As a long standing event planner, association members usually fall into one of these annual conference categories : 1) Will Always Attend, 2) Have To Attend, 3) Probably Should Attend, or 4) Never Will Attend.  It also seems to me that event planners take for granted the "will" and "have" attendees and spend a lot of energy focused on the "probably" and "never" member. But is this really a productive use of your time? The answer is: maybe. 

Here is a closer look at each type of attendee and what you can do get them to your conference this year and hopefully keep them coming back. 


This type of attendee believes in your association and its mission. They sign up early for the conference each year and are as close to an automatic renewal as you you can hope for. They look forward to the annual meeting because they learn new information, renew old acquaintances and establish new connections. 

You need to make this member type happy. They help you sell the conference to others. Here are some ways to gain better insights into this category of attendee:

  • While at the conference, use wireless audience response systems to track the reasons why they love to come to your annual meeting. Use those reasons when making sales calls. 
  • Tailor your conference agenda based on their feedback. 
  • Keep communication active with them throughout the year through email, telephone calls and social channels. 
  • Ask if they will act as a mentor for first-time attendees. 


This type of attendee feels like they have no choice because they need to exhibit their product or service to your attendees or they need educational credit for certification. They may or may not be happy to be there, but they know they must attend this year. This type of member is fleeting at best because you cannot count on their loyalty. If they find a better option, most likely they will be gone.  

Here are some ways to keep them coming back: 

  • Thank them for their attendance and ask what you can do to make the conference more enjoyable. 
  • Keep the communication active throughout the year and let them know how much their attendance means to your association. 
  • Have your event staff spend some quality one-on-one time with this attendee. 


This type of member has been thinking about coming to your annual conference for quite sometime, but for whatever reason has not made it happen. They know they need more education, networking and it is "the right thing to do." But for some reason, the conference comes and goes and they don't make it. 

This member isn't sure what they will gain by coming to the association meeting. Here are some tips to sell them on it: 

  • Sell them on the benefits of the conference…what they will learn, who they will meet and why they should attend. 
  • Understand exactly what their reservations are and address them. 
  • Find out their expectations and make sure your conference can meet or exceed those expectations. 


Don't waste any effort or time on this member. For whatever reason, whether it is budgetary, time away from the office or location, they are not going to come to the meeting. Just be glad they are members and if it makes you feel any better, research says that about 25% of an association's membership falls into this category. Thank them for their membership and spend your marketing efforts on the other 3 categories.

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