The impact of COVID-19 can be seen and felt across all industries and professions. As events are postponed or converted into digital formats, association management companies have to go the extra mile to keep their members connected and engaged. At Paragon Events, we remain focused on creating new experiences for our association clients as member engagement strategies adjust to an online event model.
Our Association Management Team has identified several key touchpoints to continue facilitating trade association member engagement. Our association membership engagement strategy continues to evolve during this time of uncertainty and transition.
Make the switch to virtual events. Association member engagement is fueled by events that allow members to communicate in a professional and social setting. However, the health and safety of members is always the most important priority. As a way to address safety concerns surrounding large gatherings and events, virtual alternatives have quickly become the new standard.
Canceling events not only hurts the association as a whole, but the professional development of individual members, as well. Many rely on networking events to conduct and grow their business, and educational opportunities can be vital for continued career advancement. Although face-to-face meetings may be on hold for the time-being, associations can offer other ways for members to continue to participate in valuable and engaging experiences.
Rather than canceling altogether, Paragon Events has begun implementing some of these digital event options as part of our membership engagement strategy:
- Virtual Networking Events: Use social media or messaging apps to cultivate areas where members can interact. Depending on the membership’s geographical location, this may allow members to connect with an even wider network of peers.
- Live Webinars: Consider hosting a simple, digital Q&A session between members and the association’s Board of Directors. Designate an industry hot topic for discussion, and let members connect in real-time. Consider hiring an expert speaker to answer members’ burning questions related to a specific topic. When it comes to engagement, live is the way to go!
- Pre-Recorded Trainings and Educational Seminars: Review your contracts with speakers to see if they would be able to provide a pre-recorded session for attendees. These training videos could serve as “endless events,” allowing attendees to purchase the webinar year-round at a discounted price, as they would any other event registration.
- Online Courses and Quizzes: Work with your industry partners to develop online courses with substantial educational content. Paragon Events has discovered opportunities for our clients to earn continuing education credits through online courses. The need for continuing education never stops, especially during uncertain times within the industry.
To keep attendance up for virtual events, it is important to institute a variety of options for members to participate in. Some people may not be as comfortable interacting on an online forum, so provide alternative ways for them to stay involved in the association.
Remain active on social media. Social media is the quickest method of engaging members in a way that’s familiar and accessible to them. During times with fewer in-person events, social media can be a resource for driving association member engagement, member connection and interaction. As a way to continue providing value to our association clients, Paragon Events has instituted new social media campaigns, including Digital Roundtables. These virtual discussions deliver insight from industry experts, while giving followers a chance to share their perspectives and collaborate with new ideas.
Creating online forums, organizing Facebook groups or introducing chat apps, such as Slack, can give members a safe space to continue connecting. The association can facilitate those platforms and create guidelines to ensure they serve as beneficial, professional networking spaces. Members can discuss current industry issues, share insight on operational procedures and even continue to network and meet new peers. No face-to-face interaction required!
Create a personal connection with members. Paragon Events knows the importance of a personal touch. Email communication and social media updates are important to reach members collectively, but it’s equally important to reach out individually. Although it can be difficult to fit in given already packed schedules, dedicate some time to remind members they have an ally and resource in their association management company.
Sending individual emails and making direct phone calls reinforces the Paragon Events Association Management team’s commitment and personal connection with our association clients. We strive to assess their concerns and reassure them that their membership makes them part of a community of peers who are here to help guide them through times of uncertainty.
Maintain a functional website. Websites are an all-encompassing resource for any association. It’s important to keep them up-to-date throughout the year, but especially during times of transition. They serve as a vital information hub for members. These updates should include refreshing event pages as schedules are adjusted or postponed, and providing any key information all your members or industry stakeholders should know.
Prioritize maintaining a strong online presence to demonstrate your virtual accessibility to members. Providing consistent updates on your website allows you to communicate information frequently, without overwhelming your audience. This way members have the option to check in whenever they need information. Keep the format functional and user-friendly by placing news on the homepage or as pop-up notifications. Don’t make people work too hard to find the information they need!
For one of our clients, Paragon Events compiled a “COVID-19 Resources” page, which serves as a one-stop-shop for information, including CDC guidelines, industry specific news and links to additional external resources. This website page provides relevant and clear news to our members in a central location.
Serve as a reliable resource. Information based in fact and data is the most valuable tool during any crisis situation. Association Managers serve as a funnel of information to their members, gathering the most relevant and up-to-date content. Our clients are looking to us to help them sort through the noise and focus on the most important updates. With new information and guidelines constantly flooding media channels, Paragon Events’ priority is to provide our clients with vetted facts and useful recommendations. Providing solid, reliable information reinforces our dedication to serving members and reinforces their trust in our company. Read through our latest blog post, Coronavirus 101: How to Protect Your Event, for more of our event- related COVID-19 guidance and resources.
Benefits of Virtual Events
Thanks to technology, virtual events are now taking place throughout the world. Here are some benefits you can reap through these events.
Timeless Content: Virtual events save all the content for later use, unlike physical events, where all your marketing and promotional content eventually ends up in the trash can. In addition, you can keep all your marketing materials for as long as possible because it is available in recorded videos, online documents, slide presentations, PDF files, and other formats.
Cost-effective: Unlike in-person events, virtual events don’t need a venue or the arrangements you need for setting up a physical location. You also don’t need a valet service, refreshments, or other necessities for operating a successful event. As a result, you can spend less money.
Wider Reach: Virtual events are accessible on any device and from any location. They eliminate the need for any physical logistics, such as travel and lodging, enabling you to reach every part of the globe. That increases the reach and size of your audience.
More Engagement: Connect with thousands of individuals at once and engage in voice, text, or video conversations. Although physical events may be more effective in personal interactions, virtual events can provide a successful alternative to participants who can’t join physical events.
Innovative Experiences: Virtual events allow you to impress your audience with real-life designs and 3D avatars. However, virtual events can only give you the results you need to promote your brand or services when you start thinking creatively and utilizing the limitless possibilities of technology.
Eco-friendly Events: Virtual events eliminate the need for travel, and consumption of a number of bottled and prepackaged goods, such as food and bottled water, which can end up in landfills.
Associations are communities formed by people with similar interests, concerns and professions. In times of crisis or distress, association member engagement is more important than ever. Association management companies are called upon to rally the community together and help lead the organization. Although transitions may be difficult, this is when the true value of an experienced and prepared association management company becomes clear.
As logistics are shifted, budgets are reassessed, and events are transitioned, the expertise of an association management team can facilitate a seamless member experience. Contact us at (561) 243-3073 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how Paragon Events can help guide your association through this transitional period.
Authored By: Randa Griffin, Marketing Assistant