Your Association’s Next Event: 7 Essential Tech Strategies

July 20, 2019
Posted In Consulting, Strategy

Guest post blog submitted by: Fonteva, a Salesforce-based management and event planning solution for associations.

Your association already knows that conferences and other events are essential for keeping your members engaged and helping them grow as professionals. However, events can quickly become a lot of work for your team. With the help of the right technology, events can become much easier to plan and host!

When it comes to planning effective events, you have a secret weapon on your side: your association management system (AMS)! While you’re likely already aware that this software solution can make online event registration a breeze, there are plenty of other ways your AMS can help make your event a success.

Let’s take a look at how you can use technology to make planning and hosting your next event a smooth process. We’ll show you how you can:

  1. Use member data to choose the right event.
  2. Spread the word using your AMS and website.
  3. Connect with your members on social media.
  4. Make the registration process easy.
  5. Incorporate eCommerce at your event.
  6. Give regional chapters event planning capabilities.
  7. Use member feedback to plan your next event.

Effective event planning begins before you set a date or book a venue. The first step your association should take is to determine the type of event that your members will find most engaging.

1. Use member data to choose the right event.

When the event you host matches your members’ professional goals and interests, they’ll be eager to register and you’re sure to be successful. To choose the right event for your members, gain insight into their preferences by reviewing the information in your member database.

For a comprehensive and efficient data collection process, make sure that:

  • Your AMS is either native to or integrated with your CRM. This way, all of the information that either your association’s team or your members enter into your AMS is automatically stored and organized in your CRM. You can check out Fonteva’s guide to the best association management software to learn more about the benefits of an AMS that’s built onto your CRM platform.
  • Your members can update their own profiles within your AMS through your website. You’ll always have access to the most updated and accurate information when your members can log in to your AMS to update their own profiles.
  • Your members’ continuing education credits are automatically recorded in your AMS. Live learning and other educational events can be particularly effective choices when they address your members’ continuing education needs and preferences.

If your association is using Salesforce as your CRM, choosing a Salesforce event management app is often a great choice to make because information already stored in your CRM is automatically available to make planning and registration easier.

Once you’ve decided on the type of event you’re hosting for your members, it’s time to use your AMS and your association’s website to spread the word and encourage registration.

2. Spread the word using your AMS and website.

Events are wonderful opportunities for your members to interact and form valuable professional connections with one another. Because of this, it’s important that your association encourages as many members as possible to attend. Use your AMS to spread the word among your members about your event.

You can keep everyone informed by:

  • Automating email communications. No matter the size of your association, you’ll be able to reach every member efficiently when you choose an AMS that allows you to send automated emails.
  • Creating and maintaining an effective website. Clean, modern web design and an easily navigable layout help ensure that members looking for event information find it quickly. Your association can partner with a web design firm to design an effective site.
  • Ensuring your site is mobile-responsive. Most of us spend a significant amount of time on our smartphones each day, so a mobile-responsive site is an essential component of good web development. Members should be able to learn more about your event and complete their registration via mobile.

With efficient automated communications and an updated website that’s easy to navigate using any device, your members are sure to have all the information they need ahead of your next event. To further build excitement, you can also spread the word on social media.

3. Connect with your members on social media.

Especially as we spend more time on our phones, social media is only growing more ubiquitous. Whether or not your association currently has a social media presence, your next event is an excellent reason to reevaluate and improve your outreach strategy on these platforms.

To become social media-savvy, you’ll want to:

  • Meet your members where they are. Facebook remains the largest social media platforms, so it will likely be important for your association to have an account there. If your members are also on Twitter, Instagram, or another site, consider adding these accounts as well.
  • Link to your website. Direct members to your website from your main account page as well as your posts whenever relevant. To build excitement for your event, you can also link social media posts to your event microsite, where members can learn more about what to expect once they arrive.
  • Take a multimedia approach. Don’t just tell your members about your event—show them with posts that incorporate pictures and short video clips that give them behind-the-scenes glimpses of the event preparation process.

When you use your website and social media accounts to get members excited about your event, you’ll need to be prepared for increased registration numbers! Use your AMS to create a fast, easy registration process.

4. Make the registration process easy.

Your event will be most successful when your attendance levels are high, providing more members with the opportunity to interact and learn from one another. When your online registration process is quick and easy, more members will complete their registration.

