These tips will help your association make the most of participant data after your conference.

Get More From Conference Participant Data: 3 Top Tips

As an association leader, you know how critical an annual conference can be to the success of your organization. Your conference might be the event that members look forward to all year as it provides opportunities to network, hear from influential speakers, and engage with exhibitors. Additionally, conferences can help your association build a stronger community and reach prospective members.

While they hold many benefits, organizing a conference is no small feat. They require significant investments of time, money, and effort. That said, your association will need to leverage all of its organizational skills to keep everything running smoothly. Behind every successful event are countless hours spent researching and booking venues, sourcing speakers, promoting and selling tickets, and communicating with exhibitors. So, when the conference ends, you’ll want to make the most of the relationships formed during the event.

Collecting data before and during the conference is the best way to take advantage of attendee participation. In this guide, we’ll explore strategies that will help you gather key pieces of information about attendees so you can personalize communications and improve future events:

As you navigate the event planning and data analysis processes, remember that each of these tasks can be seamlessly completed with association management software (AMS). An AMS will streamline event planning tasks as well as ticket and merchandise sales, and it even offers interactive apps that attendees can use to guide them through the conference. Best of all, you can use your AMS to easily connect and analyze data about members and attendees.

Let’s dive in by exploring the best ways to gather data from your attendees.

Offer multiple ways to engage.

To ensure your association is able to collect useful data from attendees, offer as many ways to engage as possible. This might mean choosing a hybrid conference format so that people can either attend in person or online. Or, you might market the conference through multiple communication channels so they can choose how to engage with promotions.

As Fonteva’s guide to member engagement explains, a strong sense of engagement secures your organization’s relevance, boosts member retention, and encourages community-building. To reap these benefits and ensure attendees are active participants at your conference, consider using these engagement strategies:

  • Organize low-stakes, casual activities. It can be difficult to “break the ice” during conferences, especially when attendees have little downtime between navigating from one session to the next. Leave room in the schedule for a few events designed to foster member-to-member connections. Popular ideas include networking lunches, games, or “unconference” sessions where participants can discuss topics of interest in a more casual setting.
  • Hold interactive workshops. Break up long days of complex presentations with workshops. Allow participants to actively engage with the content or learn a new skill. Not only does this provide a change of pace and opportunities to interact with others, but attendees will become more marketable with new sets of skills and experiences.
  • Set up digital forums. Using your AMS, organize discussion forums for the conference. Consider creating a general forum for the entire conference as well as forums for individual speakers or topics. Provide the forums in a mobile-friendly format. To further motivate attendees to participate, consider offering incentives for contributions from group members.
  • Use live polling and Q&As. Feature these activities during and at the end of presentations to curb meeting fatigue, particularly for virtual attendees. When faced with interactive elements during presentations, listeners will shift into a more active role (rather than being passive observers). To encourage more peer-to-peer interaction, consider asking questions and sending members into breakout sessions to discuss.

Using these strategies, your association can deeply engage attendees and provide more positive experiences. Additionally, you can gather data through these interactions and use it to refine future conferences.

Send out post-conference surveys.

NXUnite’s guide to membership benefits defines them as “perks, services, and access that people receive when they participate in a membership program.” Think of conferences as one of these benefits. You want members to be satisfied with them, particularly if they are paying to attend.

The best way to know whether attendees were satisfied with a conference is to ask them. For organized, honest feedback, send out a post-event survey that asks them what they liked and what could be improved. Make sure to ask for details as needed and for any suggestions they have for the future. Even if they found your conference to be valuable, they might have an interesting topic in mind for next year.

