I’ve been preparing for the upcoming Folio Association Media Summit this week and will be facilitating a session on how associations can leverage media assets and events to grow younger audiences. This is more than a trend, it’s a movement and I’m looking forward to being a part of the conversation.
Research repeatedly states that millennials are tech savvy, free and open thinkers, and that they want flexibility in their workplace and work schedules. However, often neglected feedback indicates that millennials thirst for further education, training & professional development, and that they thrive in a collaborative, team building environment.
Good news: many associations are well poised to offer millennials education, training and professional development opportunities through their content.
Here is the challenge: to best retarget your association’s offerings and messaging to millennials, we must rethink in-person events and conferences, create a dynamic communication strategy, and become more mindful – highlight the meaningful aspects of your association and its positive contributions.
This is the first of a series of postings that I’ll be sharing in what we are calling “Millennial May.” Let’s start with some of the ways that your association can adjust their conferences and meetings to engage millennials.
Consider What The Investment Means To Them
An in-person event is invaluable, and is often the touchpoint that draws membership to an organization. We all know that conferences come with many hurdles, including cost. Because millennials are often saddled with debt (most millennials graduate with over $20,000 in debt), they need strong calls to action to spend their hard-earned wage. Unfortunately, that mindset often trickles down into industry conferences and events – if registration rates are cost prohibitive, no abundance of compelling content can pull in your millennial audience. Value of work life balance also plays a role in millennial engagement with your event – a four day long conference, in a distant location, can be prohibitive.
To account for both of these millennial considerations, offer various entrance and exit points and rates, catering to those who have different needs from the event. This increases your event’s fluidity and can boost overall numbers.
Meet Them Where They Live
One of the best ways to let a young professional get their toes wet with your organization is to adapt your event with a digital component or format. Stream content digitally for free or a nominal rate – if it is compelling, you might see them register for the full in-person conference the next year, with the motivation and reasoning to pair the professional development component with the in-person interactions. PCMA does an excellent job with this at their annual Convening Leaders Conference.
Give Them A Project
Feeling as though they are part of a team within your larger event is critical to engagement. This is more than a meet up – it’s a project with a purpose. Here are a few ideas: give them exclusive access to new content to review or provide feedback on, involve them in the room set for a non-traditional session, let them vote for a speaker.
By meeting millennials halfway on price and digital offerings, and pairing compelling content with high energy networking opportunities, your event (and therefore organization) may just pique millennial interest.
What is your organization doing to engage millennials in your events? We would love to hear from you! In the meantime, I’ll work to feature some of the insights from the Folio session this week on twitter. Feel free to follow @NetworkMedia for updates.
-Carrie Hartin, Network Media Partners
May 2, 2016
Site visits can have an overwhelming sense about them; there are so many questions to ask, so many decisions that are best made in person, and a plethora of new ideas that can only be inspired by seeing a space live – all on a time crunch. It is easy to get bogged down in minor decisions and superfluous brainstorming sessions, so it is imperative to focus on the overall goal and corresponding objectives of your visit.
After many site visits, we have compiled a list of tips that we use to maximize our time, get the most out of meetings, and make the planning process when you return to office that much smoother.
Pre-planning Your Planning Sessions:
1. List your priority discussion topics, and schedule meetings with appropriate players.
It is important to identify what vendors you need some face-to-face time with during your site visit, and out of that group, to know which require separate meetings. For example, if you have a unique AV need for a particular event, bring specifications from past years and set aside time with the onsite or preferred AV provider in the space so that they can walk through needs with you, and even show you sample configurations. Without the prep of knowing AV is your priority, your main onsite contact might not otherwise schedule a separate sit down with them! Consider this with each main piece of your program – including decorator and vendors who may not be in house.
2. Create a skeleton grid of contracted space that you can make informed decisions onsite about room assignments
Too often you can visit a space blind, excited to see a variety of ballrooms you saw on the website, only to come to find that what you contracted 3 years back does not include everything you had hoped! Be sure you review your original contract, and make a “skeleton” or draft of your usual schedule grid including all of your current contracted space. That way as you scope the venue, you can clearly assess what inventory you have and how you can most efficiently farm it out for different purposes.
At the Primary Venues:
3. Scope out a current onsite event
Ask your Event Manager(s) in advance of any events will be in town during your trip. If they are, reviewing what others do in the space is often the most helpful tidbit you can gain from a site visit! Check out how they handle registration, see what signage they place and where it might be lacking, and get an idea of what the space feels like when a group fills it up.
4. Perform phone service and WiFi checks
We all expect a signal everywhere we go. Some venues, particularly lower / basement level spaces can have weak or missing signals. Check your phone signal and be sure to connect to the meeting WiFi upon arrival and to reference it throughout your walk through. These are particularly helpful if there is an event onsite so that you can test these during peak usage times.
