Now that in-person events are re-emerging, it is time to start planning! Your association members are ready to meet in person and begin receiving the benefits of their membership. Your association’s operating budget is begging for increased revenue to help provide better services and programs to your members. There is business behind association events, and it is important that we don’t forget about the purpose of events for an association.

There are two key reasons for associations to produce events:

Reason #1: To Provide a Return on Investment (ROI) to the Membership

One of the key components of a high performing association – which every association strives to be – is providing distinguishable value to its members. Providing value ultimately creates recruitment and retention opportunities. We all know that without members, associations will cease to exist.

As an association leader, you must analyze, research, and establish solutions to create the best business opportunities for an event that will benefit the membership. This ultimately benefits the organization.

Now that we are entering the ‘new normal’, we need change. I don’t mean adjusting onsite logistics and travel, but rather how we ensure association members are receiving value from in-person events. The new normal includes adapting registration fees and sponsorship packages to be attractive and attainable, while still covering the costs of presenting the event. Ensure that all food and beverage costs, space rental, and sub-events within the program are covered through event revenue. At the same time, stay competitive within the industry and ensure that your program brings value and entices members to attend.

Analyze the Current Climate for Your Event

As an association leader, it is important to encourage your events team to prepare at SWOT analysis which analyzes the current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the event. With this research your team can identify gaps within your planning and provide solutions and recommendations to plan the event to adapt to the new normal. Read one of my recent articles about creating a new program or service for your association.

It is also important to speak to past sponsors, attendees, and exhibitors to learn what their event attendance budgets are. Many companies have chosen to reduce these budgets to make up for lost revenue that occurred during the pandemic. Take these opportunities to also find out what brings value from their perspectives.

As an association leader, you must encourage your team to adapt, create new opportunities, and welcome change as we plan for events in the new normal. Providing a signature service to your members is of utmost importance. Collaboration, listening to peers, and other aspects will help ensure that your association event is providing the best ROI to the members.

Reason #2: To Provide Revenue to the Association

The other very important business aspect to events is the revenue events bring to the association. Event revenue often is one of the only avenues that brings additional revenue to an association to create new opportunities. See this article written by one of my colleagues on how to increase non-dues revenue.

Event revenue helps cover operating costs of an organization and provides additional funds to increase member benefits and upgrade operational efficiencies. This can include a new website, a more efficient accounting software, or the opportunity to create more programs for learning and networking.

Creating ROI opportunities for members ultimately creates return on investment opportunities for the association. An increased event attendance rate, more sponsors and more exhibitors lead to revenue generation for organizations.

Clarify the Available Opportunities

It is important to ensure the registration, sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities are clear and concise. You want people to find it seamless and uncomplicated to register and provide payment. A deterrent will be complicated and confusing registrations. With the resurgence of events, the competition will be fierce. You can’t assume people will attend. You must instead consider how to make the event process most simple for potential attendees and sponsors to attend and provide dollars – without chasing them away.

The event business is a niche business. People’s expectations and philosophies have changed throughout the pandemic. Research will prove that supporters of your association will be most willing to engage in event activities if they are attractive to them – and everyone has different motivators that need to be considered.

Ultimately, the business behind events is a very important business, and when planning your in-person events post-pandemic, you must remember the two reasons to have events: ROI to your members and revenue to your organization’s bottom line. I hope you enjoy seeing your long term members and supporters and creating new partnerships and welcoming new members to your association as we move back to in-person meetings.