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Trends in Conference Management

Posted By Administration, Thursday, October 17, 2019

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Millennials are now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. As of 2017, there were 56 million Millennials (ages 22-37) working or looking for work — over one-third of the workforce.

Chart displaying growth of millennials as a segment of the workforce

With a growing need for our workforce to be trained and upskilled, conferences can play an important role in employee development.

To get Millennials to attend conferences and join our organizations, we must create more engaging and technologically focused offerings to meet this market segment who are interested in experiences, involvement and engagement.

7 Conference Best Practices

  1. Define and communicate the purpose and mission of the event to prove ROI. Create downloadable “Convince Your Boss” letters.
  2. Personalizing strategies – who are the sessions designed for? Are they interactive to engage attendees? Is there time for connection and conversation? How can attendees connect with other attendee segments and interests onsite?
  3. Purposeful experience – well-being activities, social impact days to give back to the community.
  4. Performances and offsite events at museums or local attractions.
  5. Enhanced conference technology including chatbots, 5G internet, wearable technology, real-time data, creative room design with technology access and charging stations, mobile apps.
  6. Nutrition, mindfulness and wellness: planning for dietary requirements; creating time for “brain breaks” – doodling, coloring, outside walks, Legos.
  7. Engage attendees using gamification – there are many gamers in this segment of the workforce.

Here are some additional resource articles on meeting trends to generate more ideas for your conference.

As our attendees and stakeholders continue to shift, associations must change up our conferences to not only maintain registration numbers but to take them to a whole new level: driving community, engagement and membership. Over one-third of the workforce and those who need education, community and engagement the most are counting on us to drive innovation and offer engaging and memorable experiences using trends and technology.

Tags:  association management  conference  delivering value  engagement  engaging millennials  event planning  member engagement  millennials  tips  trends 

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Creating Memorable Conference Experiences

Posted By Administration, Friday, October 11, 2019

It takes a team effort to make conference experiences memorable for attendees, presenters and exhibitors/sponsors. All parties play an important role in the success and value of attending in person events.

Our Event Management and Marketing & Communications departments formed a Conference Success Team to help our clients improve the conference experience for speakers, sponsors/exhibitors and attendees by creating a resource landing page with all the resources to ensure a positive conference experience before, during and after an event.

The number-one priority is creating relevant content for each audience. So, it’s important to research trends in the profession, conduct a professional development assessment, review membership surveys and past conference surveys to use feedback to improve and enhance the conference experience. Doing it “the way we’ve always done it” won’t cut it.

When you understand what your audience wants, you can then create the framework and tracks that will be the basis for your call for presenters. In addition to contact information, make sure you collect the following session information:

  • Presentation/Session Title (15-word limit)
  • Presentation/Session Description or Presentation (150-word limit)
  • Learning Objectives (require at least three)
  • Select Audience (for example: experience level, society type, organization size)
  • What keywords relate to your presentation topic? This is for search engine optimization as we promote the conference.
  • Provide a two-sentence promotion of your presentation for social media postings.

Getting this information at the beginning will provide the structure for the conference marketing plan.
Exhibitors and sponsors help keep the cost of conferences down for attendees and they also offer a way to make connections on business resources available to attendees. Creating value and ROI for exhibitors and sponsors creates value for the attendees.

The Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDNA) offers unique sponsorship opportunities that enhance the value for both the sponsor and the attendee. They also utilize cool technology at their conference such as a full LED wall with movable graphics, a Gobo light with logo sponsors and video. They also have a dedicated HEDNA TV Channel on YouTube that features conference sessions and helps promote future conferences, giving attendees access to the quality content that is delivered at the event.

HEDNA doesn’t have exhibitors but rather offers different types sponsorship opportunities to show unique value to the sponsors while enhancing the conference attendee experience. They have Nooks/Event pods branded with sponsor logos, offering the attendees a soundproof space with white boards, television monitors, videos and allowing for attendee conversations.


Example of nook/event pod with gobo lights (left) and coffee logo (right) at HEDNA LA 2019

Gobo lights make it possible to project sponsor logos on the walls. It’s a simple and effective way to enhance the conference experience at a reasonable price. In addition, they set up a HEDNA café with existing furniture in the hotel and a barista, featuring specialty coffees with the sponsor logo on top of the coffee froth.


