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The always-on annual meeting

Association member engaged online

Your annual meeting is no doubt a major draw for your constituents. As an association, this is the place where current members gather to network and share ideas and prospective members get exposed to your programs. The annual meeting is also a major revenue generator – on average, driving 30-42% of your annual revenue, according to ASAE’s 2020-2021 Operating Ratio Report.

Now, replace “annual meeting” with “website.”

Like the annual meeting, your website is a destination where people gain first-hand experience with your valuable programs. It’s where members can earn credits taking courses, learn about new guidelines, collaborate with peers, and understand how policy shapes the future of their industry.

But in many ways, your website is more important than your annual event. It’s not just there one week per year. It’s the place members come year-round to interact with each other, with sponsors, and with association leadership. It’s where non-members come to get to know you. It’s where lawmakers and the general public come to understand who you are, what you stand for, and why they should care.

In short, your website is the embodiment of your organization, available to the public 24/7. So, making it welcoming, accessible, and easy to use should be a top priority for your organization.

Make it welcoming

First impressions mean a lot. From a branding perspective, your website should reflect the values of your organization. Like hosting your annual meeting at a world-class conference center or hotel, your website can be an impressive destination that communicates excellence. Evaluate how well your current website reflects your values back to your community. The content may be great, but the way that content is packaged is equally important for building brand and reputation.

Make it accessible

Accessibility is equally important. When you’re planning a conference, you make sure people can find their way around. You use signs to guide people, organize programs into tracks, and make accommodations for people with disabilities. The same should be true of your website. You can have the best content in the world, but it’s worthless if people can’t find it or use it. A successful website is more than content. It includes effective wayfinding through navigation and search. It must also be useable on mobile devices, and accessible for people with disabilities. Failing to meet these criteria will significantly limit access to your programs and reduce their perceived value. It can also diminish the perception of your organization as a leading voice for your profession.

Make an investment

Investing resources is also critical for your website. Your annual meeting budget likely includes line items for the physical space as well as technical support, content creation, design, production, and facilitators. You should think about your website budget in a similar way. You will need to invest in resources to develop content, design the experience, and maintain the platform. Because the website is not a singular event, but a 24x7 program. You will need dedicated resources to continuously bring your members the best possible online experience. Investing in analytics is also critical to understand how well the site is performing and identify areas for improvement.

Like a top-notch annual meeting, an excellent website builds affinity for your association and ultimately drives revenue. To see how well you’re managing your website, take the Mission Experience self-evaluation. It’s a good start to understand where your audiences may encounter challenges and how to better address their needs.

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