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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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Inspiring Your Association Staff at Your Employee Retreat: 4 Tips

Posted by Krissy Conant


When most professionals contemplate going to an employee retreat, it’s usually accompanied with a sigh and a begrudging acceptance. Why? Employee retreats are often seen as a use of time away from the office that could be better spent in the office to avoid getting too far behind with your workload.

What if you could change that? Read these four tips to check out some alternative ways to view how you should run your next employee retreat.  

Think quarterly, not annual

Before we lose you, think on this idea for a second. One annual retreat will only allow you one chance (out of the office) to focus exclusively on team building and positive staff change that could truly benefit your whole association. But what if you had this opportunity once a quarter? Think of all the ways you could break out your goals and objectives without trying to cram it into one sole retreat!

Everyone needs a little time away to reset and refocus, even the non-stop association professional. So get creative with your retreat options. And we’re not asking you to break the bank by funding some swanky time away. Instead consider setting your retreat at a local shared space where you can get a change of scenery. All you really need is some private space where you and your team can get creative with association solutions.

Talk about the touchy stuff

Yes, your employee retreat is the perfect time to clear the air of any pain points your staff is feeling. For one, it allows for you to not associate your dedicated office space with the potential drama that some of those topics could uncover. Also, your retreat time should be seen as a time to make room for more collaboration and transparency in your association and your staff.

Now, we aren’t saying have a full out “drama hour” set aside. Instead, think about setting aside some time to roundtable about topics about:

  • What are your association's values? Are you embodying those and if not, why?
  • What does culture mean to you? What does your association’s culture look like?
  • Do you have any thoughts to discuss about any strategies we’re currently rolling out?
  • Create a fictional alternative association that would exist within your industry. What does it look like and act like? How does it interact with your industry

Foster the importance of continual learning

Think of your retreat as another way to keep your staff’s professional development in ship-shape. How? Start by providing a live speaker (in person or via video) or watch a pre-recorded video that you think will be inspiring and educational for your staff. The content could originate from other association members or leaders of larger corporations. It’s up to you to find the type of content that you think will truly resonate with your staff to provide real value, whether it’s based upon culture, soft skills, or hard skills.

Remember that one of your goals for your retreat should be to create a space that cultivates improvement on a professional and personal level for each of your staff. Building this atmosphere around your retreats will further encourage your staff to believe in the power of your retreats and foster an air of continual growth.

Make sure to follow up

So let’s say you have a successful retreat! Congrats...but now what? While you may be able to ”rally the troops” during the actual retreat itself, it’s key that you create some actionable follow up items to prove you mean business to your staff. Make sure you’re taking notes of the big passion and pain points your staff presents (as well as some of the proposed solutions) so that you can create an action plan when you return to the office.

It’s no secret that the employee turnover rate in the association space and nonprofit industry is quite high. And though there are a number of reasons for that, one of the biggest factors affecting nonprofit turnover is a poor (or nonexistent) onboarding process.

Check out our guide, Best Practices for Onboarding New Staff, to see how you can develop a standard new hire onboarding process!

Best Practices for Onboarding New Staff  How to get your new staff members up to speed! Download this guide

Topics: association management, association leadership, small staff association, Small Staff Chatter, chambers

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