Event app gamification example from Eventmobi

The Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) offers a variety of hotel signage and walls/door clings and gobos for conference sponsors as well. This year, PDMA will use gamification in their mobile app to engage attendees.
For the Qualitative Research Consultants Association and Recognition Professionals International, we launched a “Reporter on the Scene” program; members volunteered to fill out an online form for each session and these were developed into blog posts and other content.

At the conferences, we encourage attendees to use hashtags and provide social media tip sheets to get conversations going and keep them going year-round after the conference experience is over. A strong conference and in-person connections foster loyalty and year-round connections.

For attendees, we offer ways to connect with other attendees at the conference in meet-ups, connecting in the mobile app and offering interactive sessions. It’s also important to create time between sessions to allow for conversations, sharing and networking so that learning sticks and new connections are created.

Half of the population are introverts — so it’s important to offer a variety of ways to connect in the manner attendees want. We will share tips on how to get the most out of conferences in a future post.

Mindfulness and wellness activities — both in the workplace and at conferences — are also becoming more popular. Organized walks and runs, yoga or other exercises, healthy snacks and meditation tips are a great way to add new value for attendees that they can take home.

Create memorable conference experiences for your members before, during and after each event!

Tags:  conference  engagement  event planning  member engagement  success  tips 

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MUST-HAVE Event Formulas

Posted By Administration, Thursday, October 3, 2019

Planning an event? Here are some MUST-HAVE event formulas from functional room set-ups to food and beverage formulas that will help you plan the perfect event!

I. FUNCTION ROOM SET-UPS

Reception

  • 9-10 sq. ft. per person (standard bar/hors d'oeuvres)
  • Rule of Thumb:  10 feet

Theatre

  • Less than 60 people = 12-13 sq. ft. per person
  • 60-300 people = 11-12 sq. ft. per person
  • 300+ people = 10-11 sq. ft. per person
  • Rule of Thumb:  10 feet

Theatre Notes:

  • Allow at least 24 inches of space between rows
  • If room is rectangular, set presenter to the long side
  • First row no closer than 2x screen height (2x8 rule)
  • Center section of seating no more than 14 chairs
  • 2 side aisles should be at least 4 feet wide

Schoolroom

  • General = 17-22 sq. ft. per person (18" tables - add 1 sq. ft. per person for 30")
  • Less than 60 people = 22-23 sq. ft. per person
  • 60-300 people = 20-21 sq. ft. per person
  • 300+ people = 17-18 sq. ft. per person
  • Allow 3.5' between rows
  • Rule of Thumb:  20 feet

Conference

  • 2-3 feet of table length per person

Banquet

  • 60 inch = 8-9 people (12.5-13.5 sq. ft. per person)
  • 66 inch = 9-10 people (12.5-13.5 sq. ft. per person)
  • 72 inch = 10-11 people (12.5-13.5 sq. ft. per person)
  • Rule of Thumb:  13 feet

Platforms (a.k.a. Risers)

  • Can be 6, 12, 16, 24 or 32 inches high
  • Usually 4x8 or 6x8 dimensions

General Function Room Set-Up Notes

  • All schoolroom and banquet tables are 30" high
  • Rectangular tables that are 6 or 8 feet long by 30" wide are used for U-Shape, Conference, etc.
  • Rectangular tables that are 6 or 8 feet long by 18" wide are used for schoolroom set-ups

II. CONTRACTS AND REGISTRATION

  • Standard Comp. Room formula = 1 per 50
  • One (1) registration personnel per 100 attendees

III. EXHIBITS

Square Footage

  • Apply 2x rule to determine total sq. ft. needed (two times total square feet of exhibit space)
  • 10x10 = 100 sq. ft. per booth
  • 8x10 = 80 sq. ft. per booth
  • Net square feet (needed for booths) x 2 (for aisles) = total sq. ft. needed for booth and aisles + square footage for ancillary services = total square footage needed

Standard (In-Line) Booth

  • 10' deep by 10' long or 8' deep by 10' long
  • Faces one aisle
  • 8' 3" maximum back wall height

Perimeter (Wall) Booth

  • 10' deep by 10' long or 8' deep by 10' long
  • Faces one aisle
  • 12' maximum back wall height

Peninsula Booth

  • Minimum of two standard booths, usually 4 or more
  • Faces three aisles
  • Usually 16' maximum wall height but depends on show rules

Island Booth

  • Bordered on all four sides by aisles
  • Faces four aisles
  • Usually 16' maximum wall height but depends on show rules
  • Rule of Thumb:  20'x20' (40 sq. ft.)

