, but the way we network has evolved greatly. Networking isn’t just face-to-face anymore, and Generation Y loves to “Facebook stalk.” Before we meet new people face-to-face, we like to check them out on social media and learn about their interests. Whether it’s through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or a conference website, it’s important for associations to provide a place for their members to engage, network and, of course, “Facebook stalk.”

Face-to-Face Meetings Have Evolved, Too

Are your annual meetings educational and fun?

If you’re still holding your annual meeting in outdated session rooms of older convention halls with the buzzing fluorescent lights, metal chairs and one-way speaker communication, you’re risking your members being uncomfortable, bored and not engaged. The associations attracting Generation Y members are leveraging breakout sessions, themed events, social gaming and different presentation formats such as pecha kucha, fish bowls and so forth. It’s about the attendee experience.

How Findable is Your Educational Content?

How are you leveraging your association content to attract new members? How are you making sure they are finding your content on the internet? How are you making your content more usable and shareable?

Access is critical! A printed conference program is no longer sufficient. To keep Generation X and Y happy, you now need a printed program, a conference flash drive chock full of speaker presentations, session handouts available online before, during and after the meeting (don’t forget about Wi-Fi and mobile-friendly access!) AND an eBook. (Ok, so you may not need ALL of these, but member expectations are rising in regards to what they are getting for their money.)

Consulting your crystal ball won’t help. Understanding how members and attendees want to receive your association’s educational content is not a guessing game. The key is to ask members what they want, provide options and be multifaceted.

Generation Y Learned Differently

We aren’t trying to be a pain in your association – This is how Generation Y learned!

In college, we learned through two-way discussion sessions and watched streaming presentations. We bought printed course books and study guides, but we also were required to read scholarly journals online (that we didn’t have to search for far and wide on the internet).

We network online. We spend more time on social media websites networking than we’d like to admit. We use Facebook and LinkedIn to build relationships and share information just to stay connected. If we know we’re going to meet someone new, we like to connect with them ahead of time online.

And guess what – My Generation X boss feels the same way.

So while you listen to some Bob Dylan, talk to us on Twitter!
How is your association attracting new Generation Y membership? #omnipress

Bringing Awareness to Your Meeting and Online Event Community

As over 1,100 school health professionals from all over the country were gathering at the registration table in the hustle and bustle of the National Association of School Nurses’ (NASN) 43rd Annual Meeting, they were greeted with the tweets of conference attendees, sponsors and speakers on NASN’s Online Event Community displayed on projection screens throughout the conference.

Where NASN conference-goers had been engaging and getting pumped for weeks prior to the conference, they were now giving shout outs, drawing crowds to booths and hyping up sessions on the online event community. As part of NASN’s communication strategy they strive to keep members engaged and social media sites current and active. “The Twitter wall’s purpose was to support these efforts, create exposure to the way Twitter helps enhance an event,” explained Sharon Conley of NASN.

“This purpose was served beyond our expectations. Attendees, staff, contracted employees, speakers, exhibitors and volunteers engaged in posting tweets for our Twitter wall.” Conley continued, “Several NASN leaders approached staff for instructions on setting up a Twitter account and joining in on the fun.”

Promoting the Twitter Wall Movement

NASN marketed the Twitter wall on their Online Event Community by asking attendees if they were interested in tweeting their conference experience.

For those interested:

  • An instructional email was sent out prior to meeting.
  • The same information was included in the attendees’ registration packet along with a ribbon that said “Tweeter.”

“The NASN Grants Coordinator was skeptical of the wall when she first heard of it. After seeing it and the activity it generated, she was sold on that idea that it was a worthwhile component of the communication media offered during the conference,” Conley explained.

NASN most likely plans on featuring their online event community’s Twitter wall again at future conferences. They’ll be working on ways to engage non-attendees – Both by tweeting information pulled from educational sessions and also by marketing the hashtag.

How are you using your online event community to engage conference go-ers before, during and after events?

National Fundraising Event Series to Benefit Association Professionals

Omnipress, the company behind the Engage365 community, is happy to announce that they are sponsoring the National Fundraising Event Series.