When creating your survey, make sure to include questions about the following areas:

  • Overall experience. Seek out high-level, general feedback by asking attendees to rate their overall experience at the conference on a numbered scale. Then, ask them to highlight the aspects of the conference that stood out positively, as well as any noticeable shortcomings.
  • Sessions and content. Ask your attendees to highlight the sessions they found most engaging, timely, or interesting. Consider asking them to highlight specific speakers they enjoyed, too. When asking about the sessions or speakers they weren’t as engaged by, ask for a detailed response so you’ll know what to improve.
  • Engagement. Get feedback from attendees about the quality of your networking and engagement opportunities. Ask if there were any they found particularly helpful or if they have any ideas about how to enhance them.
  • Logistics. Request that attendees rate the registration process and ease of communication with your association. If the event took place in person, ask them how they felt about the venue and locating sessions and meeting areas in the space. If the event took place online, ask them about their experience navigating links or accessing additional resources.
  • Suggestions. Ask attendees if there are any topics, themes, or activities they would like to see at future conferences. Make sure to ask a very general, open-ended question for any suggestions that don’t fit neatly into one of the previous categories.

Consider creating separate surveys for both staff and volunteers. While these surveys won’t necessarily help you reach more new members or secure additional renewals, they can assist in boosting staff retention and improving your volunteer program.

Use an AMS with data analysis capabilities.

After collecting data from before, during, and after the conference, you’ll need to use your association software’s data analytics tool to get a full picture of the conference. This data will reveal both your strengths and weaknesses, giving you a clear path toward an event that meets and exceeds the expectations of members.

The way associations use data will differ depending on their unique needs and goals. Here are a few specific examples of how conference data might be used to improve communications, future events, and organizational procedures:

  • Using demographic data about a member, you send a personalized message to them promoting events and opportunities taking place in their local area.
  • Before the conference, your association added a question to the registration form asking how registrants found out about the event. Then, you use these responses to understand which communication channels your audience prefers.
  • Responses to your post-event survey show that attendees loved one of your speakers, so you pass the praise along and proactively invite them to next year’s conference.
  • A few attendees recommend scheduling an optional happy hour each evening of the conference for networking purposes. When you implement the happy hour during your next event, participants give higher ratings for the “overall experience” and “engagement” categories.

Because this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using your data, getting started can be overwhelming. It can help to compare feedback and suggestions against your association’s internal goals and assign each one a priority. Additionally, take into account the urgency of each piece of feedback and the number of people who made a similar suggestion or observation.

To ensure your event attracts new prospects and engaged members, make sure to promote the conference ahead of time and offer numerous engagement opportunities. Then, use your AMS to collect and analyze data from participants. Most importantly, make sure that your association uses the data it worked hard to get to actively learn and improve for the future.

In this post, you’ll learn some strategies for creating an effective nonprofit website.

3 Strategies for Creating An Effective Nonprofit Website

Nowadays, having a website for your nonprofit is non-negotiable. You need your own internet outpost, a place where both committed supporters and curious website visitors can go to learn about your mission and contribute to your cause. 

Luckily, designing a nonprofit website is easier than you may think. Whether you’re working with a designer or taking a DIY route with a user-friendly website builder, there are hundreds of tools at your fingertips that can help you establish a distinct look and identity for your nonprofit online.

But to make your website a truly effective tool for your community of supporters, you’ll need to make sure you’re doing more than just making your site look good. Your site will need substance, too—educational information and useful resources that make it possible for your supporters to take action and help you move your mission forward. 

Read more

How to Create Enough Good Content
(Case Study)

Guest blogger Holly Ross has spent seven+ years at the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), working with community members to identify technology trends that are reshaping the nonprofit sector. Brett Meyer, NTEN Communications Director, co-authored this post.

As nonprofits have flocked to the e-newsletter as an inexpensive and timely way to communicate with stakeholders, the number of newsletter tips has also proliferated. While subject lines, “from” addresses, and your template design are all important, they aren’t the biggest challenge to putting out a quality newsletter.  The most difficult part is creating good content, content your subscribers want to read.

For many organizations, simply getting an e-newsletter out regularly, with enough  content — let alone enough good content — is a win. That was certainly true for NTEN a few years ago. But since then, we’ve developed loftier goals for our e-news NTEN Connect, transforming it from a chore we had to cross off the monthly to-do list to a blockbuster driver of traffic to our blog. And we managed to reinforce our values and culture while doing so. Here’s how:


NTEN is a small organization. With just a handful of staff members, we felt the pain of the e-news challenge intensely.

