2020 Report: Associations Face Increased Challenges, Opportunities as Member Preferences Become More Diverse By Tracy Grzybowski

According to the 2020 State of the Conference Industry Report just released by Omnipress, the knowledge and education delivered at a conference continued to be the biggest driver of value for attendees. But, because of changing member demographics and expectations, for associations to achieve their goals in 2020 and beyond, this same content will need to play a much bigger role outside of the conference.

For the sixth consecutive year, Omnipress, provider of event technology products and print solutions for associations and other organizations, conducted an online survey of 125 association and conference professionals to track the evolution of educational content and the role it plays at the annual conference. The results have been compiled and published in the 2020 State of the Conference Industry Report.

Each year, there are slight changes in the trend lines in certain areas of the report. But over a six-year period there are some more notable macro-trends that are becoming more prominent. Some of these trends include:

  • The need for associations to use content to attract attendees from outside their core member base
  • The evolution of the conference from an annual event to a year-round learning strategy
  • An increased desire by attendees to integrate peer connections and learning as part of the conference format

Based on these trends, it’s clear that associations will need to prioritize how to use their conference content for more than simply marketing next year’s event.

In past years, the focus was on how to best deliver content at the event to meet the needs of a diverse group of learners. Today, however, most organizations are providing their content in two-to-three different formats, which means they’ve addressed these needs.

Respondents indicate they are now seeing less dramatic shifts in attendee preferences at the event. As a result, the conversation has shifted from how to deliver content, to how to leverage it to attract new audiences, increase learning retention and create more member value.

Associations are facing two major obstacles in 2020 that could hinder their growth:

  1. A self-reported gap in conference importance versus effectiveness.
    While over 70% of respondents felt the annual conference plays an extremely important role in increasing awareness of the organization, only 35% felt their event was equally effective in doing so.
  2. Minimal progress on generational preparedness.
    While the 2020 report shows the largest year over year increase in the number of respondents who are working on an organizational strategy to address the needs of young professionals, they are still in the minority. Nearly half of the respondents have not initiated a plan to attract and retain Generation Z.

By developing a strategy and process to re-package and promote existing educational content, associations can more successfully overcome these obstacles.

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