The associations sector of business tourism not only needs new funding sources to replace falling membership, it also is finding it more difficult to attract sponsors, with those vital supporters demanding a better return for their investment in conferences and meetings.
“The demand by many sponsors today is the ability to demonstrate their products and services to justify the fees they pay,” said Barry Neame, president of Australia’s PCO Association.
“Some associations are unable to adjust the structure of their programs to be able to do that either via a conference or trade exhibition.
“We expect this increasingly to be a focus. Sponsorship dollars are needed to help support our conference or exhibition. components.
There also is a direct correlation between attendees and sponsorship funding. But sponsors today don’t just want numbers, they want the right demographic numbers to justify the spend.”
Neame said there is going to be an ongoing challenge to ensure up to date and relevant sponsorship content can be integrated in a program or workshop to make sponsors feel they have achieved their meetings objectives without it sounding like an advertorial.
Millennials who know they are ‘watching an advertisement’ are less likely to feel their conference attendance and membership fees have been well spent.
Call for new solutions
The problems are exacerbated by the fact that many presentations used at conferences today have been heard or seen elsewhere via the internet, social media or the presenters’ own web sites. The days when presenters wrote new material for every conference on the assumption that at least a small percentage of the audience ‘might’ have seen existing presentations are long gone.
Physically sitting together with fellow delegates to network still has its following, but those members want fresh and relevant content not available elsewhere.
“Perhaps (these changes are) not altogether a bad thing. When times are good, no problems, but when the market tightens up it forces business to create new ways of doing things to maintain customers, or in this case members,” said Neame.
Meanwhile, artificial intelligence (AI) and greater use of virtual reality and automation are being tipped by the international exhibition association UFI to play an increasing role in conferences and events in Australia.
“It is already happening with many associations in a bid to keep costs under control, said Neame. There now are more online membership renewals and more training sessions are automated or becoming so”
MICEBTN are a PCO Association business partner program