associations do business is changing and evolving. How does your association navigate the change? As an association management company (AMC), we are involved in many conversations related to the changing landscape of industries with our clients.


Value of The Meeting

One of the value propositions that associations have provided since the beginning of time is the ability to connect members with similar interests and/or challenges, bringing them together to share experiences and learn from each other.

Conferences, meetings, and tradeshows (aka “The Meeting”) have been methods used to connect members but as technology and connectivity evolves, these methods of bringing members together are coming under pressure. The return on investment (ROI) for the time and expense of connecting and attending are being weighed heavily by your member organizations. What are the implications for your association?


Benefits of The Meeting

List the benefits of bringing members together under one roof to connect through “The Meeting”:

  • The meeting allows members to collaborate on challenges and ideas
  • Opportunity for members to be educated on current industry issues
  • Revenue generation for the association
  • Giving stakeholders the opportunity to connect with members
  • In-person meetings allow for better connection and idea generation
  • Opportunity to build relationships
  • Attendance at a meeting provides an opportunity to concentrate and participate with less distractions

Of course, this list is far from exhaustive but a good starting point to look at meetings.

The last five years have highlighted that there are other ways of providing education and connection with members and this has an impact on how your association needs to look at The Meeting. The cost of travel (air/land), accommodation, cost of venue space and registration are contributing to members looking at alternatives to attending meetings in-person.


Rising Challenges of The Meeting

The costs around hosting  “The Meeting” have skyrocketed and the sticker shock is not  going away. The input costs for labour and materials are starting to impact the costs of audio-visual (AV), food and beverage (F&B)  for the hotels, exhibit space and accommodation. Gratuities are also increasing adding to the average bill for any conference session with food.

Another factor affecting “The Meeting” is the environmental challenges with travelling to meetings. Some organizations are pulling back on sending staff to meetings in efforts to protect the environment. Businesses have also discovered different ways of connecting with their customers through email, social media, and other digital mediums.

Membership dues and delegate registration have not kept pace with the increased costs associated with in-person meetings. Traditional sponsorships are also being challenged as businesses connect differently and/or directly with members.

With all the challenges, “The Meeting” is still important to the value proposition for associations so building a strategy around the sustainability of your meeting is important.


The Purpose of Associations

I read an article published by Scott Baldwin from DirectorPrep ( titled, ”The Purpose Deficit.” He speaks about associations understanding the purpose – the “why” that guides the mission, vision and values supporting their work. After reading this, it made me think about viewing “The Meeting” through the purpose and why lens in helping determine how your association moves forward with the value it puts on them.

Does your association need to host “The Meeting”? Is it part of your “why” you exist? If so, management and the Board need to focus on making it happen.

A few things to think about when discussing the “why” around your association and “The Meeting.” Does your core purpose as an association include that connection between your members and stakeholders? If it does, developing communications around “The Meeting” that emphasizes the need for this type of connectivity, highlighting the value is imperative.

Develop a strategy that builds on the value of “The Meeting” and deals with the increasing costs connected to the hosting of meetings. Are there any other income streams that can be explored to compliment “The Meeting” costs? As an example, I attended a conference in 2022 where the meeting was profitable because of the virtual registrants that attended. There are costs associated with having virtual delegates, but this conference was able to manage those to a degree that created a profitable outcome.

It is important to look at trends for “The Meeting” to see if you can measure or quantify how others in the industry are adapting and making it happen. Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE) can be a valuable resource to reach out to association executives that are going through similar issues and learn how they are handling the ever-changing landscape of meetings.

Your association stakeholders are also a valuable resource to tap into to learn how to better, more efficiently deliver what members need. Change is not happening in isolation so connecting with customers, sponsors, and members to learn what their needs are will help you get closer to answering that “why.”


In Summary

It is not news that the world is changing at a rapid rate. How do we keep pace with the change and how do you stay relevant to the mission and vision of the association? Has the mission changed as industries change? Does your association need to approach the “value” proposition, the “why” differently to attract and keep members?

All these questions need to be part of the discussion related to “The Meeting” and that has made your association successful in the past. Doing them because you have always done them isn’t the right reason for continuing with meetings, they need to achieve the outcome they are meant to achieve (member connectivity, profitable, etc.).


Learn more about tips for your meetings below: