Certainty in Uncertain Times



I don’t know about you but there are a few phrases and words that I’m tired of hearing: uncertain, unprecedented, and new normal to name a few. These are phrases and words that I want to eliminate because I don’t want them to frame my approach. These words keep us in a rut and from moving forward.
There’s quite a bit of certainty for us in the association space and we need latch on to it quickly and start acting before it’s too late.
Let me give you a couple of examples.
Corporate budgets for membership and sponsorship are going to be smaller in 2021 and for the foreseeable future. Congrats if you renewed all of your members in Q1! But what about 2021? We know companies have multiple memberships. Next year, money will be tighter in any scenario and if I was scenario planning I would expect about a 20% reduction in overall membership revenue in 2021 if you do the same thing you did this year. Let’s have a better and more intentional renewal plan executed for 2021 starting today. Right now, you’re making the case through the billing cycle of 2021 renewals. If you don’t have a focused and skilled recruitment team, don’t expect a new member next year – period. Smooth out your process to enable organizations and people to join your association easier. Have you ever gone to your website and tried to join? Was is easy or difficult to do so? Smooth out and improve the process if you want new members next year. You should also make sure that you have a team that is focused and skilled in membership recruitment.
Our meetings will be virtual for the remainder of 2020. This is a major disruption for associations that get 35% or more of their annual revenue from in-person meetings. Virtual meetings are going to be the norm for the remainder of this year and at least the first part of 2021.
Virtual meetings can and should be a unique experience. We have got to rethink these things. Registration fees are going to be lower – we’re talking tens to low hundreds instead of thousands of dollars. However, instead of a corporate decision to send three people to Orlando, you may have the chance to reach hundreds, if not thousands, of new people and new attendees who have never attended your in-person events before. The format should be different. No one is going to sit in front of your computer for three days. The content can be built up over time to a big crescendo during a one- or two-day event. It has to be very tight. Virtual meetings are the norm now, not the exception.
Data is king and data equals revenue. The biggest value for virtual events, over face-to-face meetings, is data. The available data is much more detailed and significant than the ol’ sending a sponsor a list of attendees now. They are going to demand more if you want sponsorship dollars from them. If you can deliver significant demographic and participation data you might be able to secure the big brands that you’ve always been looking for – and you think should sponsor your event – for the first time ever.
Member demographics and behavior data with the association and the sponsor is important to track, so will the behavior within the virtual meeting platform going forward.
Who clicked on what? How long did they stay? Where did they go next? Where did they access information from? Did they go to a virtual exhibit hall and download a white paper?
This is the information that we should be evaluating our virtual platforms on because we can turn that into revenue and improved sponsorship programs.
Data and tech savvy associations that have the specialist on staff, or can hire them, are going to have a leg up on the competition. They will be able to ask for top dollars for that information especially if they can package it up for specific segments for the sponsor that’s interested in that particular group of members.
Sponsorship and supplier influence have increased. You will need revenue from the supplier community to help overcome the lack of registration revenue. Thought leadership content will make programming better and more valuable and the sponsors will ask for that opportunity and you will need to be ready for it. Your partners are going to request more data than they used to. In the past, when you had an in-person meeting, it may have been okay to send the name of the person and the company and call it a day. Your partners are not going to buy a sponsorship in that kind of environment anymore, friends. By the way, I don’t want to come off negative on this, I think is big time opportunity! We’re going to have a separation between the serious and the big-time players and those that have been faking it for years.
So, my question is, do you have the people in your organization to pull this off? Or, can they learn it? There will be a great deal of work and time needed to execute our very best.
There’s a big time shake up coming, folks. I am certain of that. The question is, are you ready?


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