Reunited in Strength: How to Create Association Events in 2021 and Beyond

There are three great ways to create an event right now: Highlight Welcoming Environment, embrace innovation and quality and have fun and stay positive.

By Suzanne Berry, MBA, CAE

Two jigsaw pieces are being fit together.

Suzanne Berry headshotIt’s an honor to serve you as Association Forum’s Interim President and CEO following Michelle Mason’s departure in August to become the President and CEO at ASAE.

In the January/February 2020 issue of FORUM, Michelle wrote, “For businesses and organizations worldwide, the pandemic has ushered in uncertainty.” Little did we know that a level of uncertainty continues to be present. Nothing is the same as it was pre-COVID, but associations are used to being nimble, creative and doing more with less. Viable associations have always had to pivot with industry, demographic and economic changes. Let’s share our success stories at the 2021 Holiday Showcase and in our online communities. Let’s continue to learn from one other.

Association Forum cautiously ventured back to in-person events starting with our 2021 Honors Gala. We were pleased to safely host 350 attendees. Shortly after, we put on 2021 Forum Forward: Camp Innovation, a hybrid event that featured virtual and in-person tracks. Forty-three people attended the virtual track, and 81 attended the in-person track. Meanwhile, 31 executives attended the in-person Forum Forward CEOnly program.

The Association Forum staff did an amazing job ensuring that all safety protocols were followed for every event. With the use of color-coded stickers and bracelets, attendees indicated their preference for interaction. We also followed Chicago city guidelines for both events.

Association Forum’s members have proven to be resilient, innovative and compassionate during these times. We look forward to continuing this important work in the new year! 

The 2021 Holiday Showcase theme is “Reunited in Strength.” The planning committee had three principles in mind as they designed the schedule and experience:

  1. Highlight Welcoming Environment®.
  2. Embrace innovation and quality.
  3. Have fun and stay positive.

These three principles are not only representative of our industry’s current climate but also a steadfast way to craft an event. We suspect that by leaning into the strategies that are helping our organizations through this pandemic, we’ll be able to better serve our members and communities for years to come.

Within the issue, you’ll find ideas to help your events team during these challenging times. From scenario planning to open-space learning, you’ll find innovative and relevant content for your events strategy. Our cover story is all about COVID-era changes that are here to stay. We know that the past months have been trying, but we’re also ready to recognize the positive changes that came from these unprecedented times. Finally, we know you’ve either planned or participated in a hybrid event in the past year. It’s time to talk money and how those hybrid events can be revenue-generators for your organizations.

As we close out another calendar year, we are grateful to have you as a part of this community. Association Forum’s members have proven to be resilient, innovative and compassionate during these times. We look forward to continuing this important work in the new year!

About the Author

About the Author

Suzanne Berry, MBA, CAE, is Association Forum’s Interim President and CEO.

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