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Annual Meetings - Making the Most of those Crucial Few Days


It’s only a few days a year, but for associations, an annual meeting is where ideas, news, and synergies come together. Far flung members are in the same place at the same time. Advances in the field and the work of your experts are being presented, and leadership and staff have an opportunity to showcase all that’s been accomplished on behalf of your members throughout the year. It’s a time to engage with people, do some show-and-tell and get members excited about helping to tell your story.

As many associations have just completed their annual meetings and others are preparing for theirs in the spring, here are fresh ideas PCI provides clients for making the most of the event of the year.


Show, Tell and Engage

Annual meeting is a perfect time to spread the word about all you’ve done during the year to raise the profile of the association and the profession it represents, and recruit members to play a role. Highlight your public relations activities at a special booth either on the exhibit floor or elsewhere at the meeting. Create a video sizzle reel to run on a loop showing results; have samples of materials you’ve created, staff the booth with someone who can answer questions and encourage members to get involved.

If you don’t have much to report because public relations hasn’t been a priority, annual meeting is a good time to introduce ideas to members and assess their interest.  

Be Social

While annual meeting is often the only time members and staff meet face-to-face, they are often more engaged on social channels during that time because the association is top of mind. Tap into this:

  • Host events such as a “tweet-up” in the meeting’s host city to help members meet their Twitter friends in real life

  • Look for ways to engage experts or ambassadors onsite by asking them to live-tweet from general and plenary sessions

  • Capitalize on hashtags. When enough people use it, the hashtag will trend in the area and provide another platform for your association that you might not have expected.

Identify and Publicize Your News

Whatever profession or industry your association represents, you most likely have news.  Depending on the association’s size, resources and the content of your program, determine the right level of media relations activities. You might choose to develop two or three news releases and reach out to media while the meeting is going on. Or, you can set up a newsroom, invite media to the meeting, and coordinate onsite interviews and press briefings.

Some tips for a media relations campaign:

  • Review abstracts or presentation summaries to identify information that offers something new - the “first, best or only.” It’s best to have communications staff or outside consultants help with this to determine what will generate interest outside of the presenter’s world. 

  • Decide if your news is strong enough to warrant press briefings (many associations are moving away from this model) or one-on-one interviews.  Prepare your presenters to meet with the media by providing media training or press briefing rehearsals, and making sure they’re available and reachable on short notice.

  • Create a newsroom. If you decide to invite media to your meeting, make sure they have everything they need – a newsroom with plenty of space, outlets and charging stations, coffee and snacks, personnel to answer questions and track down researchers and a quiet place to conduct and record interviews. 

Offer Communications Workshops


Many associations are offering seminars and workshops at their annual meetings that encourage members to become involved in communications either on their own, or through official association programs. Media training can be provided as an invitation-only benefit for members who have been active, or have expressed interest in media relations on behalf of the association. Some organizations offer courses to all members, sometimes for continuing educational credit. Media training can be provided in a variety of formats – on-on-one coaching, small group sessions lasting two or three hours, or larger sessions in which members learn the basics of effective media interviews.

You can offer sessions on other types of communications: social media, blog writing and public speaking. All of these and media training are not only appreciated benefits, but a good way to identify and recruit effective communicators on behalf of the association.