Chris Brown, executive vice president, conventions and business operations, National Association of Broadcasters, Washington, D.C.
We are still dusting off our registration files to tally a final number for our show, but our number will definitely be up—likely 7 percent to 9 percent, I believe. The actual effect of this jump in attendance, combined with a more positive external economic picture, was electrifying; the show was busy and very much buzzing.

In terms of what we did on the marketing side to contribute to the increase, it is obviously difficult to pin it to one or a few elements. We run a very comprehensive campaign, and the trick for us has been tweaking the formula to place more emphasis on certain areas; and, of course, the budget is still a bit tight, so we continue to have to be creative.

We continue to rely heavily on interactive marketing, including broadcast e-mail, but we have stepped up our efforts in this area a bit by either placing more online ads or working with partners (primarily publishers and conference partners) to post information on their sites, blogs, newsletters—any and all online vehicles. We’ve also worked with these partners to send their own dedicated e-mails on our behalf.

Social media has been another area where we have stepped up our efforts. We expanded our program by reaching out to bloggers and other key online social media influencers in new target audience segments.

Finally, we did well in forming partnerships with several companies to bring special events or programs to our show. For example, we partnered for the first time with the Telly Awards—a well-known program that recognizes top companies in film, TV, video, and Web content production—to bring their Hall of Fame Awards event to our show.

Margaret Core, managing director of sales and marketing for conventions and conferences, Biotechnology Industry Organization, Washington, D.C.

Our recent 2010 BIO International Convention, May 3-6, 2010, in Chicago grew from our 2009 event. We added several tactics that we feel paid off for us that included database cleanup, increasing our grassroots colleague-to-colleague outreach, and also increasing our LinkedIn and digital strategy.

The behind-the-scene tactic that paid off was prioritizing our database. We organized prospective attendee records by how active they were in our membership and attendance at any and all of our association events. This prioritization provided us with guidance on who should receive direct mail, telemarketing calls, e-mails, and/or colleague-to-colleague outreach.

We increased our grassroots outreach by not only working with a local and regional community-relations committee, but also licensing the Three Stage Media tool, Event Social. The Event Social tool allows you to ask board members, exhibitors, consultants, and others who have strong contact lists to run Event Social against their Outlook, LinkedIn, and Facebook and/or to upload a data file. Once this is done, Event Social identifies nonregistrants in their contact list so they can send personal messages to encourage registering for the event. I believe that the colleague-to-colleague outreach is very powerful and often is the needed incentive.

Another attendance booster was reenergizing our 7,800-member LinkedIn group with subgroups and more content, and by encouraging discussions. This activity, along with a specific digital strategy focusing on our key event assets, allows us to easily highlight the value and unique selling points of the event.

Mary O'Connor, CMP, conference manager, Anthony J. Jannetti Inc., a Pitman, N.J.-based association management company.
For one meeting for one of our clients, the American Society of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, the hotel agreed to reduce the rate to be competitive with other properties and encourage attendees to stay on property. The hotel worked with us to develop incentives for attendees. They provided a free cocktail coupon, dining discount coupons, and other incentives exclusive to the property. ASPEN’s attendance at its 2010 conference in Las Vegas (February 8-12) was up by 30 percent over last year in New Orleans.

Attendance at nursing conferences is up across the board. We believe this is the result of pent-up demand from nurses sitting tight last year due to the economy, when most nursing conferences were down about 20 percent. The way we generate interest is through a combination of marketing initiatives. We use Facebook, Twitter, HTML e-mail blasts, print ads, and Google- and Yahoo-sponsored ads. In addition, each association has put conference information on its Web site earlier and updates the information frequently. Partnering with the CVBs has also helped to promote attendance.

Here's a look at some attendance numbers:
Nursing2010 Symposium, Las Vegas: up 25 percent over last year in Orlando.
American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing Annual Conference, Las Vegas: up 43 percent over last year in Philadelphia.
National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners Annual Conference, Chicago: up 25 percent over last year in San Diego.
American Nursing Informatics Association Annual Conference, Boston: up 17 percent over last year in Las Vegas.
National Conference for Nurse Practitioners, Chicago: up 19 percent over last year in Boston.

Amy Ledoux, CMP, CAE, vice president, meetings and expositions, ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership, Washington, D.C.
Most will agree, the past couple of years have been quite challenging, but these tough times help us take a second look at all that we do, and how we do it. Like many organizations, our major meetings were down by approximately 10 percent to 15 percent in 2009. It now looks like we’re on a rebound with numbers slowly going up for association meetings and events. The economy was definitely a significant game-changer in 2009 and in early 2010, and we can certainly interpret increased attendance as a positive sign of economic recovery. But there is more to this story.

We’ve been working really hard to market our events and show their value to our members. The 2010 Great Ideas Conference saw the most dramatic increase in this time frame, with 15 percent more attendees this year compared to 2009. More folks were able to afford to travel and pay the attendance fees, but we also focused on the value of the meeting and how it would generate future-focused benefits for the organizations that send their staff to attend the event. Timely professional development, attractive venue, affordable price, and easily accessible location all benefited Great Ideas this year.