Promoting Your Events: Beyond the Stock Photo

Graphic of the graphic design process

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Melissa Wilson Cropped Profile Photo

Melissa Wilson, CAE


In the association world, we know attendees choose meetings based on a variety of reasons: continuing education requirements, networking with colleagues, staying current on industry trends, products and services and, of course, the location and venue.

Hawaiian Board retreat in the summer? Winter conference at a ski resort? These locations and venues have a built-in draw to get potential attendees excited to register to attend.

But what about locations that aren’t as desirable? That is where design thinking and compelling graphic design can help increase attendance and generate income.

Get Excited and Meet Budget

In association management, generating revenue is key to ensuring the association can fulfill its goals and mission. Studies show that conventions and meetings represent 48% of total revenue for corporate planners and 32% for associations. Excitement and “buzz” about your event drives attendance, and that feeds into your bottom line.

Graphic Design Can help Generate Excitement

How do you generate excitement around your meeting year after year? For events that are held in the same location annually or are on a set rotation pattern, this can be a particular challenge. It is easy to fall into a formula of using the same hotel or venue photo, skyline of the city and change up the color palette each year. Taking the location one step further or outside the expected is easy and can yield great results.

Look to Current Trends

Members want to see the venue and get a feel for the location, but photos don’t help you stand out from the crowd competing for potential attendees. Instead look for a nod or extension to the venue or location, be inspired by current trends. For example, if your meeting is in San Antonio, Texas, instead of featuring the Alamo or cowboy boots, you might highlight hand-painted decorative Mexican tiles or papel picado as a design element. This will embrace the culture and help attendees envision themselves in the space.

In 2023, our client the Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology (SOAP) held their annual meeting in New Orleans. The main design element was a confetti style image that conveyed excitement, without reading too much Mardi Gras.

in 2024, SOAP will hold their Annual meeting in Denver, Colo. Instead of using photos of the Rocky Mountains, or stock photos of the hotel, we are using a design element featuring a vintage national park sticker for Denver.

Our attendees love the current trend of water bottle stickers, so we are offering a sticker featuring the event logo, which include the SOAP logo. We have also designed the 2025 conference logo to include this sticker concept, because it is such a big hit with SOAP members.

We also carry the design theme through all design elements pre- and post-event: promotional materials, registration booth kickpanels, signage, email signatures, promo items, décor at events, etc. This helps set the tone and build excitement leading up to the event.

SOAP 2024 Annual Logo

What if I’m Not a Designer?

Whether or not you are working with a professional designer, you can still create a design that will set your association apart and attract prospective attendees. Design software platforms such as Canva are easy to use, with lots of customizable templates in a variety of formats for posting on websites, mobile apps, eblasts, newsletters or social media. If you aren’t feeling creative or inspired, AI can help you generate ideas to share with designer or create your design for you.

Remember, with just a little creative thinking, design can be an accessible tool to help your event stand out among the competitors to increase attendance and revenue for your events.

Melissa Wilson Cropped Profile Photo
Melissa Wilson, CAE
Executive Director

Associations are built around creative collaboration and teamwork which I love! Over my career I have had the privilege of working alongside many volunteer leaders whose passion and dedication to their profession are truly inspiring. Knowing that my work can help bring an idea to fruition and effect meaningful change, particularly in healthcare, is an honor.

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    In the association world, we know attendees choose meetings based on a variety of reasons: continuing education requirements, networking with colleagues, staying current on industry…