5 Most Popular Association Events and How to Host Them


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Cropped Photo of Daria Knupp

Daria Knupp, CEM


An increasing number of associations are recognizing the value of engaging with existing and prospective members by hosting events. 

Thanks to event and membership management tools, associations of all sizes and resources can put together an event calendar that excites their members. In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of hosting association events, what type of events to consider, and the steps for planning engaging and impactful gatherings.

Why Associations Should Host Events

From fostering growth to enhancing visibility and influence, hosting events is a strategic move for any association aiming to boost its profile and extend its impact. 

Each of the following benefits plays a crucial role in the holistic development and sustainability of your association:

  • Events create networking opportunities. Hosting events positions your association as a key facilitator of professional connections, which adds value to your membership program. Eventually, you’ll be able to attract a diverse array of professionals eager to expand their networks and foster a community built on shared interests and mutual support.
  • Events encourage professional development for members. Many people join associations to advance their education and careers. By organizing workshops, seminars, and conferences, you can provide valuable learning opportunities and industry insights.
  • Events increase member engagement. Events create numerous touchpoints, from social gatherings to annual conferences, that keep members involved and invested in your association. This heightened engagement leads to increased member satisfaction and loyalty, critical factors in the long-term success of any association.
  • Events bring in more revenue. For many associations, finding new revenue streams is a constant goal. Events can bring in revenue through various channels such as ticket sales, sponsorships, exhibition space, and the promotion of paid memberships. This influx of funds not only covers the costs of the events themselves but also supports other association activities, contributing to your overall financial health and sustainability.

Ultimately, planning events can significantly elevate your association’s profile, positioning your organization as a thought leader within your industry. This can enhance your visibility and influence, helping you grow your membership base over time.

5 Top Associations Events to Offer Your Members

There are many event types and formats associations can choose to offer their members, though the ones you plan will depend on your goals and resources. Here are the five most popular events for associations:

1. Conferences

Conferences are formal gatherings within specific industries or fields designed to disseminate knowledge, share emerging trends, and facilitate networking. These events explore the latest industry developments and trends through:

  • A lineup of expert speakers
  • Engaging breakout sessions
  • Panel discussions

Conferences will often have an associated theme that guides the types of speakers and topics for discussion. For attendees, these events are excellent opportunities to connect with other professionals, exchange ideas, and gain insights that can significantly impact their work and career growth.

2. Trade Shows & Expos

Trade shows and expos are events that bring together diverse participants from various organizations and businesses within an industry. These events extend beyond the scope of standard conferences by taking place in extensive exhibition spaces where companies can showcase their latest products and services.

Additionally, trade shows provide ample sponsorship opportunities and often feature industry leaders as speakers, making them a popular gathering for networking and business development.

3. Networking Events

Dedicated networking events allow association members to meet, interact, and form business connections. Depending on your goals and members’ preferences, networking events can be:

  • Casual meet-ups
  • Social hours
  • Career fairs
  • Professional mixers

Ideal for both small and regional associations, networking events can foster stronger community ties and support members in their professional endeavors.

4. Skill Development Workshops

Skill development workshops address specific competency gaps within an association’s membership. These workshops provide members with training and upskilling opportunities in areas such as:

  • Technology
  • Leadership
  • Marketing
  • Industry-specific skills

Even smaller associations can effectively organize these workshops and use them as an effective tool for member development and engagement.

5. Panel Discussions and Forums

Panel discussions and forums are essential for addressing the immediate and long-term impacts of new regulations, geopolitical changes, or other significant events affecting an industry. 

By gathering experts, policymakers, and thought leaders, these events facilitate in-depth discussions on important topics, offering clarity and guidance to members. 

You can choose from both in-person and online formats for these discussions to enhance your association’s role as a thought leader within the industry.

How to Host an Association Event

By hosting events, your association can enhance member engagement, promote professional development, and boost its industry presence. Use this general roadmap to guide your event planning process:

  1. Define your objectives and target audience. Start by clarifying the purpose of the event. Whether it’s networking, professional development, or industry showcasing, having clear objectives will guide all other aspects of planning. Then, identify your target audience to tailor the event content and marketing strategies accordingly.
  2. Plan the event format and content. Decide on the type of event that best suits your objectives—be it a conference, networking event, or panel discussion. Plan the content around what will offer the most value to your members. This could involve keynote speakers, breakout sessions, or training modules. Ensure the content aligns with the latest industry trends, event theme, and member needs.
  3. Outline your budget and funding. Outline a budget that covers all aspects of the event, including venue, speakers, marketing, and technology needs. Take into account various funding sources such as ticket sales, sponsorships, and exhibitor fees to finance the event. Transparent budget planning helps in managing expectations and the scope of the event.
  4. Choose your venue and event technology. Select a venue that aligns with your event’s size and style. For larger events like conferences and trade shows, consider space for breakout rooms and exhibition areas. For virtual components or entirely online events, invest in reliable technology platforms that support streaming, interactive sessions, and virtual networking.
  5. Market your upcoming event. Develop an event marketing strategy to promote the event to your target audience. Use email campaigns, social media, and partnerships to reach potential attendees. Tailoring your marketing messages to highlight the unique benefits of attending the event can boost registrations.
  6. Coordinate your event logistics. Coordinate all logistical aspects of the event with your team, from registration processes and speaker schedules to catering and on-site support. Develop a comprehensive event agenda to tie everything together and create a smooth experience for attendees, speakers, and sponsors.
  7. Engage participants during the event. Foster engagement by encouraging interaction among attendees and between attendees and speakers. Use live polls, Q&A sessions, and networking breaks to keep the energy high and participants involved.

After the event, follow up with attendees to express gratitude for their participation. Ask for feedback through surveys to gauge the event’s success and identify areas for improvement. This information is invaluable for planning future events and continuing to align with member interests.

If your association is sitting on the sidelines watching other larger organizations conduct trade shows, workshops, and networking opportunities, it may be time to get in the game. Start hosting events to expand your membership program, build your brand, and generate more revenue over time.

Cropped Photo of Daria Knupp
Daria Knupp, CEM
Senior Content Marketing Manager at A2Z Events by Personify

Daria Knupp, CEM, is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at A2Z Events by Personify. She has spent most of her career in the association world handling content creation and digital marketing and recently decided to apply her expertise to the events industry.

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