Association events can be some of the most financially taxing one-time investments that your organization makes over the course of a fiscal year. Of course, your event content may remain on-demand through a paywall on your association website. However, the event itself and the bulk of its initial engagement and financial potential are usually concentrated in just a single afternoon or a few days.
This can create a lot of pressure for your team, as you try to not only exceed your initial investment but also thoroughly engage members and provide them with valuable experiences. That’s what makes it so important to ensure that you’re using whatever tools are available to you to boost attendance, maximize engagement, streamline operations, and make the most of your association events.
In particular, we’ve identified three important software solutions that no association event should go without and necessary features to look out for. From interactive event platforms to effective data hygiene practices, make sure that you come prepared with these tools for your next event:
Ready to supercharge your in-person, hybrid, or virtual association events? We’ll begin with the most powerful software solution: event management software.
Event Management Software
Event management software is a broad set of tools that helps your organization plan, promote, and manage your events. This software has a hand in virtually every step of the event lifecycle, from facilitating multichannel marketing to generating post-event reports, and it’s built to make the event experience better for both the people organizing it and the attendees who register for it.
That being said, some event management systems are more comprehensive than others. If you’re looking for a robust, all-in-one platform to help your team improve the creation and execution of your events, the Fonteva guide to event management software names top providers that you should consider, as well as the features of a strong event management solution. For example, keep an eye out for:
- The ability to plan and manage all event formats—virtual, hybrid, and in-person
- Easy-to-use, mobile-optimized registration forms to streamline registration
- Seamless data integration with your association management software
- Reports on event and attendee data
- Management capabilities for vendors, sponsors, speakers, and exhibitors
Additionally, if you want to ensure that your event management software has your specific needs and requirements in mind, then opt for a platform from an association-specific software provider.
An Event Platform
As virtual and hybrid events continue to grow in importance, it’s essential for you to invest in an online event space where all attendees can enjoy everything that your association has to offer.
While there are plenty of free conferencing apps floating around with basic streaming and discussion features, a dedicated event platform gives you the power to effectively interact with virtual attendees, encourage greater member engagement, and facilitate networking and community-building.
This Re:charity article on updating your association tech strategy dives deeper into the topic of community-building and networking, explaining how they are the backbone of any association—particularly those made for professionals in the same industries. This makes it critical to invest in tools that support these member-to-member activities, especially during your events.
In particular, seek out an event platform that offers:
- Live chat and reaction features
- Virtual community and committee creation features
- Viewable attendee profiles
- Chat or video invitation capabilities
Membership Data Software and Resources
Events provide a notable opportunity for associations to better connect with their members. If done correctly, your association can even grow your donor community. However, this is only possible with high-quality membership data management.
Having software to manage your membership will make it easier to continually learn more about your members and greatly enhance your follow-up phase after the event is done. Prompting your members to sign up with detailed and up-to-date contact information is a must. This goes for their guests, as well. Using membership management software is the best way for your association to keep detailed records at your event so that you always know how to contact your members afterward.
Unsure what data you should be targeting? Here are some suggestions for what data you should collect:
- Preferred name
- Email address
- Phone number
- Physical address
- Employment status and employer
- Educational background
You can collect more detailed data as well, but these are simple metrics that you can collect on a sign-up sheet at your event. Use membership management software in order to keep this data organized. It’s incredibly valuable to leverage in future connections with your member community.
If your nonprofit is running into roadblocks in finding content to add to your membership management software, you might want to consider appending your member data. A good indicator of if you’re in need of appends is if you’re constantly sent to voicemail when you call clients or if the mail you send them gets forwarded back to you. Having up-to-date records is critical in preserving your relationships with your members. Appending your data is also important for encouraging a strong turnout to your events. Services such as NPOInfo provide appending services so that you can build strong, long-lasting contact with your members.
Regardless of whether you’re hosting a virtual networking fair or an in-person awards ceremony, all event types and styles can be improved when the right software is powering the planning, management, and hosting processes. While you may be tempted to cut costs and avoid relying on dedicated event software, these systems are available for a reason. And by taking advantage of the software solutions and platforms we’ve highlighted, you can increase member engagement, leverage your data, raise the value of your membership program, and reduce stress for your event organizing team.