Annual association meetings can be stressful for anyone involved. You have a lot to do and oftentimes with a small window of time to accomplish all the tasks. You are the leader of your association. You need to make people feel comfortable and welcome. So, if you are planning on running an annual meeting soon or want to know some tricks that may help, we have some suggestions to help you along!
How to Run an Association Meeting
1. The board should determine the goals of the meeting.
Board members, association management professionals, and other key staff members will all play a role in planning for the meeting. The board should determine the forum’s goals and establish objectives for each agenda item. It’s essential to be specific about these goals and objectives because they’ll determine how much time you should allocate for each topic.
For example, an objective might be to vote on a major change in policy that requires updating bylaws. If this is the case, you should allot more time than if your objective is simply to share information.
What is the overarching message of this year’s meeting? Are you hoping to discuss new initiatives or bring members up-to-date on current projects? Do you want attendees to feel empowered to get involved? Make sure all of your presenters, activities, and discussions revolve around this central theme.
2. Send out a formal agenda.
Once you’ve determined your goals, create a plan to help you achieve them. Include topics for discussion and people who will lead those discussions. This can be an email, a flyer, or a document posted on your website.
Keep it simple — just enough text to inform attendees about what they can expect. This will help keep everyone on task during the meeting, and it gives members something to refer back to after the event has ended.
The last thing you want is to have people show up at the meeting without a clear idea of what’s going on and how long something will last.
3. Share contact info for all attendees in advance.
You want your members to feel connected and engaged during their time at your association’s annual meeting. Allow them to connect by providing a list of attendees with their contact information listed before the event.
This allows attendees to connect with old friends or reach out to someone who attended last year’s event but hasn’t been in touch since then. It will also encourage new connections between members who are attending your association’s annual event for the first time!
4. Find a convenient venue
Hosting your annual meeting at a venue that can accommodate hybrid meetings will allow you to adjust to all types of guests, whether they prefer a standard in-person experience or want to attend virtually.
For example, if you host your event at an outdoor venue with plenty of space, you’ll be able to create separate areas for those who would like to attend in person but want to adhere to any social distancing recommendations.
5. Make use of technology
If possible, conduct a real-time voting system using smartphones. This will give attendees the ability to vote on important proposals during your annual meeting without having to bring their laptops or tablets along with them. It will also allow for more participation from those attending virtually because they won’t have to worry about missing anything necessary while away from their computers.
6. Have a central place where members can share
If your association offers training or workshops throughout the year, include information about these sessions on your annual meeting agenda. If you’re hosting a networking breakfast, lunch, or dinner event, make sure attendees get plenty of time to mingle and get to know each other over something delicious (and send them off with plenty of referrals to take home!).
7. Include an activity
Let members get out of their chairs by including a team-building activity on your agenda. This will encourage them to connect with others in new ways. Incorporating movement during meetings is known to be mood-boosting, energizing, and mentally stimulating. Trust us, meeting attendees will thank you!
8. Work toward clearly defined goals early on
Don’t wait until the last minute to assign your agenda items. Assign priority to those items that have been most requested by members, then work on filling out the rest of what you’d like to include in your annual meeting program as time goes on.
9. Partner with a Pro
Planning your annual association meeting includes a lot of administrative tasks that can only be handled internally. Let a pro handle the rest. By partnering with a trusted provider to help with the venue, food, and technology items, you can work on the other elements of your meeting without worrying about managing every detail.
Whether you’ve been doing it for twenty years or this is your first year, running an effective annual meeting is no easy task. From having to organize registration tables and seating charts, right down to guest speakers, topics, and decorations – you’ve got a lot on your plate! These suggestions can help you create a successful, meaningful event that reflects the true purpose of your association.