When it comes to setting up event registration, your AMS is the place to start. Make the most of your software’s features by:

  • Hosting registration within a familiar system. Your AMS is the perfect place to host registration because your members already know how to login to and use the system. Ensure that a link to your event and its registration page is prominently located near their login location.
  • Gather registration information in your CRM. If your AMS and CRM are integrated, you’ll be able to gather and store additional information that your members enter when they register. They’ll also save time by not having to reenter the information already stored in your systems.
  • Offer custom pricing levels. If your association has different levels of membership, offers early-bird registration discounts, or wants to set up any other type of tiered system, you can do so when you use your AMS for event registration.

Using the data you’ve already gathered in your CRM can help speed up the registration process for both your members and your team. If you’re using Salesforce as your CRM, check out re:Charity’s list of the top Salesforce apps to find one that can help make event registration a breeze.

Want to make events even more exciting for your members and increase revenue for your association at the same time? Incorporate eCommerce before, during, and after your next event.

5. Incorporate eCommerce at your event.

Your members value the professional development opportunities that your association provides and they’re proud of their membership. You can foster stronger connections to your association and commemorate successful events by selling branded merchandise and other products through the eCommerce features of your AMS.

You’ll engage your members through eCommerce when you use your AMS to help you:

  • Sell merchandise during registration. Offer members the opportunity to add branded merchandise to their ticket purchase, or distribute merchandise as a perk to early registrants or registrants at certain membership levels.
  • Choose the right type of merchandise. Successfully branded merchandise is both fun and practical—not something that will just sit on a shelf once your members get home from your event! T-shirts are a popular choice that can also make an excellent fundraising idea for your association.
  • Continue selling after the event. Keep t-shirts and other branded merchandise available through your eCommerce platform year-round so that members can make purchases whenever they feel inspired.

Members will be eager to make their purchases using the eCommerce features of your AMS when they know that their transactions will be secure. Click here to learn more about payment gateway options to ensure that your members enjoy a trustworthy buying experience.

While association-wide events are undeniably exciting to plan, they may not be accessible to all of your members if your association is large. Help all of your members enjoy the event experience by using your AMS to facilitate regional event planning.

6. Give regional chapters event planning capabilities.

Large associations provide many valuable opportunities for their members, including a wide network of like-minded professionals from which to learn and grow. However, when members are spread out all over the country and even the world, planning an in-person event can be a challenge. Large associations can use their AMS to give regional chapters their own event planning capabilities.

Associations that have member committees, communities, and regional chapters should choose an AMS that facilitates engagement among the members of these subgroups. Look for an AMS that allows leaders of these groups to:

  • Invite eligible members. Invitations to committees and regional chapters can help members make the most out of their participation in your association by connecting them with colleagues in similar fields or geographical areas.
  • Send automated emails. Leaders can keep their members in the loop about events and other opportunities through the same automated email communications that your association as a whole uses.
  • Communicate with members via a mobile app. Mobile engagement is essential to effective communication today, so make sure that members of committees and regional chapters can stay in touch through an easy-to-use smartphone app.

Whether your next event is for a specific regional chapter or your association’s entire membership base, you can use their feedback to help make future events even better. Be sure to gather member feedback after any type of event that you host.

7. Use member feedback to plan your next event.

The best events that your association can host are those that address your members’ professional needs and interests directly. After each event, gather feedback from your members to incorporate into your future planning process.

Gathering this feedback doesn’t have to be a challenge even if your association is large and your event was well-attended. Try:

  • Asking at the event. Asking in person helps foster stronger connections between your association’s staff and your members and demonstrates that you value their feedback. They’ll also be able to provide specific feedback because they’ve just experienced the event.
  • Automating survey distribution. Send out a short survey using the automation capabilities of your AMS. This is an efficient way to reach large numbers of members if your event was particularly well-attended.
  • Saving registration and other information in your CRM. Registration data, survey responses, and other measurable ways to evaluate the success of your event should be saved automatically in your CRM for future reference.

Knowing what your association did well and where you can improve is an essential step in hosting an excellent event for your members. When you gather enough information and use it constructively, you’ll be able to provide better and better programming for them each time.

Your association’s members are sure to benefit from an event that suits their professional needs and interests. With the help of your AMS and related software systems, your team is capable of gathering and using the information that will help you determine the best ways to provide your members with a valuable experience.

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