Through my research into new member engagement, conducted alongside Amanda Kaiser at Kaiser Insights, we found that programs designed to welcome new members into an organization get results. They can boost member renewal rates and improve a member’s experience for the long haul. There are many ways to go about engaging new members, and focusing on in-person experiences at events is one tactic that can offer big results.
One of the first trade shows that I attended was sponsored by a customer of ours at Dynamic Benchmarking. Initially, being a brand new supplier member, my partners and I knew no one at the show. Not knowing what to expect was both exciting and nerve-wracking.
First, they paired the three of us each with a buddy who met us on the first day and invited us to a cocktail party that night. Our buddies told us what was going on, what we should be attending, and what we shouldn’t be.
Most importantly, they had the Executive Director and President of the association hold a special session for sponsor members prior to the show, where they talked with us about how important we were to the association, and how much appreciation they had for us. Overall, it made a great impression. We started the show feeling good, and knowing a few people right off the bat.
Because this was my first association meeting experience, I thought this approach to welcoming new members was typical. Nine years and many conferences later, I now know that what we experienced at that show was unique.
Over the years, I’ve gone to a lot of conferences and meetings by myself and know that entering a professional space full of strangers can be intimidating. Other welcoming initiatives I’ve participated in include a Dine Around, where you are matched up with people interested in the same topic as you for a group dinner. These dinners turn awkward situations into fun nights and strangers into friends.
New member engagement programs work, and they don’t have to be big or expensive. What could you try at your next in-person event to make new attendees feel part of your organization? Start small and iterate over time, and you will be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.
Lisa spoke in the “How to Lose New Members in 90 Days or Less” session during SURGE Optimism 2018, an interactive virtual conference hosted by AssociationSuccess.org on November 7th-9th. Click here to watch the sessions on demand.