Over the next few months, the team at Redstone will be taking the time to look at what we can change or improve on in our association meeting planning in 2018 – particularly those that will require increasing a budget line or two – in order to be able to bring the organizations we work with into the future. Here are two important areas where our team will be learning, training and increasing our budgets in order to better serve our clients, and in turn their members, when meeting planning for 2018.
Accessibility and inclusion
As meeting planners, we share common concerns regarding accessibility, equity, inclusion, and promotion of barrier-free meetings and events for delegates. It is important to be aware of any legislation around accessibility, and building an accessibility expense line into your budget so that you can make your meetings and events available to everyone.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few items to consider:
- Look into options for training for your staff, volunteers and even your speakers on best practices for accessibility. This can include anything from sensitivity training, website requirements, or ways for speakers to support the accessibility of hearing or visually impaired attendees onsite.
- Ensure your attendees are clear on what to expect onsite, and where to get support. While we can do our best to prepare in advance for the needs of all attendees onsite, there may be questions or concerns that come up. Ensure that attendees know where to get more information and that onsite staff and volunteers are knowledgeable.
- Begin to develop policies or guidelines for your organization to adhere to when planning your meetings. The first time you implement these new policies or guidelines for an event may involve a learning curve, but as you work through them, you’ll create the template and process for every future event to come.
While we’ve been using technology for years to enhance our meetings and events, some organizations continue to be behind the curve. Not only that, but we’re also seeing that many organizations are looking to expand and collaborate with professionals on an international level, where technology is crucial to effective communication with international stakeholders. Our team at Redstone has just recently added to its family of international associations, so staying on trend with technology is key!
Here are a few areas that have grown from nice-to-haves to must-have for many associations:
- Digital apps – Most large conferences use apps onsite, but they are now starting to take over from printed programs completely. If you’re still training attendees to get used to this being the norm, try to engage them in advance of the conference by using your app year-round.
- Live streaming or recorded sessions – With budgets being stretched and available travel time to in-person events being reduced, you may have several people who would love to attend, but physically can’t make it work. Having your content more accessible to everyone allows people to engage on their time. Learn how to recycle or repurpose your content in multiple different ways; you may be missing a revenue generation opportunity if you’re not recording any of your live sessions.
- Online community meetups – In the same vein as the two suggestions above, you may want to consider investing in an online community or education platform, outside of LinkedIn or Facebook (which likely would exist without your organization or event anyway, and may no longer be part of your value proposition). If you’re able to get members engaged online, you’re creating a space for them to share resources and “meetup”, at a low cost relative to holding an in-person event.
On a final note, I’ll remind you that these two areas for consideration above are far from mutually exclusive! For example, in-person meetups with items to consider for accessibility still matter, no matter how vast your organization is, and there are several elements related to technology behind accessibility. Get in-the-know with what your organization will need in order to effectively plan and execute your events next year.