Reinventing your association conference experience

An audience, wearing business attire, sit and listen to a presentation at the Harcourts Conference at the TSB Arena in Wellington.

Association conferences are instrumental in fostering professional growth, collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and networking. But ongoing challenges in attracting numbers mean organisers must be willing to adapt. By breaking away from traditional formats, association conferences can stay relevant.

Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE) New Zealand general manager Brett Jeffery says organisers hold the key to unlocking a world of possibilities. Understanding members’ needs, introducing new formats, and enjoyable, rewarding content can help engage audiences.

Tailor content to audience needs

Understanding the evolving needs of your members and aligning content is crucial for success. Conduct surveys or seek direct feedback from members to get valuable insights. Find out the topics and themes that interest them the most. Provide multiple streams within the conference programme. Participants can tailor their experience to suit their professional goals and interests.

Promote inclusivity and diversity

A reimagined conference experience must strive to be inclusive and embrace diversity. Curate diverse speaker panels, representing a range of backgrounds, industries and perspectives. This fosters an environment where attendees feel valued and encourages a rich exchange of ideas. Provide accessible facilities and materials across the programme. This ensures all attendees can participate, irrespective of their abilities.

Break the mould

Instead of standard lecture-style presentations, consider incorporating interactive elements. Workshops, panel discussions, fireside chats and even gamification can invigorate a programme. They allow attendees to participate in the learning process and engage in thought-provoking discussions. When audiences can contribute their perspectives, it results in a more enriching experience.

Foster engaging, interactive sessions

Engagement is at the heart of reinventing the conference experience. Adopt interactive technologies such as live polls, audience response systems, and real-time Q&A sessions. to make presentations more dynamic. This keeps participants attentive and presentations dynamic. It also empowers audiences to shape the direction of discussions and delve deeper into topics that resonate.

Offer value-add benefits

Make your conference more attractive by providing extra benefits to attendees. Access to exclusive content, post-event resources, or networking opportunities beyond the conference dates. By offering additional perks, it demonstrates your commitment to the growth and success of your members. It also entices them to participate in future conferences.

Learn more about AuSAE’s upcoming events.