Four Meeting Trends for Your Association in 2020

Four Meeting Trends for Your Association in 2020

For most associations and nonprofits, annual meetings and conferences are major events, bringing in new members, generating revenue, and increasing industry presence.

To make the most of your association’s meetings in the coming year, here are four trends you may be able to use to your advantage.

A Desire for In-Person Meetings

There is definitely a tug between virtual meetings and in-person meetings happening right now. On the one hand, virtual meetings reduce costs and make participation more inclusive. There’s no worry about travel delays and weather, and attendees can pop in for just one day more easily.

But conversely, people who spend all day in front of a computer screen (which is more and more of us these days) yearn for personal contact and enjoy the human interaction of a physical meeting. Also, there’s the marketing magic that can happen when people are all in the same room together.

Key Takeaways for Your Organization

  • Survey membership to see what’s appealing before automatically scheduling meetings.
  • Keep an eye on costs by booking in-person meetings as early as possible to account for anticipated increased hotel rates as demand for venues increases.
  • Consider hosting meetings in smaller cities, as the advent of 5G technology will make large city bookings more costly and competitive in the early 2020s before 5G is available nationwide.

Venue Changes

With the above trend, you’ll see traditional venues changing too. While large conference centers and hotels are still popular, nontraditional venues are gaining ground.

This is due to several factors, including participants who are used to less conventional settings at work (think the tech sector and open offices) and those who travel with family, tagging a vacation to the end of business travel.

For some attendees, an annual meeting is their one big chance to travel, so they want to make the most of it. A chain hotel that looks like it could be anywhere isn’t very enticing.

Key Takeaways for Your Organization

  • Consider alternatives to hotels and conference venues, like nature retreats and private estates.
  • Think about multiple regional meetings joined via video conference for your keynote speaker.
  • Add unconventional spaces to your traditional hotel and conference locations, like cocktails on the rooftop, sporting events, and museum receptions.
  • Join forces with a music festival or similar event to give your meeting an unusual flair (think Nashville or Austin).

Attendee Participation in Your Program

Because annual association meetings are so costly and often a high point of the year for many members, attendees want in on the planning. They need to know they’re going to get something valuable out of their time and expense.

Organizations are accomplishing this through everything from pre-agenda surveys to “plan your own adventure” conferences. So, before setting your meeting plan in stone, consider how you can make it more flexible (and fun) to participants.

Key Takeaways for Your Organization

  • Offer different tracks or let attendees choose à la carte meeting offerings.
  • Use event technology to survey your audience live to see what worked and what didn’t when planning the next meeting.
  • Revise traditional seating charts to create smaller group meetings and increased interaction with VIPs.
  • Utilize event planning software to make organizing easier and keep track of more moving parts.

Catering to Different Eating Plans

You may have already experienced the conundrum of trying to serve multiple different diets at smaller association meetings or at personal events.. Many people today has a special eating plan, whether they’re vegetarians (five percent of US adults) or proponents of the Paleo diet.

Meeting attendees don’t want to abandon their habits when they travel for work, nor do they want to be relegated to eating only a portion of their plate at banquets and catered events.

Key Takeaways for Your Organization

  • Ask attendees during the registration process if they follow a special diet.
  • Make hosting venues aware of the dietary needs of your participants.
  • Book meetings at venues known for their ability to cater to a wide variety of dietary needs without compromising quality.
  • Replace fixed-menu events with buffets and food stations that allow people to select their own items.
  • Incorporate holistic wellness initiatives into your meetings by bringing in fitness coaches or offering group yoga sessions.

Meeting trends will continue to evolve in the 2020s. The incorporation of 5G technology, RFID data collection, and association mobile apps are all on the forefront of change. Jaffe Management is dedicated to bringing you the latest meeting trends as they impact your association.