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Engaging First-Time Conference Attendees

Engaging First-Time Conference Attendees: 4 Tactics to Try

Of course you want to provide an exceptional experience for ALL of your conference attendees, but ensuring that happens for your first-time attendees is particularly important. Their decision to attend future events (and possibly even renew their membership) depends heavily on that first experience, so going the extra mile for those folks, in particular, is certainly worth it.

What does “going the extra mile” for your first-time attendees look like? Here are a few tactics worth trying:

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6 Types of Questions for Your Next Member Needs Assessment

Posted by Colleen Bottorff

Your Next Member Needs Assessent

If you’re not already, you might want to get in the habit of administering a member needs assessment on a regular basis. You can get a pretty good idea of everyone’s happiness, engagement, and frustrations in your daily interactions, but the fact of the matter is: People don’t always feel comfortable giving their honest opinions all the time. Especially to your face.

Asking your members to take a survey about their satisfaction and preferences once a year or so will help you truly understand the “temperature” of your membership - and allowing them to do so anonymously means you get that honesty. Plus, this insight will help you and your staff make more informed decisions! Take a look at these types of questions (and some examples) to get you started:


Any survey should include demographics so you have a full picture of who makes up your membership, and how various segments feel about certain things. Typical survey demographics include questions about age, race, gender, region, education level, etc. - however, for your purposes, we’d recommend including more profession-related ones as well. For example:

  • What is your role in your organization?
  • What are your professional goals?
  • What are the goals of your company?
  • What do you need to grow professionally and make an impact?

Really, anything that will help you categorize your membership and find patterns is fair game!


Questions about your benefit offerings will be central to any member needs assessment, but this is an opportunity to dig real deep. One thing to consider is having members rank every single benefit based on how important it is to them (to weed out the duds and even decide if you should move them around in your membership packages).

Other potential questions could be:

  • What benefits are you using the most? Why?
  • How often do you use X? (with X being a specific benefit you want to learn more about)
  • What would motivate you to use X more?
  • What benefits could we add?
  • What benefits should we take away?

Education & training

You’ll want to make sure your association is keeping ahead of the curve and helping members stay up to date on the most important topics - especially if your industry moves fast. This is also important for gauging the success of a formal Continuing Education program. Ask members:

  • Their interest level in current offerings
  • What topics do you want to see covered?
  • How can we help you be better at your job?
  • What will help you the most in your overall career?

Committee and volunteering interest

I lump these two together because both require asking your members for more of their time - and that’s a sensitive topic for some! Find out:

  • What opportunities are you already taking advantage of (if none, why)?
  • What would make this kind of commitment easier on you?
  • What they enjoy the most and least about these commitments?
  • Why do you volunteer/participate on a committee?

Availability and communication preferences

This is a chance for you to show you can be flexible. Definitely ask the days and times they are available, but also consider asking questions along the lines of:

  • How do you prefer to stay updated about meeting times and dates?
  • How do you prefer to stay updated about changes in meeting times and dates?
  • How often do you think meetings should occur?
  • Do you feel that meetings are too long? Too short?
  • What prevents you from attending?
  • Would you come more often if childcare were available? If food was served?
  • Would you like to rotate meeting days to include some weekends?

This is also where you could ask whether or not they would be willing to help with certain meeting aspects, like hosting at their office or other space, contacting members with reminders, bringing their peers to recruit, or even just picking up the donuts and coffee you ordered on their way in.

The highs and lows

What makes them happy to be a member? What would they change? Be sure to leave room for some straightforward questions about their overall satisfaction. These should be left open ended, giving members all the space they need to get it all out. After all, the point of a member needs assessment is to hear it all - good or bad!

Bonus topic: Advocacy

Does your association participate in advocacy or lobbying activities? If so, be sure to ask members about if and how they prefer to participate, what issues are most important to them, what they think would impact the industry (and how), etc. so you know what direction these activities should take.

Regularly administering a member needs assessment allows you to learn about your membership in a way that will help you provide more value and make an impact. You can always change the questions you ask based on what you’ve learned or if you need a little more information about something else the next time around. It all depends on what’s going on at the association!

Want to see a real life example? Here at MemberClicks we’re currently doing our own “needs assessment” through our Industry Study! The purpose of this survey is to give us a deeper insight into the challenges, goals and opinions of today’s association professionals. All association, chamber, and nonprofit pros are welcome to take it (regardless of if they are a MemberClicks customer), and you can even enter to win a $300 Amazon gift card at the end! Click here to take the survey (it’ll take about 5-10 minutes) - thanks advance if you’re able to help us out!

Topics: member retention, MC Insider

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