For many associations, the annual conference is THE networking and education event of the year. As an association board member, you already believe in the organization and the value of the conference. You’ve likely spent a significant amount of time analyzing the event and determining areas for improvement, what works well, and expectations for the event’s growth in the future. But beyond the board room, there are many simple–yet often overlooked–ways that board members can contribute to conference success.
Before the event:
- Invite people. Sure, your event planner and marketing team will work diligently to get the word out about your event, but you play an integral role in driving attendance as well! Review the schedule and identify those in the organization you think would benefit from the program. Send personal invitations to attend the event. Be sure to also request time for one-on-one meetings with attendees so you can gain new and interesting perspectives.
- Do your homework. Prior to the event, get to know presenters and learn their bios. Many presenters want to learn about the organizations prior to presenting, so as appropriate, use this as an opportunity to call and discuss their goals, as well as your organization. Building that relationship prior to the event will pay off for both the attendees and the presenter.
During the event:
- Greet people. Board members can get busy in the meetings and small details of conferences and events. Instead, make time to mingle, network and communicate with members and attendees. Don’t fall into the trap of going to events and meals with your core group of volunteer friends. Work to schedule meet-n-greets or down time with new members, committee volunteers, or other up-and-coming volunteers. Don’t forget to keep a small list of those you have met with for future reference.
- Think like a new member. First-time attendees can show up to an event confused and unsure of where to go. Provide opportunities for first-timers to learn more about the event, as well as the organization, by hosting a new member orientation or coffee break. Be sure to attend with them so you can answer questions.
- Thank vendors and sponsors. If your event has a trade show, spend time learning about the products and services offered there. Even if you aren’t in the market for these services, it will help you learn what other members may be looking for in your association, and vendors will appreciate that board members stopped by their booths.
- Tweet, Snap, Gram. Stay engaged on social media throughout the event. Not only will this help to drive interest in the event, it will also encourage others to join the conversation, even if they aren’t on-site. Learn your event-specific hashtags and be sure to follow others as well, to help drive engagement.
After the event:
- Write thank you notes. This seems easy enough, but take some time to go beyond thanking your fellow board members and presenters. Be sure to thank a young volunteer for meeting with you, a new member who came to you with an idea, and especially your event planners for making sure your organization’s event was executed well.
- Review the surveys and think about your role in improving future events. Don’t get hung up in the small details of the survey, like food critiques, as those details will be managed by your event planner. Rather, think about how you can network during the year to help identify new and engaging presenters and topics that will benefit attendees.