Kim just left her club’s spring networking event. Instead of feeling excited and alive, she feels flat.
“What went wrong?,” she wonders. “The meeting room was cozy. The meeting itself well-organized. Food was great.”
Then it hits her. Her cousin Theresa’s wedding last summer! Kim had the same feeling then.
At the wedding reception, Kim was seated with Theresa’s cousins, Josh and Tim, and their wives, from the other side of the family. It was a l-o-o-n-n-n-g, excruciating hour of vapid small talk. Even the delicious meal couldn’t make up for the incredibly awkward, meaningless chatter. Kim still winces when she thinks back to the reception that happened 9 months ago.
“Yup, that’s it.” Kim realizes. That’s went wrong. All conversations at tonight’s event felt forced. The format a bit too formal, traditional. Kim spent 2 hours fighting through strained chit-chat, not making any real connections.
Sound familiar? As an event organizer, it’s important you take steps to make sure those in attendance are comfortable to mingle, comfortable to connect, and have fun doing so. The good thing is it doesn’t take too much effort to make a meaningful difference — and make the meeting memorable and effective.
Here are some simple ways to turn drab networking events into unforgettable fun.
A Twist on Ice Breakers
We’re all familiar with ice breakers — a way to get your attendees talking and learning about one another. I have yet, though, to meet a person that loves the traditional form of ice breakers. You know the one:You go around the room, introduce yourself, your role, and your goals. Why not revamp the old-school ice breaker to make it more fun, and less stressful?
Here are some ideas:
1. Badge Breakers
Before your networking meeting, pull your event registration data. Create sub-groups based on interests. Say you have a group of people that enjoy reading. Or a subset of attendees that enjoy rock climbing.
Color-code the badges with ribbons to denote which subgroup the attendees belong to. When attendees arrive, give them their badges. Once everyone is there and the meeting begins, explain the rules: pair up with like-colored badges and try to determine what you all have in common (besides being a part of your organization).
This activity gets your groups working together and discussing what they enjoy, rather than putting members through the obligatory, nerve-racking, and many times boring, usual ice breaker activity.
2. Scavenger Hunt
Not the kind you’re used to where you’re looking for objects or landmarks. This scavenger hunt involves the people in the meeting room.
Give your members a list of members’ names in a column along the left side of a sheet of paper and a column of interests that they need to match up on the right side of the paper. Example: Find the person that loves baseball. Find the person that loves hiking.
This exercise gets everyone in the room moving and talking to one another. The person that gets all the matches first wins a small prize. The prize for the others? They learn a little something about every member through a quick, fun, interactive exercise.
3. Whiteboard/Chalkboard Display
Have a white board or chalkboard in your meeting room? Use it! Get attendees to write down their name and a goal, or their name and their most favorite food, pastime activity, color, whatever. Members can gather around the display and talk about each other’s interests.
Don’t have a chalkboard or whiteboard? Bring an iPad or tablet and pass it around the room. Have people gather to review everyone’s answers. Your attendees are bound to connect on mutual interests and share stories with one another, which fosters communication and connection and can certainly facilitate member engagement and a sense of belonging.
1. When is your next networking event? A month from now? Next week? Even if you’re short on time, you can easily add one of the ice breaker twists to your agenda. Pick one and do it!
2. Include a question about your new activity in your post-event survey or ask the open-ended question what attendees liked best about your event. There’s a good chance they’ll remember your fun new twist on ice breakers.
Have your own fun twist on ice breakers? Share it below.
Kristen Campbell is the Brand Manager at 123Signup. She is responsible for developing, implementing, and managing all marketing initiatives and programs for 123Signup.
Imagine going to a party. You walk into a large, cold, unfamiliar room. You see lots of people, but no one you know. No one greets you. No one cracks a smile. No one even looks your way. You feel lost. Alone.
Now imagine going to another party. As soon as you step through the door, you connect with Jon, the host. He welcomes you with a warm hug. Jon shows you where the food and drinks are. Not long after, you discover you both have a penchant for puns. You begin exchanging dad jokes. You feel happy inside. Connected.
That’s “engagement”. It isn’t just a concept — engagement is a feeling. A feeling of connection. A feeling of belonging, excitement.
