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Creating a must-attend association event


The Association Summit – part of EVENTS EVENTS – held on 29 January 2019 was a valuable opportunity for Association Event Managers to network with their peers, discover new ideas and share experience.

The over-arching theme of the event was creating must-attend association events and the speaker and panellists included a great cross-section of association event professionals from bodies such as Association for Project Safety; National Housing Federation; The Association of Corporate Treasurers; Association for Project Management and the Market Research Society amongst others.

One of the many well received presentations was delivered by Riad Mannan, event portfolio development manager at the Institution of Engineering and Technology.  The IET is a past winner of event categories in both the Association Excellence Awards and the Awards Awards.

Given how crowded the marketplace is (1.3m business events ran in 2018, according to UKCAMS) Riad touched on themes familiar to many association event managers – how can you compete with commercial counterparts and how to do more with less.

Differentiation is obviously key and going back to basics to question why your audience need your events is essential. As well as being brave enough to ruthlessly interrogate your events portfolio’s content / format / delivery and ensure it is meeting your customer’s requirements – rather than simply conforming to what you feel your organisation can deliver.

In answer to doing more with the less the IET undertook an exercise that culminated in the deployment of what they termed the clear strategy – a five-step process outlined as:

  • Collaborate – internal & external stakeholders
  • Listen – understand and act on your audience’s feedback
  • Evolve – continual cycle of analysis & modification
  • Action – implement outcomes whilst keeping a focus on profitability
  • Review – set smart KPIs for every event; measure audience engagement & inform ongoing strategy

Underpinning the processes above, the following themes are essential to retain as integral part of your planning:

  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Financial sustainability
  • Continuous learning
  • Brand awareness
  • Technology enabled
  • Optimised resources
  • Motivated events team

Everything revolves around the customer, your event attendees must be placed central to everything and revisited as often as possible to inform your approach.

This may mean taking some uncomfortable decisions, contracting to expand perhaps, but as Riad said it is necessary sometimes to “take one step back, breathe and then take two steps forward”.