by Wes Sovis
With association events increasing in complexity due to the adoption of virtual and hybrid experiences, some associations find organizing and promoting their events has become overwhelming. How can association leadership address the complexity and skills gap without making permanent changes to staffing?
Event planners have long been a widely-utilized resource in the association world. With the organizational skills, experience, and competencies that veteran event planners provide, their value to associations has only increased due to the demand for virtual and hybrid events in the pandemic era.
How an Event Planner Can Help Your Association
Lauren Mentz, CMP, Director of Event and Publishing Services at AOE, explains that hiring a meeting planner can add a great deal of depth to your team. “Meeting planners have the knowledge, expertise, and experience planning a wide range of events in a variety of formats.” In short, an association isn’t getting an extra hand to stuff welcome packets. They’re getting an experienced event professional with valuable contacts, established processes, and a proven track record of effective project management.
Professional meeting planners have diverse experience with events, ranging from virtual to in-person, hybrid, and every iteration in between. No matter how your event takes shape, chances are a meeting planner has been there, done that, and learned first-hand how to do it right.
Likewise, professional planners can often bring additional and contemporary expertise that association professionals with more broad-based responsibilities haven’t yet acquired. Like other professional planners, Kim Oderkirk from Association Services Stellar Events has invested in specialized training and certifications to be exceptionally equipped to handle gatherings during a pandemic such as the Pandemic Meeting & Event Certification or the Virtual Event & Meeting Management Program.
Event and sponsor revenue is an acute issue for associations. Oderkirk asserts this is another area where a professional planner can lend expertise. “It’s all about showing rather than telling in your marketing and outreach efforts.” To commit, participants and sponsors both need to see the value. Professional meeting planners can help associations design and deliver that value.
Getting the Most Out of Working with a Meeting Planner
The key to getting the most out of your relationship with an event planner is simple. Lauren says communication is critical. “Have a clear understanding of your event needs and your organization’s capabilities. Communicate your vision and goals for the event, as well as your event requirements. The meeting planner needs to understand what responsibilities the organization is retaining and what responsibilities the planner will be taking on.”
By clearly documenting responsibilities, establishing deadlines, and making sure expectations are clear for both the event planners and the association staff, associations can negate task responsibility confusion and clarify what a successful event looks like.
As your staff handles increased complexity, new event platforms, and an ever-longer list of tasks, outsourcing your event planning might be the best way to deliver a more valuable event experience to members. The reduced stress and responsibilities will allow your staff to engage and connect with members in meaningful ways.