Category Archives: Event Planning

Failing Fast, Hard and Often – How to use strategic risk strategies to succeed

FailChange is critical. It’s also risky. There are 4 inescapable facts to keep in mind.

  1. We cannot succeed without regular, meaningful change
  2. Some changes will fail
  3. Some changes will fail at first but become successful over time
  4. There will always be a vocal contingent of opposition

There are some changes that are simply essential. You have to do them on an ongoing basis.

Events

Don’t keep serving the same meal. No matter how good it is, people will tire of it. Even if your event is awesome in every way, it will die if you don’t keep it fresh. Also, don’t forget to keep your event price current. Make sure you know your costs and that your price at least ensures break-even.

Member Programs

Keep ahead of the curve. The content, format and delivery of your member programs must continuously position your association as the leader in your sector. Take a chance on radical new ideas for content. Borrow ideas that are working in other industries and professions.

Member Discount Partners

These are the companies you partner with to deliver their services to your members at a special member price. Are your partners working with you to deliver great value to your members? Or not? It’s better to have one great partner that values their relationship with you than many who deliver sporadic, inattentive service to your members. If a member is disappointed with their first call to a partner, they’re not likely to continue down the list. They’ll just assume the whole program is of no value.

Membership

As your industry or profession evolves, it’s important to ensure your membership categories are keeping up with the changes in your sector. Are they still relevant or do they need revisions? It’s also critical to increase member prices on a regular basis. Remember, your costs go up every year. If membership prices do not go up by at least the cost of living each year, you’ll be forced to make a large price increase down the road.

Tips for Pricing

  1. Communicate increases well in advance
  2. Use association leaders as advocates
  3. Keep increases regular, to keep them small

Tips for Member Categories

  1. Keep it simple: No more than 3 categories
  2. Do market research in advance: Where is there potential confusion? Who will be impacted?
  3. Get feedback
  4. Communicate, communicate, remind

 Managing the Opposition

There will always be opposition to change and often the most vocal opponents are long-term, highly influential members. Sometimes they fear losing the comfort of a known quantity. Sometimes they resent the dismantling of a program or event that they helped initiate years ago. How do you deal with the opponents?

  1. Bring them inside the tent. Invite them to be on a task force or committee that’s driving change. If they feel they have input to the future, they are more likely to want to be part of it.
  1. Keep communication open. Don’t hide from the opposition. Keep the lines of communication positive and open and build relationships on common ground.
  2. Nothing works better than success. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Every successful change weakens the opposition to change.
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Filed under Event Planning, Association, Association Management Issues, Member Engagement, Association Management, High Performance Organization, Successful Conferences, Member Value Proposition, Issues Management

Reducing Risk in Sponsor Relationships – Is your sponsor platform on solid ground?

sponsor relationshipAssociations need a well-executed delivery process to ensure a highly professional experience for their valued sponsors.

Yes – a High Performance Organization™ understands the Seven Steps to Successful Sponsorship and the importance of Attracting and Retaining Sponsors.

But it’s not just about the sale. Take a step back and consider your key tracking and communication pieces – they are the unsung heroes of a successful sponsorship program!

  1. The Sponsorship Tracking Sheet

In any sales effort, it is vital to manage your prospect list. The tracking sheet keeps you on a clear path and directs your communication efforts and messaging. It tells you – who was a past supporter, when, and at what value? Who declined and why? Who will benefit from being a sponsor? It also provides current contact information and outreach tracking – all in one place.

  1. The Sponsorship Prospectus

The sponsorship prospectus is the foundation of your campaign. It should be attractive, professional and informative.  The prospectus provides key information about your organization, and full details of your sponsorship offerings. It is important that the information is presented in a clear, logical and easy to read manner. Consider using charts that highlight the different benefits per sponsor value or list the opportunities with details about the deliverables in order of value and privileges.

  1. The Sponsorship Letter of Understanding (LoU)

The Letter of Understanding (LoU) is essentially the “contract” between you and the sponsor. It outlines precisely what you are delivering to the sponsor, and what is required of them. It ensures that the sponsor knows exactly what to expect, and reduces the possibility of misunderstanding or disappointment.

