How to Get More Association Members to Attend Conferences


According to industry research, the vast majority of Association members do not attend their organization’s conference. What is behind these numbers? Where members in the past may have looked to associations for community and networking, social media is now redefining how people interact. Once a primary resource for relevant industry-specific information, Associations now compete with a host of tailored information resources proliferating online.

The ability to offer lower group rates and discounts on products and services can be overshadowed by the countless savings aggregator, comparison pricing, and auction sites. Most of these services are available at no cost.

How can Associations overcome these challenges? The key is in providing tangible, relevant, exclusive value, specific to the affinity that cannot be easily found elsewhere. To that end, strategically designed conferences will play an essential role.

When asked what is the most important function of an association, training and professional development was the number one response. Conferences, events and training sessions are one of the most common ways associations try to meet that need.  However, up to 80% of members don’t take advantage of these programs.

With an ever growing choice of events to attend, a compelling theme, engaging program and desirable site are crucial. A strategically designed and well-executed, integrated conference marketing plan will increase attendance which will in turn, generate more interest, support and revenue from sponsors and exhibitors.  Additionally, members who attend the conference will return with real-world, practical solutions that demonstrate the tangible value of their membership thereby increasing their likelihood to both recommend and attend future events. This member satisfaction will result in deeper member engagement which improves member retention and supports new member recruitment.

The key to accomplishing this goal is developing a strategic and comprehensive conference marketing plan that leverages key marketing opportunities before, during and after the conference.

Conferences must serve a variety of masters from attendees, to exhibitors to sponsors to the corporation or association hosting the event. Unless communications are tailored to the interests, needs and perspective of the recipient attendance, revenue and ROI will be disappointing.  Segmentation is key to communicating the conference’s unique value in a relevant way that will resonate and motivate each audience. At Bodden Partners, we work with our clients to identify discreet segments within the membership and their reasons for attending or exhibiting at the conference. If you would like help planning for your next event, contact us for a free consultation.