5. Review all types of sleeping rooms at your main conference hotel
You might think that you only need to see your higher level spaces – Jr. Suites, Suites, and the Presidential Suite – but these spaces only reflect the experience of the smallest percentage of your attendees. Exposing yourself to the experience that your average conference attendee will have is a part of a meeting planner’s job, and that applies not only to their experience during conference events, but when they retire to their rooms for the evening.
6. Test front desk customer service at the hotel
Call down with a need for toothpaste, stop by to get a replacement room key, etc., to see how the average guest is treated. Request walking directions to a nearby park, or a list of restaurant recommendations beyond what might be connected to the property. Observing the check-in process of others gives great insight and can help your team plan for a smooth attendee experience from check-in to check-out.
7. Make a short list of any additional space that might be needed
During your site visit, it might come to light that certain spaces that you’ve pre-assigned in your skeleton grid do not work for the event you had envisioned them for. In the worst of those scenarios, there is no other contracted space for you that does fit the bill. In those instances, it is best to be open with your onsite coordinator about what other space at their venue you might need – this way they can check if other groups are in house, reserve the space for you if possible, and assess any minimum increases that might be needed to add this space to your contract. Also, if your venue does not have any other space that could meet your needs, this gives you ample time to review off-site options.
Beyond The Property:
8. Schedule a meeting with the local Convention and Visitors Bureau
For some groups who handle items internally, or who have visited this city or even venue before, this may seem like the step to skip. However, we find that Convention and Visitors Bureau’s end up being our go-to for the oddball questions that ultimately add layer of finesse and detail to the attendee experience. Your CVB contact will help you with transportation questions, concerns about happenings in the city, recommendations for any off-site venue needs, lists of restaurants and experiences for attendees, and contacts for any special vendors you might need, like those for special sponsorship experiences. Whenever possible, set up an onsite meeting with the CVB – ideally in a fun area of the city, experiencing a restaurant, so you to are getting a feel for their town! You won’t regret it.
9. Practice walking or public transportation in your conference city.
Piggybacking off of #8 on the list, this is an item that your CVB contact can help you with. They know the in’s and out’s of free and paid public transportation in the city, and can direct you to what is most user friendly and accessible based on your venue location. Take a chance to utilize that, and to walk within a few block perimeters of your venue and/or hotel(s) to understand what amenities surround your venue. This is just another important example of putting yourself in your attendees’ shoes.
Across The Board:
10. Ask open ended questions.
Whether it is when meeting with your onsite contact, the internet provider, the preferred decorator contact, or the CVB, we find that the most insight and unique details arise when you keep your questions open ended. Give those who know the most about the venue, the service or the city, the chance to expand upon their usual cookie cutter responses. Instead of asking “Can we set this room in a u-shape,” ask, “What unique room sets have you seen in this space.” You will be impressed to see creative ideas and more conversation flow just using this tactic.
We hope that some of our tips can help you to make the most out of your next site visit! Any important tips that we missed? Leave them in the comments below!
March 2, 2016
We made the list! Network Media Partners was just named one of the “Top Workplaces” in the Baltimore metro area by The Baltimore Sun Media Group in 2015.
The Sun partnered with Workplace Dynamics, a firm specializing in employee surveys and workplace improvement, to create the list. To identify the organizations that meet Workplace Dynamic’s top workplace standards, they ultimately went directly to employees to get the scoop. Based on responses of 1,274 organizations initially invited to participate, just 174 made it to the employee survey stage. From that group, Workplace Dynamics selected 100 as 2015’s top places to work. Next, those organizations were broken out by size – small, medium and large. Network ranked 53rd in our category.
Just making the list is an achievement. It is even more impressive when we put that in perspective in our industry. Of the 100 firms listed, Network is one of just three organizations who serve the association space, and similarly, is one of two organizations within the publishing industry. We are honored to represent these two important fields so prominently in our home city.
“Carrie and I are really proud of our team here at Network” said Chip Boyce, President. “We expect a lot from this group so it is very rewarding to see that our employees value the commitment we have to the business and their success. This tells us that being in a place where your manager cares about you and your career growth is highly valued in today’s workplace.”
Here is the full list of organizations by category – large (400+ employees), medium (150-399), and small (35-149) who specialize in everything from education, finance, hospitality, to IT.
Read our profile to see what Networkers had to say about our organization.
In 2014, Network was named Top Places to Work in Media by Folio: magazine. Here’s what our colleagues had to say about our culture then.
Thinking about joining us? Take a look at our available positions.
December 10, 2015