Annual conference for any association is an exciting event. It’s a time to connect with peers, continue education, and have fun. It’s also a time for the association to show value for membership and show off creative ideas to make conference memorable. It can be easy to stick to a conference routine that works, but here are some ideas to refresh conference content:
1. Round Tables
Experienced members are one reason young members join associations. Young members want to connect with veterans of the industry to network and learn from their experience. You can take advantage of this at your annual conference by creating round tables led by experienced members. There are a couple ways of doing this. You could have a speaker lead the beginning and then break into round tables led by experienced members, or you can have experienced members select a topic and let younger members join a table they are most interested in. Round tables can give new members the opportunity to ask questions and gives experienced members the opportunity to lead.
Does most of your conference program involve education and lecture? A way to innovate conference experience is to intentionally add interaction components to the conference experience. This can be implemented through interactive sessions, meal times, or group activities. Adding intentional interactions to the conference gives members opportunities to network with each other, which is a powerful incentive to becoming a member in the first place. Brainstorm and try to figure out how to incorporate interactive sessions or team-oriented activities.
Technology is a great way to keep the annual conference feeling fresh every year. What new innovative technologies can you incorporate during your conference? It can be intimidating to add technology as a large component of annual conference, but once the learning curve is out of the way it can add a real benefit to the conference experience. A few ideas are below:
- Mobile check-in at the beginning of conference
- SnapChat geofilters
- Interactive polling via mobile devices during sessions
- Use a hashtag to run a conference-wide scavenger hunt
- Utilize social media to run contests, such as: most creative conference photo, largest group photo, most vendor brochures, etc.
Each year members are looking for new experiences at your annual conference. If conference stays relatively the same year after year, members may lose interest. Meet with the conference planners and figure out how you can innovate your next conference.