The LoU should be accompanied by an invoice. The sponsor should return a signed copy of the letter, with the payment, before any privileges are delivered.

  1. The Sponsorship Deliverables Chart

Once the sponsorship has been secured, it is important that both you and the sponsor meet your obligations. In some cases, once a sponsor has been secured, it falls to another team member to manage the deliverables and make sure that deadlines and requirements are met. This internal document makes sure that all team members understand what is required of the association and the sponsor, and when.

  1. The Sponsorship Thank You Letter

Associations often overlook the importance of formally thanking a sponsor.  A hand-written card signed by the president, executive director and/or conference chair can go a long way toward demonstrating your appreciation of their support as well as the ongoing value they bring to your association.

This may seem like a lot of work – and it is! But it is the backbone for strong and long term relationships with your sponsors. If you’d like some help to build your platform, find out more here.

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Filed under Event Planning, Sponsor Value Proposition, Sponsorship

Attracting and Retaining Sponsors – Remember the Holy Trinity

trinityYour ideal sponsor partnership is not about “selling” your event to a sponsor. It’s all about delivering value to each major stakeholder; the “holy trinity” is that crucial intersection between your association, your sponsors and your members. When you get it right, all three stakeholders are receiving value from the relationship.

 

  1. What’s in it for the sponsor? This is your sponsor value proposition (SVP). It answers how this partnership will help your sponsor to (a) Sell their products and services, and/or (b) Enhance their brand by aligning it with yours?
  2. What’s in it for your association? How will this partnership (a) Enable you to deliver more value to your members, and/or (b) Increase the visibility of your association?
  3. What’s in it for your members? How will the association’s relationship with this sponsor help your members to (a) Learn new skills, and/or (b) Find a product or services that will help their organization?

If you can nail each element of the holy trinity, you’ve got a powerful partnership.

When you’re considering your value to sponsors, don’t forget to include both event-specific and year-round opportunities.

Year-round or single event? Think about the best fit for your sponsor. Is the right partnership for this sponsor a year-round relationship where they have visibility with your members at every event and every member communication? Or is it best for them to have relevant visibility at a single event?

And don’t forget; hold onto the crown jewels. Make sure that your year-round sponsors receive a “jewel” above and beyond that available to event sponsors. Perhaps this is a speaking opportunity or unique visibility. Never sell the “jewel in the crown” on a stand-alone basis.

Find out more about your SVP.

A strong SVP is also one of the 8 elements of the High Performance Membership OrganizationTM

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Filed under Association, Event Planning, High Performance Organization, Sponsor Value Proposition, Sponsorship

Get Rave Reviews by Hiring the Right Speaker

Summary: In this environment it’s often difficult for your members to find the time and the money to attend events. You need to make a compelling case for them to attend, and then wow them. The major drawing cards are your keynoters and session speakers. You need to ensure that your budget is being used effectively and that your delegates are receiving demonstrable value for their investment. Cathleen Fillmore of Speakers Gold, a speakers bureau, has 10 Questions that you should ask of prospective speakers:

There’s a lot riding on the shoulders of speakers at conferences or meetings; they can single-handedly make or break the event that you’ve put so much work into.  If you’ve ever hired a big name and paid big bucks only to be disappointed with the delivery and content….well, you’re not alone.

One meeting planner talked about hiring a speaker (who was paid $500,000) to lead a series of meetings across Canada on behalf of a financial services company. He emailed her his itinerary a day before which showed he’d be arriving late for his speech kicking off the entire event and she had to re-arrange the whole day’s schedule.

When you do hire a celebrity, ensure that he or she is also an excellent speaker who can not only draw in a crowd but also deliver on the promise with a message of substance and also inspiration.  Speakers need to educate, entertain and inspire all at the same time.  It’s quite a hat trick and when it’s done well, it’s absolutely unforgettable.

