Pre- and Post-Meeting Strategies to Forge Year-Round Impact

May 20, 2024

Organizations set lofty goals for their in-person meetings: educating participants, building business relationships, enhancing brand visibility, recognizing excellence, boosting business momentum and so on. The problem is that accomplishing any one of these objectives within the typical three or four days of an in-person conference is a challenge, even with the most engaging agenda.

And it’s no secret that many conference attendees suffer from the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” syndrome. As one event planner puts it: “Clients spend all this money on a three-day event and get everyone excited, then they leave and a week later no one remembers they were there.”

So, how can organizations combat this conference amnesia?

Some forward-thinking planners are looking outside the meeting itself for answers: Rather than confining interactions with attendees to the in-person conference, they’re developing smart strategies to extend engagement and reinforce their events’ messaging throughout the year.

“Creating the connective tissue between events is something we’ve always been interested in,” says Liam Scott, creative director at Wynford, a corporate-event management and production company based in Toronto. However, after the COVID pandemic he’s seen more traction around the idea of continued event communications, as organizations work to maintain their corporate culture in a hybrid work environment.

A Blueprint for Continuity

Liam Scott, Wynford
Liam Scott, Wynford

Scott’s menu of pre- and post-meeting ideas starts with the basics: “You can do monthly written updates on themes, topics and achievements. That sounds very simple, but it’s something that a lot of companies have never done,” he says. He adds that delivering virtual town halls or skill-development sessions around the in-person meeting goals are not difficult now that everyone’s comfortable with online communication tools.

However, his enthusiasm comes through when talking about ideas that extend recognition-focused events. One is called Profiles in Excellence: “At a gala, we may hear a brief summary of how a winner, or winning group, earned their accolades. But we rarely hear the whole story in a way that lets everyone extract inspiration and learning from their accomplishments,” says Scott. 

For a Profiles in Excellence campaign, Wynford creates videos that take a deeper dive into the winners’ achievements and sends those out to the entire group following the event. “Apart from informing and incentivizing the entire team, it adds to the winner’s ‘halo’” while extending the useful life of that recognition, Scott says.

Another idea Scott suggests is to feature top performers who were recognized at the conference through a series of podcasts in the months following the event. Companies often tap their executives as podcast hosts, Scott says, but changing that to feature top performers who talk about what they’ve done to succeed not only educates but amplifies the event recognition.

A variation on this idea comes from Rachel Ryder, senior creative solutions designer for The Collective by BCD Meetings & Events. She’s worked with organizations that take qualifiers for their annual reward and recognition programs and make them mentors to colleagues for the following 12 months. Those winners are also tapped to be part of the onboarding meetings for new hires, which continues to highlight winners’ achievements across the business rather than doing it once at the in-person event.

Showcasing the Community

Recognition was also key to a conference’s community-building initiative that mdg, A Freeman Company, created for the Building Owners and Managers Association International.

“We built out a year-long campaign that highlighted the accomplishments and projects of conference attendees,” explains Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes, president and chief marketing strategist at mdg. “Through features in newsletters, blog posts and social-media posts, we showcased how individuals applied the knowledge and inspiration gained from the event to make a difference in their careers and within their organizations.”

At the conference itself, the association members whose accomplishments had been showcased appeared on event signage as well as the cover of the program. 

Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes, mdg
Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes, mdg

“Community members loved being able to see themselves or people they recognized in the event graphics throughout the venue,” says Hardcastle-Geddes. “This recognition both celebrated attendees and inspired others to stay connected and engaged with the conference community” throughout the year.

Hardcastle-Geddes’ firm has also worked with clients to extend the event experience through peer-to-peer mentorship programs as well as themed networking events organized throughout the year that align with the conference’s core topics. For instance, “if a conference focuses on innovation in technology, [you can] host quarterly innovation meetups where attendees discuss recent developments, share insights and network with industry peers,” notes Hardcastle-Geddes. “This keeps the conversation and connections alive beyond the conference dates.” 

She also recommends multi-channel education programs to broaden the learning environment. Organizations can start an educational course online and then offer an advanced or hands-on component at the live event. “This can, of course, be done in reverse as well, by following up a session that happens at a live event with continued online learning throughout the year,” says Hardcastle-Geddes.

While extending attendee engagement throughout the year seems like a logical strategy to drive engagement and meet organizational goals, one challenge is that “it sits outside the traditional event business model and isn’t as intuitively monetizable, like participation at a physical event,” comments Hardcastle-Geddes.

However, for a women’s leadership conference that launched in November 2023, year-round engagement was built into its approach from the ground up. Read part two of our series on pre- and post-event strategies for the story of how the C-Store Women conference instituted Power Teams to drive engagement through the year.

This article was originally published in our sister publication, MeetingsNet. To view it, go here.

 

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