As a planner, what can you do to ensure that you are achieving attendance targets?
One way is to keep a close eye on what your members want. This means surveying your membership regularly. To get a complete picture, survey those who have recently attended your annual meeting (in order to determine their satisfaction level), and those who do not attend/have not attended recently (to find out why and what would change their mind).
What questions should you ask?
While some questions need to be different in the initial part of the survey, others can be very similar to enable you to compare responses.
Ask about a suitable location: This can be done either by free form or selection boxes (recommended). Include both top-tier & second-tier cities as options. Start by looking at the cities you have held your annual meeting in the past – but ensure to include an “other” option – with a free form for the contact to input their selection.
Find out about the budget: Registration fees, hotel room rates, do you know what your prospective attendees are willing to pay? It’s easy to assume that the lower the rates the better, but find out what their preferences are… offer ranges, ask what services or amenities might be important such as complimentary access to fitness facilities, wireless internet, parking, etc.
Dig into the content: People attend annual meetings to find out what is new in their field, to receive their continuing education credits, etc. Are there topics that they want to hear about, speakers they want to hear from, etc. that you are not aware of? Be sure to ask!
If they are members and are not attending your AGM, you might want to know what other associations they belong to where they are attending conferences, etc. What is that association doing differently?
Inquire about areas of concern outside the educational component: Attendees logically look at the conference program for education, but they often consider what overall “experience” they will get by attending the event in a particular city. What activities or attractions appeal to your audience? How do you keep them entertained? What would they like to see? Surveying them is a great way to find out!
Asking your membership for feedback is great; they will feel that they have a voice and that you are taking their feedback seriously.
But don’t stop there. Many associations have a list of contacts who are not members but are in the profession. Survey them too, as it may help you find out why they are not attending. Not only will this give you ways to improve your AGM, but it may give you insight on why they are not currently members and how to make them members in the near future.