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3 Mistakes Association Event Organizers Make and How to Fix Them

Over 20 years, I’ve worked with dozens of event organizers within associations of all different sizes, serving all different types of industries. And they all have something in common, they make the same types of mistakes during their event planning process. These mistakes have consequences: losing money, missed opportunities for growth, and lack of early knowledge without early receivables. Ultimately, team members get frustrated, good talent leaves, and other impacts are felt across the association.

Correcting these mistakes can lead to an overall stronger event. One that attracts more attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors, one that brings in more revenue, and one that leaves participants with an injection of positive value, engagement, and learning.

1. Working on the Wrong Timeline

Do you let one event end before you begin making plans for the next event in earnest? Are you making venue plans and launching exhibitor and sponsor programs and opening registration three to five months ahead of your event? Even six to eight months is cutting it too close. Here’s why: you are wasting months of time during which you could be optimizing outcomes and revenue. In four to five months, you simply cannot yield what you can in 15 to 18 months.

An event timeline should be continuous. You should have overlapping event planning schedules. At least 15 months before an event (three months before your current event) you should be planning for the next show. Your event planning process needs to be continuous with key elements ready to go for the next event, before the current one occurs. This gives you more opportunities to sign exhibitors up onsite for the following year. Signing people up early and establishing a continuum process leads to more growth for your event.

2. Too Many People Involved in Too Many Meetings

I know associations are set up to include the opinions of a lot of stakeholders, but that method is holding back progress and growth. It’s also wasting the precious resources you have by tying so many people up in meetings.

Resolve to create an action-oriented organization. Establish a core group of action drivers for an event and limit attendance at initial brainstorming meetings to those people. They can bring in others as needed at future meetings once they’ve designed the frameworks. Remember, this isn’t about hurting someone’s feelings; it’s about empowering team members to make actionable decisions and holding everyone accountable in their roles.

To improve your meeting productivity, establish an overall timeline and work with urgency—think of it as a marathon pace to avoid a sprint at the end. Come to each meeting with an agenda that includes a desired outcome for the meeting. Don’t let the meeting languish on; leave with incremental outcomes if necessary.

3. Adhering to a Sacred Cow

University of San Francisco Business Professor Oren Harari said, “The electric light did not come from the continuous improvement of candles.” Because to advance sometimes you have to break away from what you know. That’s why if an association says, “we don’t do it that way” about their event, it’s a red flag that the show is not optimized for improvement and growth.

For a show to grow, it must improve; therefore, its organizers must embrace change. Think about why you “never carpet the hall” or “serve food in the exhibit hall” or whatever it is that your association doesn’t ever do. If they want to evolve, associations must resist their risk averse nature. Don’t be afraid to experiment with something new for progress and unlocking potential. If it doesn’t work, fine, apply lessons learned. Don’t do it next year but try something else now with an informed decision. Empower staff with confidence to improve and gain buy-in from. You’ll find more hits than misses by taking some risks in seeking to improve.

Eliminate Mistakes to Build a Better Event

Time is power. Not leveraging it holds you back. Think about how decisions made from a position of strength serve you better. Imagine your possibilities if your event was 80% sold at eight months out instead of two months out.  There’s a lot you can’t do with a short cycle and requiring a too-wide consensus every step of the way. Conversely, there’s an infinite amount of possibilities for improvement when you give yourself more time, earlier information, accountability for action, and more opportunities to take some risks.

Interested in more information about outsourced sales programs? Schedule a free call with our team today to learn how The Profitable Association can help #PowerUpYourRevenue in no time!
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