The One Word You Need to Remember When You’re Designing Your Annual Meeting

by David, on January 22, 2019

When prospective attendees take a look at your annual meeting website, they most likely see a traditional description attached to your name: association, society, federation or whatever term happens to be part of your organization’s acronym. That word helps summarize the fact that the members of your audience are united in some sense of common purpose, but it may not give you the right framework for success for a once-a-year, face-to-face gathering. So what’s the word that should guide your annual meeting glossary? Brand.


“Your association is a brand,” Max Suzenaar, CSO and CEO of Minding Your Business, said. “And the annual meeting is the largest platform to broadcast your brand’s message and showcase who you really are and what you care about.”

Some association veterans might scoff at putting member-based organizations in the same bucket as Apple, Google, Amazon, Coca-Cola and the other instantly-recognizable logos and tag lines plastered on billboards and TV screens around the world. While it’s true that the average association doesn’t move with the swagger — or the massive budget — of the BMWs, Verizons and Nikes of the world, Suzenaar highlighted that associations must recognize that thinking like a brand can play a key role in turning an annual meeting into a can’t-miss experience. “Think about your brand promise,” Suzenaar said. “And how does the annual meeting help you deliver on that promise?”

Your Brand Relies Upon Researching Your Audience
Building a brand isn’t all about what you want to be, though. Instead, it relies on analyzing what your audience needs. “It’s more important than ever to understand your audience and deliver a level of engagement they won’t find anywhere else,” Suzenaar said.

That audience includes a wide range of constituents — the loyal attendees who have been on-site for each meeting over the past decade, the first-time professional attendees who are looking for the right career advancement opportunities, members, non-members and many more segments. “Knowing what each of these different parties wants relies on research,” Suzenaar said. “A sophisticated analysis can yield the data points that will guide you in the right direction and help you understand where you’re meeting their needs and where you can improve.”

Creating a Gap with the Rest of the Competition
Brands are not built on sameness; they are defined by what makes them different. In the association meetings and events space, creating that differentiation can be challenging. Take a look at the program of some of your competitors. Are there similar education session topics listed? Are some of the same speakers at your meeting presenting at theirs, too? Does the tab for “networking” include the standard have-a-cocktail-and-hand-out-your-business-card type of receptions that occur at nearly event? Simply put, if you erased your organization’s name at the top of your meeting’s agenda, would it be easily confused with another association? If so, it’s time to reimagine the possibilities of your program.


Looking for more information about re-imagining your annual meeting?

Take a break from all those internal chats and check out this educational webinar with John Folks and Max Suzenaar from Minding Your Business. With deep experience redesigning meetings and conferences for some of the world’s leading member-based organizations, John and Max will share valuable lessons that can transform a traditional meeting into a can’t-miss experience for your audience.