Those days XX'ed off in bright red on your calendar. The furious writing in day boxes leading up to it in stark contrast to the empty slots following. You can see it coming - your association's annual conference. Other programs and initiatives come to a screeching halt as all hands come on deck to prepare for 3-5 days of sessions, shmoozing and seriously long hours of 5am-midnight. And what happens to all those great annual plans we have been working to execute? The local programming that needs assistance? Volunteer guidance and diverse streams of marketing? It goes into what I like to call the Annual Conference Time Warp.
Annual conferences are typically the star of an association's year. For many they are a significant source of revenue, a hub of learning opportunities, and a group of professionals together in the same place who are looking for something that your association is offering. In order to pull out all the stops to make these conferences as successful as they are each year, association staff know that in the weeks leading up to the gathering they will be pulling longer hours, take on responsibilities outside of their department and be in 'conference mode' 24/7 that last week. Attendees get an amazing experience at their conference because of these efforts, and the positive reflections and participation help drive the association into the coming year.
But what about the 70--85% of members who do not attend the annual conference? With the diverted staff priorities and efforts in the weeks leading up to (and recovery week after) the conference, are they really getting only 11 months of value for their annual membership? For many associations this is just fait accompli.
As we strive to become member-centric, part of our efforts have to focus on providing the same stellar experience all year long. We can pre-set programs and messages to be in place before we get to conference crunch season. We can avoid putting a moratorium on local chapter programs. We can continue having dialogue and building relationships. Not only can we, but we must. Otherwise, every year we will have the same few weeks that just fall into the Annual Conference Time Warp.....