Great events = better member engagement

And folks, it’s time to think about events!

We all know that chapter events are a surefire way to get members engaged and excited about being a part of your organization. But the stress of event planning – and getting members there – isn’t for the faint of heart. In fact, event planning is considered by many to be the third most stressful job in the world (Dave Lutz of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting). Throw in the fact that most chapter volunteers have little event planning experience to begin with, it’s no wonder they’re overwhelmed. On top of that, polls show that the preference for virtual options has risen to nearly 50%, a stat that has a compound effect member engagement. So how do we get members away from virtual and back into the room?

In the July 19th webinar Drive Members Engagement through Revitalized Chapter Events, Peggy Hoffman shared two strategies (plus a bonus one at the end) you can use to help volunteers with planning chapter events that drive participation and cultivate a thriving community.

Listen to the full webinar!

Here are some highlights…

STRATEGY #1 – Get reacquainted with your target audience!

Things have shifted and chapters must understand the current desires, needs, and interests of members and non-members. Start by …

  • Asking your audience. Understand who they are and how they have changed. Instead of the usual attendee surveys, seek input from “never” attendees, “barely involved” members, and members from different career stages, business sizes etc. Compare data points between those that are coming and those that aren’t…then make those phone calls!
  • Mapping out a typical attendee journey. Understand what attendees feel and think during an event experience by mapping out process from registration through post-event interactions. Determine what makes an event a rewarding experience (i.e., worth the time/effort). In other words, get deep into the member experience so you can find out where to ramp up the effort and where to retool as needed.
STRATEGY #2 – Co-Creation, Collaboration, Connections & Content

People’s perspectives on events have changed so think of event planning as working WITH members, not FOR members. Ask “what can our events offer that members and nonmembers can’t get elsewhere?” Leverage the 4 Cs for event success:

  • Co-Creation: Get members involved in creating the event. Ask members to suggest locations, topics, speakers, or activities; set up a focus group to build the event; add polls to pre-event communications; ask members to share a story, challenge or solution to the event plan.
  • Collaboration: Drive working together on events by sharing the work and the successes. Help chapters collaborate with other chapters and sister organizations; collaborate with chapters; tap the CEX 2.0 model (start with virtual, head into in-person, wrap up with virtual)
  • Connections: Build networking into the event design. Tip: networking works best when it’s small and specific. Offer interactive table exercises during education sessions, meetups, solution room sessions, ideation session or hackathon, community service projects; build in formal pre/post networking.
  • Content: Give members effective content and make it an enjoyable learning experience. Content is everywhere; find new ways to deliver the content. Teach chapters the principles of adult learning, create a ‘train the trainer’ video, encourage chapter to experiment with new session formats, and help chapter embrace diversity in speakers.
And as an added bonus – some ideas to expand events.
  • Go short (30 minutes): host a lunch & learn, quick briefing, etc.
  • Meet-up: host a book club, mediation group, writing workshops, support group, etc.
  • Explorer group: arrange visits to local sites, walking tours, etc.
  • Lead with content: create blog posts, podcasts, or offer a question of the week.
  • Expert Clinics & Brain Dates: arrange for one-to-one time slots with experts.
  • Curated Playlist: guide members in exploring a specific topic through a curated YouTube playlist or a list of resources.


Question of the day: How do you support your chapters in terms of events?  

Be sure to check out: 3 Ways to Reenergize Your Team When Morale Is Low. Harvard Business Review by Amy C. Edmondson and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic