JAN 2018

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 8 ⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 15 MARKET SEGMENT REPORT: ASSOCIATION MEETINGS membership to solidify their future. "Younger Gen Xers and millennials have very different expectations than their predecessors in terms of preferred learning styles and educational formats," he said. "Gone are the days of overly lengthy keynote addresses and 'sage on the stage' presentations regularly score low with audiences." Echoing those sentiments, Ledoux added that "with meetings and events being a reve- nue producer for the most part for [associa- tions], it is important to re-evaluate all your meetings and events and see what is resonat- ing and what is not. It is critical to look at those meetings and events that are mature or on the decline and re-imagine them or replace them with a new event that delivers what your members want and need." Evolving Expectations Ben Lastly, executive secretary with the Georgia Future Farmers of America (FFA) Association and organizer of the group's annual convention in Macon Ga. – which draws approximately 6,000 students – said that high-level expectations really have not changed since he was in school. Most attend- ees want an event to be engaging, challenging and relevant. The challenge for meeting plan- ners is finding that balance within a modern paradigm. For instance, he noted that there is greater focus on efficiency – getting more done in less time. Kimberly Payne-Ward, director of sales with Visit Macon, agreed, adding that there is a trend toward shorter conventions and meetings for associations. "Instead of a three- to four-day conference, it's usually one and a half to two days tops, where they can check in on a Wednesday and check out on a Friday." Regarding efficiency, Hixon said that attendees increasingly expect to hit the ground running and want to be engaged by their asso- ciations earlier in the event process. "In turn, associations are gradually embracing the concept of crowdsourced and participa- tory education," he said. "Real-time audience response systems are showing up in increas- ing numbers at events in Arlington, allowing organizers to be responsive to delegate feedback in real time." Technology is an important element to remaining relevant, according to Lastly, especially with younger generations. Georgia FFA has enhanced its technology strategies in recent years by creating an interactive confer- ence mobile app in which attendees not only keep up with conference information but also participate in contests or other activities, such as online scavenger hunts. Technology is also used to promote event sponsors in innovative ways. "Better screens, better video, better lights – it all helps us stay more current and relevant," Lastly said. Improving Attendance Cost and value are top of mind for associations as they develop strategies to boost attendance. "Associations have to keep costs down to improve willing- ness to pay event registrations and attend," Payne-Ward said. "A lot of the associations are asking for rebates back from hotels and meeting planners will ask for 10 percent commission. That can help with the cost of putting on the event." Location is also a critical piece of the atten- dance equation, Payne-Ward added, from both value and convenience standpoints. For state associations, she noted that Macon's central location is desirable because it supports a drive-in market, allowing some association members to return to their homes daily. Value in terms of the cost of accommodations, facilities, food and entertainment is also an important consideration. ► An exhibition, which included campaign booths, was part of the Texas Student Council State Convention held in Arlington, Texas.

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