A question was raised recently regarding the percentage of one’s members that should be attending an association’s annual conference.  The question was submitted by a meeting planner whose event attracted less than 15% of his members, and he wanted to know how his experience compared to others.  Here’s how I responded. . .

The percentages vary so dramatically from association to association that it’s impossible to establish any benchmarks.  There are simply too many factors at play.  So, unless you’re comparing your event to one that is very similar in focus and content, there’s little insight to be gained.  

Just the fact that you’re going through this exercise is great.  Everyone in your position should be asking if their event is living up to its potential.  And that is the operative word, “potential.”  The challenge is in determining what is possible.  You mentioned that about 14% of your members currently attend your event.  If the potential (i.e., the most you’ll likely ever get no matter what you do) is 20%, you’d have to conclude that you’re doing quite well.  In this scenario, attempting to grow by one percentage point over each of the next five years would be a challenging yet reasonable goal. However, if it were determined that the true potential for your event was, say, 50% member attendance, that’s an entirely different matter.

Chances are the potential for your event falls somewhere between those two extremes. But the strategies for realizing that potential will vary dramatically depending on the size of the gap that needs to be filled.  Without a deeper understanding of your event and your membership, I’m afraid I can’t offer specific advice.  But I hope what I have provided will at least give you a place to start.