How long do you think Your Conference 2013 will be relevant? Six months? One year? Two years? Five? Think of it this way: How relevant is the information you learned at the very first association conference?
Chances are, this isn’t a black and white issue in your mind. Maybe you met a colleague at the first conference that you still call on for advice sometimes. That relationship hasn’t expired. But the session on New Research in 1991? You can probably toss that session handout.
In Gianfranco Chicco’s article, “Why Conferences Should Have an Expiration Date,” he explores these issues. Chicco argues that in order to prevent inertia, some events shouldn’t live on and on. If your conferences have used the same theme for five years, you’ve either accomplished the goal already, or it’s time to try a different approach. Can you say “dead horse”?
The best conferences offer fresh, relevant content that has value right now. If it’s been awhile since your events have been described that way (even internally), it’s time to take a break and reassess. Your members want something new.
Why give your conference an expiration date? Chicco backs up his case like this:
- Break the cycle. It’s tough to sustain a pattern of every event topping the last one. When you change the goals or the theme, attendees can enjoy another very good—but wholly different—conference experience.
- Avoid wasting resources. If the return on investment isn’t what it used to be, invest in something else.
- Make a fresh start. Starting something new requires planning, but feels more exciting than tedious.
- Prevent overexposure. Even a good idea, however successful at the time, runs out of steam eventually.
- Sustain happy memories of past events. A conference that seems old hat now may tarnish the image of an experience that once was valuable.
- Move forward. By addressing the same issues again and again, you’re losing traction. Show that your association is innovative and forward-thinking, or members may take their professional development dollars elsewhere.
It takes a lot of courage to divorce yourself from a successful formula. But sticking with what works …well, it only works for so long before it all comes crashing down. It’s better to invite a little risk into your conference planning. By changing it up, your association will continue to provide value to members.
With all that said, we think back to that valued colleague from your first conference. Sometimes it’s a good idea to hold on to the best lessons you learned from conferences past, whether that’s a contact or evergreen advice, like the importance of lifelong learning through the association.
Let Omnipress help! With the digital publishing platform, you can keep content from past events alive and relevant so your conference lives on, and your live events can move in a different direction. Soon enough your new events will age, and enter your archives, giving you the opportunity to speak to the changing needs of your membership.