Today’s post is a courtesy of a guest blogger, Meagan Rockett, who is Director, Client Solutions with Greenfield Services, Inc.. She works closely with professional and trade associations in consulting and implementing unique strategies to increase all aspects of member engagement.

Have you ever felt that making a decision, any decision is better than not reacting?  Unfortunately, for associations at risk of their conference fading away, that’s often the temptation. Executives sense a problem, whether it is due to statistical figures showing that registration is declining, or that your choices of educational content and the presenters delivering the content were the wrong decision, it is tempting to do something, anything, to make the pain go away.

However, once you have started down this road, it is really difficult to turn the cart around and get back on track.

Planning and executing a conference takes a lot of time, effort and money.  If the delivery goes wrong, it can be really hard for an association to get the conference back on track to becoming successful.

Alternatively, if it was delivered successfully, and attendees were satisfied, it can be considered a good thing.  However; if your conference registration is declining, what difference will a successful conference make if there are too few people in attendance to notice?

Part of your strategy for enhancing your conference experience should be to take a pulse from your members.  Two surveys could be performed to uncover the necessary feedback to adjust your conference plans:

  • First, survey members who have attended one of your conferences in the last two years.  What encouraged them to register?  Did the conference meet their expectations when it comes to content, timing and location?  What could the organization do differently to keep them coming back? What about conference and additional fees?
  • Second, survey members who have not attended your conferences in the last two years.  What made them decide not to participate?  What conferences do they attend, and what makes them decide to attend another conference instead of yours?  What could the organization do differently to get these members to register?

To ensure that the feedback received can be used to help make these decisions, consider the following: 

  1. Honesty:  Be honest with yourself.  Recognition of what has brought you to this point, and what the feedback may portray is key to being ready to make changes.
  2. To ensure that you are asking the right questions, ask a professional to help you with developing the right line of questioning, and perhaps gather the responses.
  3. If you opt to create and gather responses internally, be prepared to ask an independent consultant to review the responses and make recommendations based on these responses.
  4. In addition to the independent assessment, create a team of people in various roles and responsibilities from your office to read through the results and make their own individual interpretations of the results.
  5. Be ready for discussions.  There may be several interpretations of and recommendations based on the results – be ready to hear each person out to ensure that their view has been captured during the strategic process.

Your decisions matter, and that’s reason enough to avoid selective interpretation of critical research.