Association meetings have undergone a seismic shift as the result of COVID,-19 according to the just-released Association Communications Benchmarking Report from Naylor Association Solutions.
The report analyzes survey data from 500 senior staff members at North American trade associations, professional societies and association management companies. The hardest challenge is the lack of revenue from association meetings, cited by almost half as a serious or significant challenge. Associations face a choice of diversifying and becoming more creative with their non-dues revenue streams or relying upon the uncertain timeline for in-person events to return to pre-COVID frequency and capacity.
Also concerning is that while virtual and hybrid events remain more common than live events, nearly half (46 percent) of associations expect difficulty rebuilding pre-COVID levels of advertising, sponsorship and exhibit sales. With these three revenue sources being sizable non-dues revenue-generating channels, the negative financial impact that the pandemic has had on associations is expected to last past 2021.
With live events slowly returning in 2021, virtual events remained an important option for associations, but not without challenges. Thirty-nine percent of respondents have had difficulty transforming their legacy events into virtual events and 82% still feel that face-to-face interaction at live events are the best way to gauge member needs. On the positive side, many associations have nonetheless adjusted to virtual and hybrid events, and 64 percent of respondents said they consider them to be very or extremely valuable, compared to only 56 percent in 2020.
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