Do your members get that feeling? Do they feel that they belong? Do they get excited to attend your meetings and trainings?
It’s important that they do. The greater your engagement level, the more likely your members will maintain their membership, and refer their friends, which ultimately means a healthy, growing membership base and higher renewal rates for your association.
So how do you raise member engagement? How do you get the guy that’s at every meeting, but won’t participate in any roles or utter a word, more engaged?
Start here. We’ve compiled a list of some simple ways to attract new members and get your existing members excited, inspired, and involved with the help of association management software.
1. Dig into Data to Grade Engagement
What’s your current membership count? Your renewal rate? You can probably rattle off those numbers quite easily. But what about your engagement score?
Many associations grade their engagement level to provide a current reading on their engagement level and pinpoint groups of members that need extra special attention.
In the article, To Increase Member Retention, Rate and Score Engagement, the Florida Association of Insurance Agents breaks down its membership into tiers. Tier 1 is the most engaged (8 points or better), tier 2 somewhat engaged (4 to 8 points), and tier 3 the least engaged (less than 4 points). The association then puts effort towards tiers 2 and 3 to increase engagement and involvement with those specific members.
Your first step? Run your active membership list using your association management software. Print the list, make copies, then get together with your team. Define what engagement means to your organization. Group members into specific engagement categories and develop an action plan for each member type.
2. Communicate Goals with Members
Your members believe in your organization and its mission. That’s what attracted them to join in first place. Knowing that, there’s an extremely good chance they’ll back your association’s growth plan without hesitation.
Let your members know just how many members your organization is planning to enroll in each membership tier, the renewal rate it seeks, and other goals you’ve set to achieve.
Let members know why each goal is important, how it impacts them, what happens if the goals are met, and what happens if the membership goals aren’t met.
Make sure you refer to the goals often — not just in one meeting. Repeat your goals in each meeting, and give updates on numbers in emails and newsletters. Frequently communicating your goals ensures those numbers are always top of mind and strengthens members’ involvement and commitment in helping you achieve those goals.
3. Host Special Events Like a “Bring a Friend” Meeting
Give your members an opportunity to get involved, show their pride, and at the same time, increase your chance of enrolling new members.
A “Bring a Friend” meeting is an opportunity to review all the great benefits of belonging to your organization and pique guests’ interest in becoming members themselves.
After you’ve set up the event registration, get the word out by sending an email to all members with the registration link.
Point out the social sharing buttons on the registration page too, so that members know they can easily share the event on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
To ensure the event isn’t forgotten about, members can easily add the event to their calendar from the event page, as shown in the image below by selecting the “Add to my Calendar” button. If you use 123Signup association management software, links for members to add the event to their calendar also appear in the registration confirmation email.
4. Track Professional Development, Award CEU Certificates
Your members work hard to learn new skills and advance their career. You can provide extra value by giving them the tools to log courses and credits, and track event history.
If you use 123Signup association management software, members can view their professional development status at a glance very easily in their member profile. Through 123Signup, you also have the option to develop custom CEU certificates for members to print themselves on demand. Certificates are a great way to acknowledge member achievement and make your members feel valued.
5. Gamify Your Next Conference or Meeting
Gamification is an effective way to educate your attendees and increase engagement at the same time. You could award points to attendees for attending sessions, for taking and posting a selfie on your social networks during the conference — anything you can think of that will get your attendees involved.
Create a leaderboard that you showcase at the conference. The attendee with the highest score wins.
Remember it’s best to fill your members in ahead of time to create buzz and excitement. Send an email out to registrants prior to your next meeting or conference to let them know about the game elements being added to your program.
Most association management software includes a built-in email communication tool. Through 123Signup, you simply choose your event list directly from the existing database and can get your message out the door with minimal effort.
6. Hold a Membership-Building Contest
It’s extremely likely that each of your members has a friend or co-worker with mutual interests. Which means it’s almost guaranteed that each of your members has someone — possibly even a handful of people — they would refer to your organization.
Why not hold a contest to jumpstart referrals? Many 123Signup clients host referral contests and provide a variety of incentives. Some associations reduce the member’s renewal fee for each referral that successfully becomes a member.