Read more……

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Filed under Association Management, Association Management Issues, Event Planning, Successful Conferences, Zzeem Speaking Engagements

Are Your Members Having Trouble Getting Funding Approval to Attend Your Events?

Are your events suffering a drop in attendance because members can’t get funding approval to pay for the conference or the travel or both?

In our discussions with membership organizations we’ve found that this has been an issue for several years. Even though membership numbers are recovering from their depths, conferences are still feeling the pinch because many employer budgets are still in the deep freeze when it comes to travel and continuing education.

And the problem is that you’re relying on your members to be sufficiently tenacious and brilliant at sales to convince their managers to loosen the purse strings.

Why not make it easy for them?

Here’s an idea from the Canadian Payroll Association. So simple and so brilliant. In the conference section of their website they have a menu item “Getting Approval to Attend”.

The page is entitled “Getting Approval from Your Manager to Attend the CPA’s Conference and Trade Show”. Here’s the URL: http://bit.ly/AfQVQg

The content covers all the bases:

  • Why You Should Attend
  • Top benefits of Attendance
  • Ideas on How to Overcome Objections to Your Request
    • This conference is too expensive
    • What will the organization gain from your attendance?
    • The organization cannot afford to have you away from the office
    • How to Create a Successful Proposal

And finally it includes a sample memo that the member can alter to suit. See the link at the bottom of the page.

Events are one of the five pillars of the Sustainability Model for membership organizations.

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Filed under Association Management, Event Planning, Successful Conferences

Why Are Some Conferences Successful While Others Struggle?

We recently had a question from one of our clients about  conferences. A director of a national organization asked “Why do some conferences attract the same large crowd year after year when similar conferences struggle to attract attendance?”

We have been managing conferences for our clients for years and we have had a chance to observe what works and what doesn’t.

All good conferences offer an opportunity to learn, to network  and to socialize. Often a conference with a great agenda doesn’t attract a  crowd. But some conferences sell out every year, even during a recession. I was talking to one of our clients yesterday and she has attended the same conference for 5 years running. Even during the recession years in 2008-2009 the conference has always sold out. Why is that?

A successful conference provides elements of value that cannot be found anywhere else. When this is true, the conference becomes a “must-have” instead of a “nice-to-have”. There are 5 key reasons why attendees keep coming back to a conference every year. These are by no means all of the reasons why people attend a conference but they are the differentiators between a good conference and a sell-out.

These are listed in order of priority:

1.       Accreditation. If the conference provides a good chunk of thecontinuing education credits required to maintain a professional certification, there is a huge incentive to attend. People often leave CEU requirements to the last minute and the conference is a fast, easy way to pick them up.  TIP:  If your organization does not have a certification program, find one that many of your attendees have, and apply to them for CE credits for your conference.

2.       Peer/Supplier Congregation. If the conference is the only event that attracts all of the major industry players it is a huge draw because this is the only opportunity that attendees have to see everyone they need to connect with, in the same place, at the same time. This allows them to justify the cost of the conference because it’s a fast, easy way to preserve relationships, make new connections, create alliances and negotiate deals. TIP: If you are not attracting the key players right now, make it a goal. Contact them directly and make it worth their while to be there. A pre-conference roundtable for heavy-hitters can be a huge incentive to get them to the conference.

3.       Scarcity of Seats. If the conference sells out every year, people know they must make a commitment early. They are more likely to attend an event that they know will sell out. TIP: Ensure that early-bird financial incentives offer a significant discount. Offer pre-conference booking at high demand, limited seating workshops and advertise immediately when they sell out.

4.       Location. If the conference is in a major urban centre it will attract more registrants for two reasons:

  • There is a larger pool of local registrants who do not have to incur travel costs
  • Out-of-town residents usually have other business they can conduct in the city and this helps to justify the cost of the travel.

5.       Ease of Purchase. If attendees know it is going to take them hours to arrange the details they will put off the buying decision. If they know it is going to take them minutes to arrange the details they are more likely to buy immediately. TIP: Invest in a top-notch online registration system that is designed for events like yours. It will save you time and money.

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Filed under Event Planning, Successful Conferences