The National Fundraising Event Series will be hosting monthly webinars featuring keynote speakers in the event and fundraising industries.

All post-webinar content will be accessible via Engage365!

Check out the official press release below…

 

 

The National Fundraising Event Series is launching a monthly series of webinars and virtual events to benefit nonprofit and association professionals whose focus is event-related planning for fundraisers.

 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The National Fundraising Event Series is collection of monthly webinars and virtual events aimed at educating professionals in the art of fundraising tactics for events and the event planning process. The broad range of topics offered include, but are not limited to: Social Media Marketing, Volunteer Management, Event Sponsorship, Donor and Member Engagement and Event Branding.

This series of virtual events will provide attendees with a notably valuable learning experience. Each month attendees will be able to learn from highly recognized thought leaders in the fundraising and events industries. Speakers include the event producers, Lindsey Rosenthal of Events For Good and Justin Baer of Charity Happenings, Liz King of Liz King Events, Jeffrey Cufaude of Idea Architects, Shanon Doolittle of Group Health Foundation, Jonah Halper of NextGen:Charity, KiKi L’Italien of DelCor Technology Solutions, Kim Skildum-Reid of Power Sponsorship, and Andrea Sullivan of BrainStrength Systems. The monthly sessions will be offered at no cost to nonprofit individuals and organizations.

The first event in this virtual series will take place on Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 2 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Speaker Justin Baer of CharityHappenings.org, will be addressing “How to Sell Out Your Fundraising Event This Season,” with tips on ticket sales strategy.

The National Fundraising Event Series is being produced through the collaboration of Events For Good and CharityHappenings.org.

Events for Good, founded by Lindsey Rosenthal, is a social enterprise built to assist nonprofits, associations, and other companies in the creation, revitalization and strategy of fundraising, charitable, and other special events.

CharityHappenings.org, founded by Justin Baer, is an online social hub for the philanthropic community providing the inside scoop on charitable events, philanthropists and ways to get involved.

The National Fundraising Event Series is sponsored by etouches, Omnipress, and IML Event Technology, and is a partner of CharityChoice gift cards.

The National Fundraising Event Series producers, Lindsey Rosenthal and Justin Baer, are available to answer any further questions regarding the upcoming sessions.

Contact: Lindsey Rosenthal, Producer

NFESeries@gmail.com

Top Meeting Trends for 2011 (industry wrap up)

How do your 2011 predictions of meeting trends match up with the industry?

Reading through a few different web sites boasting the top meeting trends for 2011, I’ve pulled out some common findings and provided my point of view.

  1. Mobile Access – Making your web content mobile friendly for attendees should be a given going forward. This doesn’t mean you should do everything. Educational content, customized program agendas, interaction with other attendees and polls are just a few things to name. Know your audience and what they want. Maybe it’s survey time to learn more about your member needs. Check your Google analytics statistics. And, just observe your attendees at your meetings. iPhones, iPads and Android smart phones are taking over.
  2. Green Meetings – According to these sites below, green meetings are back. Green meetings was once a trendy topic in 2008 and 2009. However, it seemed to lose momentum in 2010 when budgets and focus to shifted other initiatives when dealing with the recession. Will it surface in 2011?
  3. Hybrid/Virtual Meetings – How do you reach a massive audience? Take your event and turn it virtual. Obviously, you can’t replace the value of face-to-face interaction and learning, but technology exists (hint: it has for a while). EventCamp Twin Cities really brought light to hybrid meetings and organizations are seriously embracing this style of meeting format. How you design your meeting format for this technology takes some deep thinking. You must balance budgets, access, adoption, etc. And don’t forget, build your community online well before you launch your hybrid event.
  4. Social Media for Events – For a few years, organizations were trying to determine “if” social media was to be part of the meeting strategy. In 2010 it was “how” and the prediction for 2011 is “doing it.” Social media isn’t a fad. It doesn’t replace traditional marketing and engagement, but consider it solid leg in your marketing and attendee engagement strategies. Need more on social media for events? You might dive into Engage365, our community of 1000+ strong as they discuss and share social media knowledge.

Sources for Top Meeting Trends for 2011