Shaun O’Reilly is vice president of marketing at MemberSuite, an innovator in cloud-based association management software (AMS) and business intelligence solutions for member-based organizations of all sizes. Prior to joining MemberSuite in 2018, O’Reilly spent more than 20 years in senior marketing positions for technology companies in several industries, including cybersecurity and IT expense management.
Conferences and events are the centerpiece of many associations’ annual activities and a highlight for their members. Live events build brand recognition and trust and benefit organizations by driving member engagement, satisfaction and recruitment. From a business perspective, events can generate much-needed revenue for the organization, but all too often, registration fees fail to cover the costs of food, beverages and rentals for the space. As such, to do more than break even, organizations must find ways to provide additional value for participants and boost revenue for the event.
Luckily, many larger organizations have found creative ways to add value and glean additional profit from events, and by learning from their techniques, it’s possible to boost revenue. Here are just some of the tactics they’re employing to drive more dollars to the bottom line:
When organizations hold a conference or event, one of the first things they do to generate additional income is to invite vendors that serve their industry to exhibit. While this generates additional revenue, organizations often neglect to anticipate the needs of the exhibitor who are there to raise their profile with their target market. To ensure exhibitor needs are met, consider the following:
Use advertising and social media to publicize the exhibit to attendees both before and during the conference.
Advise exhibitors on ways to attract attendees to their booths by creating a tip sheet that details strategies. These might include holding a raffle or providing workspaces with smartphone chargers, for example.
Exhibitors often attend sessions to learn more about industry trends and meet potential customers. Make this connection possible by scheduling sessions outside of exhibit hours or using an event management system to schedule sessions in multiple time slots.
Selling sponsorships can help exhibitors reach their audience and build brand recognition while growing revenue. The more creative the sponsorship opportunity, the more money raised. Some examples of sponsorships that can be sold to drive revenue include:
Signage for breakout session rooms, registration rooms, lounge areas, etc.
Food-related events during the conference — including formal meals, coffee breaks and happy hours.
Printed materials such as attendee name tags and online ads on the convention web page.
Registration kits — including bags, pens, lanyards and notebooks. Event management software simplifies this process by tracking sponsorship opportunities and fees and selling event sponsorships.
While many vendors want to reach an event’s target audience, many are unable to attend every industry-related event. Offering them the opportunity to make an impression through sponsorships — even if they don’t exhibit — can create alliances and boost revenue. Event management technology can help with the logistics by tracking these sponsorship opportunities and fees.
Not everyone can afford registration for an event and its associated travel costs. To pick up extra revenue, develop creative ways for people to attend sessions, such as offering virtual presentations at a discounted rate. To reduce costs for this strategy, offer sponsorships for the taping of the sessions or seek volunteer labor and donated equipment in exchange for publicity.
Encourage local members to attend the event by providing special discounts for the surrounding community. With less time, effort and cost of travel at stake, they’re often more likely to attend. Event management software can help manage this process by allowing you to create discount codes that you can give out and track later.
People are more willing to pay big money to hear from an expert. Attract attention to an event by hosting well-known names for keynote, opening and closing sessions. Although it can be expensive to secure a celebrity speaker, sponsorships can be offered to subsidize fees and travel expenses.
While raising revenue is always a desirable goal, keeping initial costs low can also increase profit margins. One way to cut costs is to ask members or students to volunteer. They’ll get the opportunity to network and give back to the community while performing simple but meaningful activities such as blogging, stuffing registration bags or answering phones in the staff office.
Don’t neglect opportunities for free publicity. For example, offer exhibitors a small concession for including a link to the registration page in their marketing. Other no-cost ways to publicize an event include web page banners, advertising in email signatures or placing banner ads on marketing materials and social media leading up to the conference.
Think outside the box. Venture into the local community and build partnerships. Ask these businesses to donate a product or service for auctioning or raffling, sell merchandise, or arrange for an author of a relevant book to speak at a session and hold a book signing.
To continuously provide a meaningful and valuable experience for members, associations need funding. Yet, while conferences and events bring in revenue, registration fees often just cover costs. With the techniques outlined above and with help from the right technology, organizations can generate the revenue they need to host compelling and informative programs that keep members coming back for more. | AC&F |