If you’re feeling the financial squeeze from cancelled or postponed events, buckle up. There’s more pain ahead as a recession looms large and fears abound. You need a proactive plan to replace lost event revenue so you can ride out the storm and ensure success into the future. Here are three essential steps to take right now.
1. Attract more members
There is power in numbers. The more people you can rally to your organization, the better off you will be financially in the long term. Invest in member acquisition now to ensure you have a solid base to sustain your association.
2. Focus on being a resource
Of course you need revenue to survive as an association, but focusing solely on money right now is insensitive and tone deaf. A phased approach to revenue generation is your best bet.
Start with empathy. Be a trusted resource for members in a time of crisis. Give things away for free if you have the means. Avoid overt sales pitches. Retaining your base and building a following now can ensure long-term loyalty that will turn into revenue later.
When things start to improve, you can be more aggressive with money-making initiatives, for example:
- Simultaneous in-person and virtual events
- Vendor-sponsored webinars or Twitter chats
- Advertising (especially while webinar attendance is high)
- Gated content for lead generation
- Paid content or resources for direct revenue streams
3. Go virtual with your event
Transition your event to the virtual space so you can continually deliver value to your base, crisis or no crisis. Use these strategies to help you make the move:
Host smaller virtual events
Instead of transferring your entire multiday event online, consider breaking it into smaller sections, like webinars, livestream keynotes, and panel discussions. Many of your members simply don’t have time for a two- or three-day event. Smaller, bite-sized resources are more feasible, especially during a crisis.
Offer on-demand resources
On-demand webinars, information packets, resource libraries, or online portals can offer the same value as your in-person events with an added advantage: Each individual can choose when and how they want to engage with your association.
Build online communities
Your event gives like-minded people a place to belong. Foster meaningful online communities to maintain that camaraderie even when they can’t be together in person. Post open-ended questions to spark discussions. Share videos that showcase member success stories. Offer free downloads that solve pain points. Host virtual happy hours.
Be a conduit for connections
Your in-person event puts all your members, vendors, and industry leaders literally in the same room. While you can’t exactly do that virtually, your association can still connect the dots to help all your constituents get what they need. Job boards, Q&A forums, hotlines, virtual networking events, online marketplaces, and member portals can help people connect directly so they can learn, share, collaborate, and achieve their goals.
Offer insider deals
For many associations, the annual event is a place for special deals and discounts. Work with vendors and industry partners to make exclusive offers to your members and virtual event attendees. Offer free or discounted association membership to retain your base and ensure they will be around to make purchases from you down the road.
Replacing lost event revenue is a matter of identifying the high-value components of your association—the pieces that serve your members best—and repackaging them for easy, convenient consumption by the people who need them most. Focus on serving members and the revenue will follow.