I can still remember the first association conference I ever attended: It was three days of jam-packed educational sessions, networking events every night and one-on-one meetings in between. It was hundreds of people on the trade show floor, a few with familiar faces but most of whom I was meeting for the first time. It was a lot of business cards, a lot of handshaking, and a lot of coffee. It was overwhelming, but it was exhilarating.
I’ve been to many more conferences since in my years with Naylor Association Solutions, but I still feel the same excitement each time I attend an association’s event.
If there’s one thing that most associations agree on, it’s that meetings and events are where things happen: Deals are done, connections are made, relationships are built, knowledge is shared, and new ideas come to life. According to the 2016 Naylor Communications Benchmarking Survey, live conferences and events are still the No. 1 communications channel for associations, with 90 percent of respondents saying they consider them extremely valuable for their members.
But what is your association doing to extend the life of your meeting beyond those few days when your members are on-site and fully engaged? Don’t let your event end as soon as your members are back in the office. Instead, keep members inspired by sharing content from your event throughout the year.
Here are a few ways you can create content during your conference that will live on long after the event is over.
> Create video – lots of video. It’s never been easier to shoot and edit video at your event, and the types of video content you can create really knows no bounds. A few ideas include member testimonials, exhibitor demonstrations, Q&As with speakers, behind-the-scenes footage…the list goes on. Create videos that are different lengths so your members can watch as they have time. Don’t forget live streaming, which could include anything from offering virtual registration for the entire event to Periscope or Facebook Live feeds.
> Blog before, blog during and blog after. Does your association have a blog? The answer should be a resounding yes! Blogs are one of the easiest ways to keep your members updated and informed, and because it’s located on your website, your members know exactly where to find news and content as it becomes available. Before your event, post biographies of speakers and descriptions of educational sessions as they’re announced or travel insights about your event’s host city. During the event, share lessons learned during educational sessions or describe scenes from the trade show floor. After the event, create a slideshow of the best photos of your members or write a thank you to your event sponsors (the event wouldn’t be possible without them!).
> Plan thought leadership pieces that keep the conversation going. Your association’s magazine is an excellent place to do a deeper dive into content presented at your event. Before your conference, take a close look at the scheduled educational sessions. Instead of immediately trying to write a full-length article about every hot topic addressed, strategically plan articles for issues of the magazine throughout the year. Doing this keeps the conversation and idea generation going over time, and gives your association the chance to provide timely updates. Ask speakers of well-attended sessions to write a follow-up article about their area of expertise, or conduct a point-counterpoint interview with experts on a subject that caused debate.
> Get social – even after the event. Live tweeting is now common at events, and associations who use social media regularly know the importance of having an event hashtag. Make sure you’re using your event hashtag throughout the year to highlight the videos, blogs and articles discussed above. Another idea: Most events hire a professional photographer, and they take hundreds of photos of your members. Take some of the best conference photos and post them throughout the year using the popular #tbt (Throwback Thursday) or #fbf (Flashback Friday) hashtags on Instagram. This will remind members of what a great time they had, and start building buzz for next year’s event.
> Encourage your members to create content, then share it. Content generation doesn’t have to fall all on the association’s shoulders – in fact, it shouldn’t. Your members are extremely knowledgeable about their industry. Help them promote the content they’re already creating for their own blogs by retweeting or reposting what they’re sharing on social media. If you know you have members who attend your events every year and enjoy writing, don’t be afraid to ask them to write their top takeaways from a session. Remember though, if you’re going to ask members to contribute, make sure to give them a clear set of guidelines and set expectations in advance.
> Design easy-to-share infographics with important statistics. Sometimes, the numbers tell a great story all on their own, and an infographic is a visually creative way to share information that might otherwise get overlooked. Start with the basics – number of attendees and exhibitors, education sessions and speakers. But don’t forget to make it fun too – number of selfies taken, social media posts and coffee breaks. Infographics are also a great way to share post-event survey results. Make sure to create infographics in various sizes so they can be used across all your social media platforms, in emails and in print.
Your annual conference is your association’s biggest content generator of the year. By planning ahead and using all the platforms available to you, your association can create relevant content that will keep your members engaged long after your event comes to a close.
Sarah Sain is a senior content strategy and development manager with Naylor Association Solutions, working exclusively with society of association executive and meeting professional clients. Email her at email@example.com or follow her as @ssain7 on Twitter.
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