Exhibit Lighting

  • 70-110 foot candles to light an exhibit hall

Floor Load

  • 300 pounds per sq. ft. on ground floors
  • 50 pounds per sq. ft. on upper floors

IV. BUDGETING

BEU = Break Even Units = Number of Attendees
BEP = Break Even Price = Cost Per Attendee
VC = Variable Costs
TFC = Total Fixed Costs
CF = Contribution Margin (Registration Fee-VC)

ROI = (Gross Revenue − Gross Expenses) ÷ Gross Expenses × 100

BEU = TFC ÷ CF

BEP = (TFC ÷ # of people) + VC Per Person

TFC = # Attendees × $ Per Attendee

** To make a dollar profit, add the desired profit dollar amount to the TFC in the above equation.
*** To make a percentage profit, add $ per attendee to VC and multiply by desired percentage profit

V.  AUDIO VISUAL

Formula One - First row of seats and last row of seats (2x8 rule)

  • No one should be seated closer than 2x screen height
  • No one should be seated farther than 8x screen height

Formula Two - Minimum Ceiling Height

  • Screen height + 4 or 5 feet (minimum distance floor to screen bottom)
  • Rule of Thumb:  5 feet

Formula Three - Screen Width

  • Overhead = 1:1 (8x8, 10x10)
  • Multi Image = 1:3 (6x18, 8x24, 10x30)
  • Slide = 2:3 (6x9, 8x12, 10x15)
  • Video = 3:4 (6x8, 9x12, 10.5x14)

VI.  Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Compliance

General

  • Hallways and Corridors = 36" clearance and occasional spaces for turning/passes

Hotel Rooms

  • At least 2% barrier free; at least 1% of these having roll-in showers
  • Doors and hallways inside rooms have 32" clear openings
  • 32" clearance on at least one side of the bed
  • Sink mounted at least 29" above floor with toe clearance under drainpipe
  • Toilets no higher than 29"

Meeting Rooms

  • Doors have at least 32" clearance

Entrances, Corridors, Stairs

  • Approaches to building entrances at least 5' wide
  • Single door entrances minimum of 32" wide.
  • Double door entrances minimum of 48" wide

Elevators

  • Doors have 32" wide clearance
  • Space no greater than 1.25" between the floor and platform

Restaurants and Lounges

  • Self-service counters no more than 34" high
  • Aisle for buffets 36" wide

Public Restrooms

  • Flush controls no more than 44" from floor

Parking

  • Designated parking space within 200' of building
  • One designated space per 25 total spaces

Ramps, Curbs and Walks

  • Slope of all ramps is 1" of rise to every 12" of run
  • Ramps have 5' wide level landing at top and bottom

ADA Budget

  • 5-7 percent of overall accommodations budget

VII.  FOOD AND BEVERAGE

Continental Breakfast

  • One attendant and separate buffet table per 100 attendees
  • Breakpoint for second buffet = 120 attendees
  • Usually run 30 minutes to one hour

Full Breakfast Buffet

  • Usually runs about one hour

Refreshment Breaks

  • 30 minutes = minimum amount of time
  • One attendant per 100 attendees
  • Morning = 65% Hot/35% Cold
  • Afternoon = 35% Hot/65% Cold
  • 50-75% regular soft drinks
  • 25% diet soft drinks
  • Coffee = 20 cups per gallon
  • Coffee = 60% regular/40% decaf

Luncheons

  • Typical time = 1 hour 15 minutes to serve
  • Schedule 90 minutes

Banquets

  • Two hours per dinner service
  • Three bottles of wine per table of 8 (2 white and 1 red)
  • 1/2 bottle per person + 10% buffer
  • Every 10 bottles white=two red (opposite for red meat)
  • Wine Stewards = 1 for every 5 tables
  • Servers = 1 per 20 people (optimal), 1 per 32 (standard), 1 per 16 for upscale or with wine service
  • Rule of Thumb:  1 per 20

Receptions

  • One attendant per 50 guests
  • One bartender per 100 people if arriving in intervals
  • One bartender per 50 people if arriving as a group
  • Immediately following meeting - food consumption is less
  • Less food/more drinks if reception is prior to dinner

Type of Reception

Type of Eaters

# Hors d'Oeuvres
per person

2 hours or less (dinner following)

Light

3-4 pieces

Moderate

5-7 pieces

Heavy

8+ pieces

2 hours or less (no dinner)

Light

6-8 pieces

Moderate

10-12 pieces

Heavy

12+ pieces

2-3 hours
(no dinner)

Light

8-10 pieces

Moderate

10-12 pieces

Heavy

16+ pieces

Beverages

  • 21-25 drinks per bottle of liquor
  • 32 ounces to a quart
  • 50/50 soft/hard liquor consumption
  • Wine consumption = 3 glasses during a 2 hour reception
  • Women consume more wine than liquor
  • Cash bar will consume less than host bar
  • Cash Bar - before lunch - 30% will have 1 drink
  • Cash Bar - after meeting - 50% will stay and have 1.5 drinks (1 hour reception)
  • Hosted Bar - Cocktail Hour - 80% will stay and have 2-2.5 drinks in 1 hour
  • Hosted Bar - Cocktail Hour - 80% will stay and have 3-3.5 drinks in 1 1/2 hours

Source: Pam Soules, CMP Director of Events, Mid-States Distributing

Tags:  association management  conference  event planning  success  tips 

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10 Hot Moves to Use in the Boardroom

Posted By Paul Hanscom, Thursday, September 25, 2014
Untitled Document

1. Read the “owner’s manual”
Whether you’re new to the board or just starting a new term, it’s always a good move to familiarize yourself with critical governing documents. This includes articles of incorporation, bylaws, policies and any additional governing documents that guide the association. These documents should be readily accessible and used regularly. Governing documents dictate how the association operates, and you need to understand how things get done if you are to be successful on the board. Having a clear understanding of the association’s governing documents helps you avoid any unnecessary questions as well as potentially embarrassing or damaging misunderstandings.

2. Embrace your responsibilities
The board as a whole has a number of important responsibilities to fulfill. Different experts will define these in different ways, but they essentially all relate to three things:

  • Setting and monitoring the direction of the association to ensure efficacy and service to the mission, which includes goal-setting, policy-making, and fiduciary duties.
  • Oversight of the chief staff executive, which includes hiring, replacement, and regular performance review.
  • Serve as ambassador of the organization to key stakeholder groups, and the industry at large through membership and fundraising outreach.

Strive to go beyond simply knowing what is expected of you as a board. Make it clear which of these responsibilities is being fulfilled through each board discussion and action.

Individual board members have responsibility to carry out the board’s work between board meetings in a number of ways that are nuanced to every organization. Articulate these in a position description that is reviewed annually.

3: Bring stamina to board recruitment efforts
Having a strong board is rarely the product of chance. A nominating committee that convenes a few short months prior to the board election will be substantially less successful than one that makes a year-round effort. Each year the board should inventory the skills and demographics of its directors (e.g. personalities, backgrounds, industry positions) compared to organizational goals and demographics of its membership. This type of “gap analysis” helps the nominating committee to target its recruitment toward areas of need over the coming year. Clear criteria should be established and used uniformly to ensure that individuals are qualified and committed to serve on the board. Individuals who sit on the board but do not meet the identified needs of the association do a disservice by prohibiting more qualified members from a position on the board.

4. Get active in the boardroom
Board service is a privilege that is not afforded to everyone. Board meetings are a unique opportunity to gather the brightest minds in the industry to guide the future of your profession. Fellow directors on the board, and the membership as a whole, expect each board member to be an active participant in board meetings. This means:

  • Prepare for meetings – read materials and ask clarifying questions in advance.
  • Attend all meetings and arrive on time.
  • Follow the agenda – if there is something you would like added to the agenda, request that before the meeting (ideally, before the board materials are distributed).
  • Actively listen during discussions so you make well-informed decisions.
  • If you leave the meeting with an action item, execute it with alacrity and report when finished.
  • Support others in their work and keep each other accountable.

5. Engage the right volunteers
Board member attention should be focused on a handful of key governance responsibilities. Encourage additional volunteerism in the organization to help fulfill the work of the organization toward the board-established outcomes. The #1 reason why members say they don’t volunteer with their industry association is because they were never asked. “Asking” someone to volunteer doesn’t mean sending an email to every member of the organization soliciting their participation (although that is a valid approach). Asking a member to volunteer should be a direct, personal, one-on-one request that reflects a thoughtful effort by the board or committee chair to match needs of the organization with skills/passions of qualified members. Board members who serve as good ambassadors to their organization are well-connected in the membership community. When a situation comes up that requires volunteer support, they collectively know of at least one or two individuals who can be asked to step up and get involved.