Writing enough good, timely content to fill a monthly newsletter was simply not an option for our overburdened staff. Instead, in 2007, we started stocking it with articles written by members of our community .

While we selected the topics and the authors for each issue, producing the newsletter itself became a matter of curation rather than creation. This shift also aligned nicely with one of our core values: providing a platform for our community’s views. And we took one step further to publish our newsletter stories on our blog (on our website). Readers of the newsletter received a teaser for the article – usually the first paragraph or two – and a link to read the entire article on our site.

We very quickly saw a jump in the website metrics we track. Traffic started to rise and we got lots of compliments on the new format. At that point, we knew we had something good on our hands, but knew we could do even better.


We shook up our e-news format again in November 2008. Rather than hand-picking topics and authors, we invited the community to write about anything they wanted. Submissions flowed in, including quite a few we couldn’t use. While we put out an interesting issue, it didn’t drive traffic quite the way we had hoped it would.

Then we added a twist to the experiment in Fall 2009. We had always used the newsletter to “break” stories, publishing all of the new articles at once on our website, on the day we sent out the newsletter. This time, we posted the articles on our website as they were submitted, letting the authors know that the most successful posts — those that generated the greatest usage as measured by page views, time spent on the site, and comments — would be included in the November newsletter.

By this time, of course, social media had burst upon the scene. Being that the NTEN community is generally pretty tech savvy, we saw them using blogs, Facebook, and Twitter to share news, likes and their own accomplishments. So we tapped the power and reach of the community for the newsletter, leveraging our authors’ social networks to drive traffic to our site and increase newsletter subscriptions.

Our incentive strategy worked! That November, we saw an 80% increase in blog traffic over November 2008. We watched our authors using their social networks to highlight their accomplishment – “Look! I have an article on the NTEN site!” – driving traffic our way. That single month was a huge factor in our 22% increase in blog traffic in 2009.

Unfortunately, blog traffic in every other month (when we curated newsletter content) flatlined.

We continued experimenting with the e-news throughout 2010 to boost site traffic, redesigning the template and removing less-popular features. Nothing helped us reach the boost that the social network November 2009 edition created.


So, in September 2010, we moved to our Community Guided Content model. We still ask authors to write about specific topics, but we post new articles to our website almost daily, then use the stats to determine what goes into the actual newsletter. Since this shift, blog traffic is up 37% year-over-year  and shows a fairly steady month-to-month growth rate. Plus time spent on web pages on page is up – a modest but welcome increase of three seconds.

This new strategy means we’re driving a lot of traffic to overall: We’re up 24% year-over-year in 2011. The blog/newsletter strategy drives most of that, as you can see from the increase in blog traffic as a percentage of total site traffic for the last few years:

2008: 17%
2009: 19%
2010: 22%
2011: 25%

Most importantly,  publishing more and more diverse content on the blog gives us a sense of what the NTEN community is most interested in. Then, when we compose NTEN Connect each month, instead of guessing what we should send out to our 30,000 subscribers, we can look at our blog and social media analytics data to learn what our blog readers have already found most engaging.


We now have a successful newsletter strategy in place — one that aligns our values and goals, and has significantly expanded our visibility and prominence in the sector. This year alone, our newsletter subscriber base has increased 50%.

Next, we’re hoping to match newsletter content even more closely with our audiences’ wants and interests. We’ve begun experimenting more with segmentation: instead of sending out one issue to our full list, we deliver seven different versions based on job function, e.g. Executive Directors receive different content than IT staff members.

Going forward, we’ll be able to tailor newsletter content based on the articles our readers have interacted with over time. Already, we’ve seen the potential for this level of segmentation by including dynamic content based on our subscribers’ membership status and activity levels. And we expect to continue refining our content strategy on an ongoing basis to ensure it meets the needs of the NTEN community. That’s what makes a successful e-newsletter!

What are your strategies for creating content that’s valued by your audiences and advances your organization’s mission — for your e-news, blog, or other channels — when it’s just one of many must-do tasks?