Association meetings need to find ways to keep their audience interested

must evolve in order to lure attendees to their events

Meeting fatigue is creeping into the associations industry as delegates become increasingly selective about which events are worth taking time off work to attend.

According to ICCA, the total number of international association meetings has consistently risen from less than 10,000 in 1963-1967 to 65,000 in 2013-2017, with Asia playing host to about 20 per cent of these events.

Conferences must evolve in order to lure attendees to their events

However, the average number of participants per event is dipping. The 1963-1967 period saw an average of more than 1,200 attendees to each event. This number has now fallen to an average of about 400 in 2013-2017.

“The average length of meetings in days is also going down, as people have less and less time for them. Most attendees would spend two to three days at an event, and pre/post-event programmes are very much a thing of the past for many delegates who try to make the most of their time,” observed Mathias Posch, president, IAPCO & International Conference Services, at IT&CM Asia 2019 Association Day Forum in September.

In light of these trends, associations are facing the mounting challenge of attracting and keeping attendee volumes.

Jan Tonkin, IAPCO’s immediate past president, asserted that it is no longer feasible for conference organisers to stick to old formulae. “Before, we just served it up and followed a recipe, but now we have to be more thoughtful about how we design meetings. We’re not decorating learning spaces, we’re designing them to amplify learning,” she said.

She raised the example of conferences that employ quick-fire debates between experts before engaging the audience through a vote. Some events even bring the debate environment onto the show floor, where delegates can approach and debate with each speaker.

Other engaging sessions that have received higher attendee sign-ups include interactive learning, problem solving and hands-on workshops, observed Tonkin.

Posch added that “conferences are becoming more specialised”, as different industries start to “see more convergence and overlap in multidisciplinary approaches”.

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