Other associations enter the referrer into a raffle for a chance to win a quarterly prize like an iPad, a gift card, or a free membership that they can use for renewal or gift to a friend.
Some organizations provide a reward for every successful referral and enter the referrer into a raffle. The rules of your membership-building contest are entirely up to you!
Whatever you choose, be sure to put a time limit to your contest to create urgency (Example: run the contest from February 1 – March 31.)
It’s best to get the word out initially about your contest by sending an email to all your members. You can easily do that through your association management software and then increase your email frequency as the deadline approaches to build momentum.
Make sure that you also continue to drum up excitement throughout the contest period by mentioning the challenge and the results in meetings and ongoing communications, like newsletters.
7. Host an Online Meeting Series
You probably hold several in-person conferences and meetings throughout the year, but what about webinars? Online educational seminars — webinars — are convenient for both you and your participants because no one has to travel to get to the meeting.
Another benefit is that the webinar can be recorded, so that those that miss the meeting can watch it on their own time. Plus, you can host the recording on your website and share on social media if you choose.
Here’s an example of the ADAP Advocacy Association utilizing 123Signup association management software’s event registration page to promote a webinar series they held May 31, 2017 to Sept. 27, 2017. This event registration page was integrated with their website to provide a seamless online experience to all website visitors.
8. Publish a Member Directory
The more connected your members are to one another, the greater their sense of belonging and overall enjoyment as a member.
Give your members added exposure and an easy way to connect with one another by providing a member directory.
With 123Signup, you can easily provide a searchable member directory that pulls records from the software database.
9. Promote Member Renewals Early
The fewer members you lose, the easier it will be to achieve your annual growth goal. That’s why we always advocate starting your renewal process as early as possible. Many of our clients start as early as three months before expiration.
With 123Signup’s automated renewal feature, you can set up as many email templates as you need and schedule them to be sent to expiring members at specific times.
10. List Your Membership Levels Online
It’s a good practice to offer membership levels to appeal to a wider audience. It’s an even better idea to have those membership levels listed on your website and tied to an easy signup or renewal process.
In this example, the San Francisco Neurological Society shows their Active Member, Associate Member, Nurse, Retired Member, and Industry membership types on a 123Signup hosted enrollment page that’s part of their website. If someone is interested in joining, they simply click the enroll button and go through an easy online signup and payment process.
It’s worth mentioning here that the 123Signup system is completely configurable to specific business rules. Many of our clients require approval with memberships. The 123Signup system can be configured to accept applications upon approval.
11. Increase Self-Service to Increase Satisfaction and Convenience
Self-check-out at Target. Fueling your car. Placing an online order for pizza delivery. Self-service technology isn’t anything new. In fact, it’s a given in today’s world. People expect it.
Enabling self-service tools where your members can enroll online, pay renewal dues online, keep personal contact information up to date online, and signup and pay for an event online provides major convenience for your members — not to mention lowers your association’s overhead admin costs.
Through association management software, like 123Signup, you can easily integrate membership and event pages with your organization’s website to take membership enrollments, renewals, donations, membership add-ons like journal subscriptions, event registrations, and payments securely online. Plus, the pages can be formatted to match your brand for a seamless online user experience.
Here the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, New Jersey Chapter uses a 123Signup event listing page to make signing up for its Holiday Meeting easy.
Turning Up Member Engagement for Your Association
The ability to retain existing members and gain new members is essential to your success. But just like you can’t bake a cake without flour, you can’t maintain and grow your organization without the vital ingredient of member engagement. And you can’t create a meaningful, measurable difference in engagement without a recipe to provide direction.
Look at your membership. Grade your member engagement level. Then put these tips and others into action to move the member engagement needle forward.
Kristen Campbell is the Brand Manager at 123Signup. She is responsible for developing, implementing, and managing all marketing initiatives and programs for 123Signup.
Crank Up Engagement with 123Signup Association Management Software From online event registration and payment, CEU tracking and certificates, to self-service enrollment and renewal, 123Signup association management software gives you a host of tools to turn up member engagement. Signup for a free personalized tour today!
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