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Keys to a successful association event

Association events vary from a large annual conference & exhibition to much smaller events. We had the honor to have a successful event professional Gijs Verbeek, the Head of Events at the European Association for International Education (EAIE) to come and discuss with us in our webinar on Keys to a successful association event. Verbeek has a wide experience on organizing association events both before and during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gijs Verbeek was also the Executive Director for the local MPI Netherlands Chapter for over a decade. His highlights was organizing the flagship event, European Meetings & Events Conference (EMEC2019) which received multiple awards. The event was a true Game Changer as it was entirely designed with the different stakeholders in mind, as well as they did not have any budget and was organized entirely with a group of volunteers.

How do association events differ from corporate events?

Verbeek explains that there are a lot of differences between the two of them:

  • The case of the EAIE events, the revenue for the association events often comes largely from the ticket sales, sponsorship and exhibition which is not usually the case for corporate events.
  • In a corporate environment you design the event and most likely hire an external keynote speaker and have someone from the management talk about the strategy.
  • There are different levels of speakers for association events: invited and often paid keynote speakers, rest of the speakers generally come from their own community and are sourced via a call for papers.


How to create successful association events?

Gijs Verbeek says that creativity plays an important role in successful association events. He gave few tips on how to make a successful association event:

  1. Organize the event with the different stakeholders in mind so that all (attendees, sponsors etc.) will feel welcome.
  2. Give attendees unexpected experiences that they will remember.
  3. Keep everyone excited also about the next event.
  4. Create formats in which attendees have to network and connect with each other.
  5. Budgets do not have to be huge to make a successful association event if you use your imagination. It is often easier to make bolder decisions when your budget is lower.


How have the association events changed from before and after Covid-19 pandemic started?

Before Covid-19 the EAIE held mainly live conferences and they were quickly changed into an online setting due to the pandemic. They needed to do a lot of research on how to create these events online. After this fast change they noticed that the live events had attracted significantly more attendees, which is not a surprise. Organizers of online events not only have to compete with other online events, but also with the day to day jobs the attendees have to do. People are not emerging in a destination or a conference venue where lots of stuff is happening, but instead they are behind their computer and responding to emails, their kids (when working from home) and having other calls with colleagues.

The transformation from live events to virtual events meant that there needed to be some changes made. The virtual events had to be made shorter and have more breaks to keep attendees engaged to their screens. Verbeek says that the positive thing that came from Covid-19 pandemic is the eagerness for the attendees to come to the live events. Online is great for one to one meetings, knowledge sharing, travel reduction and much more.

To watch the webinar of Keys to a successful association event, download it here.
Download Liveto’s free guide to internal and external events and how to host them in this hybrid era here.

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