Coffee Mugs for Speakers, Year-Round Platforms Highlight New Ideas

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Necessity is proving to be the mother of invention once again, when it comes to events. 

At the recent ASAE Virtual Annual Meeting, a big takeaway was to keep putting members/subscribers first. BIO (Biotechnology Innovation Organization) Digital took place in June with more than 7,000 participants from 64 countries and 28 time zones—“no small feat,” writes Associations Now.

“To foster a spirit of connectedness, BIO changed the meeting’s tagline from ‘Beyond’ to ‘Nothing stops innovation.’ Then, in advance of the conference, the group mailed all speakers a custom mug with the new tagline.”

What a great idea! Then speakers could have that mug visible when speaking at that event—and maybe other events. It was an added expense, but worth it because it gave speakers brand recognition onscreen that reflected togetherness, said Erin Lee, VP of marketing operations and customer experience at BIO. I'd also look at getting a sponsor.

She added that engagement has become “more about building loyalty, the power of the brand, and giving members access to resources and connectivity in a time of need.” BIO surveyed members—always like to hear that—to find out what would be most helpful for them. “We focused on being a service to the industry.”

Here are two more innovative ideas.
Drive-in meetings with voting by horn. Yes, drive-in movies have indeed made a comeback during the pandemic. (I just wish they showed newer films in addition to Jurassic Park and Ferris Bueller.) On the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association site, there’s an article headlined, “Wisconsin Co-op Holds Drive-In Meeting to Keep Members Safe During Pandemic.” 

“Instead of the usual high school auditorium, the co-op staged the meeting in the spacious parking lot of its service center, where equipment and vehicles are typically stored. Members were invited to park and stay in their cars or trucks for the entire meeting. CEO Shannon Clark and Board President Calvin Sebranek led the meeting in separate 6-foot-high bucket trucks. 

“About 130 registered members came to the April 25 meeting, staying in their vehicles with their windows closed while listening to the proceedings on their car radios. Voting was done by horn honks—short and quick for ‘Aye’; long and loud for ‘Nay.’"

Make your virtual platform year-round. In June, the United Fresh Produce Association transitioned their popular annual conference into United Fresh 2020 LIVE! With 50% more attendees, they decided to create United Fresh LIVE! 365, a year-round online platform featuring a permanent expo, social gatherings, on-demand education, webinars, conference programming, and networking opportunities for the global produce industry.

“We basically built a year-round convention center,” John Toner, VP of convention and industry collaboration, of the United Fresh LIVE! 365 platform, told Convene. “[The platform] serves as the connection point,” adding that exhibitors whose engagement strategy went beyond the show floor reaped the best results. 

“For example, many scheduled offline Zoom meetings or mailed out physical product samples and other materials to prospective buyers. ‘Folks were just so happy to engage and interact,’ said Amanda Griffin, VP of education and program management for United Fresh.

The LIVE! 365 expo will offer exhibitors a year-round opportunity to highlight their companies and connect with buyers and attendees on the platform. Sponsorship branding, hosted events and advertising will be available to drive higher recognition for exhibiting companies.

“[The industry] will continue to be disrupted,” Susan Cato, senior director of digital communications at the Association of American Medical Colleges, told ASAE attendes. “And we need to be prepared to ride this roller coaster together.” The thinking has shifted to a more participatory process where organizations are partners with their members to create value. “We are co-creating the future together.”

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…