Additionally, members have a stronger commitment to the association if they volunteer. Research by ASAE and The Center for Association Leadership has shown that volunteerism has a direct positive impact on an member’s sense of connection and the likelihood that s/he will renew his/her membership in the coming year. By this rationale, the more volunteers you can recruit from among your membership, the stronger your association’s community will become and the better your member retention.

6. Take time to plan
Periodically devote time to deeper examination of your industry and the organization’s role in it. Prepare for your planning by conducting both quantitative and qualitative research to better inform your examination. Review these data and identify what trends emerge in perceptions, participation, and funding streams. What do these trends say about the way your association is serving its members? Additionally, how do professional, economic, political and industrial environments impact the way you do business now and into the future? Spend time together as a board crafting goals and strategies that are responsive to current as well as future market conditions.

A stumbling block for many groups can be determining the “right” way to conduct annual and/or strategic planning. There are as many different approaches to planning as there are organizations going through the planning process. Don’t let your search for the “right” way keep you from initiating this process. Start by collecting just a few critical data points and gathering input from members and program participants. Dedicate a short amount of time during a board meeting to discuss what was learned from this feedback.  You may be surprised to find out what issues members are most concerned about and how your association can better position itself as a resource to address them.

7. Don’t get confused by “experts”
There are plenty of articles, websites, videos, and consultants that serve as resources to support organizations in good governance practices. They each share unique perspectives, experiences, knowledge and best practices to guide associations to perform better. However, the sheer scope and variety of opinions on governance can be overwhelming. By the same token, ascribing to one governance model as the “right and only” one unnecessarily boxes an association in, making it inflexible to changing market conditions that demand new thinking. Don’t get confused by tomes of expert opinions regarding board governance; be open to adjusting your approach so it works best for your board in its current state.

8. Check the dashboard but keep your eyes on the road
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are critical metrics for your organization’s operations, much like dashboard gauges in your car. It is extremely important that the board identify what KPIs to assign to organization-wide goals in order to perform adequate oversight over time. At the same time, it can be unhealthy for a board to ruminate over numbers and reporting and lose sight of big picture changes in the industry. Sticking with the dashboard/car metaphor, it is important to watch the speed of your vehicle and adjust it appropriately if the road begins to curve. Keep an eye on the dashboard, but make sure you are watching the road.

9. Know the resources available
The most successful boards are not those with know-it-all directors; they’re the ones that know the resources they need to get the outcomes they desire. This can be as simple as knowing and implementing basic rules for decision making in meetings like Robert’s Rules of Order. It can also mean having connections to experts on legal, financial, insurance, and industry-related nuances that support the organization through a unique challenge. Benchmarking and best practice resources are available through ASAE, state societies of association executives, BoardSource, and many other organizations. Publications and professional networks, whether in-person or online, can be invaluable as you address governance matters.

10. Show appreciation and have fun!
Serving on a board of directors can be challenging, but it can also be a whole lot of fun. We often forget to take the time to thank our peers on the board for their commitment to serving the greater good of the industry. There is a value exchange between the contribution that individuals make through board service and the satisfaction they receive as a part of being involved in a great organization. Set aside time to thank board members and volunteers frequently for their work making your organization one with which people are proud to affiliate. Make your appreciation genuine and specific to something they’ve done or results they’ve achieved.

Do good work and enjoy your volunteer leadership experience!



The Decision to Volunteer: Why People Give Their Time and How You Can Engage Them. Gazley, Beth and Monica Dignam (Aug 16, 2008).

Tags:  board member  boardroom  ewald consulting  member recruitment  paul hanscom  tips 

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KNOWLEDGE & RESOURCES

MANAGEMENT | View all Management articles
A Successful Year Starts with a Solid Budget by Bill Monn
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MARKETING | View all Marketing articles
9 Marketing Ideas for Your Organization by Kathie Pugaczewski
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MEMBERSHIP | View all Membership articles
A Holistic Approach to Membership Recruitment by Darrin Hubbard
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VOLUNTEERISM | View all Volunteerism articles
Three Ways to Stronger Volunteer Engagement by Paul Hanscom
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