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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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How to Start a National Awareness Day for Your Association

Posted by Colleen Bottorff

Cropped image of group of young multiracial woman holding pink ribbons in hands. Struggling against breast cancer. Breast cancer awareness concept..jpeg

Developing a national day to annually rally around your industry (or a related cause) is an excellent way to boost awareness for both your organization and its mission. Not only will this help with member engagement, but you’ll also be working toward starting a larger conversation about something important to you, your members and your industry. Bonus? You’ll be giving the public a platform and the resources they need to talk about it (for some of that invaluable word-of-mouth marketing).

But oh boy - where to even begin?! It may sound daunting, but in a world where International Talk Like a Pirate Day exists and is successful (yes, this is a real thing), we’re confident you can pull it off. Our advice: start small and grow it! Here are a few steps to get you going - who knows, 2018 could be the inaugural year!

Step One: Scope out the competition.

Do a little research to see if there is already an awareness day surrounding your industry...and then don’t do that. Hang on now, don’t be discouraged! This step will simply eliminate a copycat day, and unnecessary competition with something that your association would naturally support anyway. You can still start a national awareness day of your own, just be sure that its purpose is unique. Similar events among similar organizations could even present partnership opportunities in the future!

Step Two: Pick a date.

Duhhh. Now that you already know what’s out there - and more importantly, what isn’t - it’s time to pick a date. Consider the following factors:

  • When do you host your biggest events?
  • Which month is the slowest month for events? Member engagement?
  • Which month is the slowest month for your website traffic?
  • What other things typically happen around that time of year that should be avoided? (major sporting events, major holidays, elections, etc.)
  • Do you want to choose a day, or specific date? (the first Tuesday in April vs. April 3 every year, no matter what day of the week it falls on)

By using analytics from your association website, you can find out if there are dips of inactivity in your industry, and you can use that time to spark interest. If your industry is seasonal, you will have some ‘down time’ to manage your national day. Or, if you decide to incorporate your largest event of the year, you can lead up to or kick off your national day around that event. Whatever you chose, commit to sticking with the same day year after year so it’s easy to remember, and people begin to recognize and expect it.

Step Three: How should people participate?

Imperative to an effective awareness day is knowing (ahead of time) how you want participants to...well, participate! Should they wear a certain color? Shop at certain locations? Post some specific content to social media? This will largely be determined by the theme of your day and your cause, but whatever you do - get creative! You’re raising awareness here, people. Whatever the activity is, make sure it’s something that will stand out!

Step Four: Time to name your day

Did you think I forgot? This is a super important step, of course - but the preceding three steps could change your game plan, so you want to tackle those items first. Plus, determining the components of your day before you name it will let you have fun with it. Like, if Star Wars Day was any day but May 4 every year, could they call it May the Fourth? No, no they couldn’t. Similarly, Red Nose Day wouldn’t make any sense if wearing a red clown’s nose wasn’t the desired means of participation. See what I’m saying? Get all your ducks in a row before you come up with an official name so you don’t have to pivot.

Step Five: Build out the central hub

This is the biggie. On your website, you’ll need a landing page dedicated to information about your day. This page should house:

  • What the day is all about (be sure to include facts and statistics about your cause!)
  • All the necessary resources:
    • Items that will help individuals and businesses participate, promote the day, and become a resources themselves
    • Shareable online content that is perfect for social media - think graphics, videos, temporary profile pictures and cover photos, pre-written Tweets and posts, etc.
    • Materials pertinent to what you’re raising awareness about, should visitors want to learn more and promote your cause beyond the day itself
  • A way to donate to your cause, if applicable
  • Links to your social media channels and the hashtags you’ll be using
  • An FAQ - to start, try to think of all the things you’re sure people will ask or wonder about, and add to it as necessary

Step Six: Line up your promotions

Once you have developed your national day and a place for your users to connect with you about it, you’ll need to promote it.  This list is will help you get started with getting the word out:

  • Email blast to your membership and any organizations you’re partnered with
  • Contact local TV and radio stations, newspapers, magazines, online calendars - anyone that can act as a megaphone for you!
  • Post to your social media accounts
  • Solicit a local or industry celebrity to help promote to their following
  • Register on online forums that promote National Days (note that some websites require a fee)

Step Seven: Be active on the big day

Don’t spend all that time planning, preparing and promoting to let it all fall flat the day of! Post on social media and engage with others who are participating. If your day doesn’t already revolve around one, arrange for some kind of in person event that participants (and journalists!) can attend. Even if it’s something small, having a bunch of people participating in one place will help you show the world that this is a cause people care about, and give you more material to promote your day each year. Which brings me to...

Step Eight: Do it again!

The first step in any journey is the hardest. What didn’t go so well that you could improve on next year? What went GREAT that you could capitalize on? Once you’ve made that first step, the key to is to make the commitment to learning from the experience and keeping it going year after year. If you are mindful when building your content and resources each year, you can recycle most of the information and just update dates and data! That way a lot of the leg work will be done after the first year, and you can focus on improving on promotion and engagement.

I cannot stress it enough - don’t be nervous to give this a shot! If it helps, try thinking about your national awareness day as simply an online event. You can always start small, but if you have a big idea, I say you GO FOR IT! Let us help you nail it with our free guide, 8 Steps to Event Planning Success.

8 Steps to Event Planning Success  A step-by-step guide to planning the perfect event Download this guide

Topics: event planning, Small Staff Chatter

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