More CEXy Chapter Event Ideas
You know when the party is over and all your guests have gone home? The house feels a little empty as you replay fun memories in your head? That’s how we felt after Association Component Exchange (CEX), our one-day conference for component relations professionals (CRPs)—that and a satisfied exhaustion, I know you know the feeling.
Something else happened after CEX. We got questions about all kinds of things—from the conference app and workbook to some of our hiking/camping-themed decor. So we thought, why not share it all in a blog post? But then the blog post became gargantuan, so welcome to part 2.
In part 1, we talked about our theme and decor as well as our badges, the popular restroom survival kits, and much more—you don’t want to miss any of that.
More CEXy Chapter Event Ideas aka Part 2
Our hiking/camping theme was quite noticeable in the CEX workbook we provided to attendees in the swag bag. Measuring 8-1/2 x 6-1/4 inches, the spiral-bound workbook has a sturdy cover and is tabbed by conference agenda items. This year, we divided the agenda into “trails” instead of sessions.
The entire workbook was filled with cute thematic graphics. Geez, I just love this workbook—can I say that out loud? Shout out to our amazing graphic designer, Paige Kooiker ! Each trail in the workbook was preceded by a hiking/camping-themed inspirational quote that related to the trail topic, like this one, “Go explore. Because it’s cheaper than therapy.”
The conference program and workbook featured “Trailblazers,” CRPs who shared chapter success and turnaround stories. All the trail names related to the theme, for example, trail 3 was titled “Earn Your CRP Badge: First Aid for Chapters in Crisis.” Trail 4 was a collaborative table exercise, “Choose Your Own Adventure: Campfire Chats & Stories.”
The workbook included information about the agenda, hosts, sponsors, speakers, and our Experience Squad—more on them later. We included tips for maximizing the CEX experience, and prompts for goal-setting and turning ideas into action. Throughout the workbook, we included additional prompts, spaces for notes, aha moments, and takeaways as well as questions to ponder.
Many of you asked about the conference app we used. Swapcard charged us $1.99 per attendee, which I thought was a bargain considering it included all the features we wanted in an event app: speakers, sponsors, agenda, my visit, attendees, and a link to the conference website. I especially appreciated having:
- Sponsor descriptions with links to their websites
- Banner ad for a top sponsor
- Push notifications to attendees
- Attendee connections even after the conference
- Profile pic upload
The app was user-friendly and easy to set up. The integration with Eventbrite made everything a breeze.
Icebreakers & accountability buddies
We couldn’t do CEX without Peggy Hoffman and Peter Houstle of Mariner Management, our CEX co-hosts. At the start of the day, Peggy introduced us to a great icebreaker—one that had a hidden purpose. Here’s how it goes…
Ask attendees to find someone they don’t know and discover something they have in common. Next, each pair looks for another pair and finds something they have in common. Finally, each quartet finds another quartet and the exercise is repeated.
You end up with groups of eight people—in our case, we called them hiking buddies. But, during the last trail, we told them they were accountability groups for putting ideas into action.
Experience elements & sponsorship opportunities
To help new information stick and create memories that encourage attendees to return year after year, offer some fun experiences that tap into the senses. Even better if these experiences can become sponsorship opportunities.
We asked an influencer in the association space, KiKi L’Italien, host of Association Chat, to conduct on-site interviews with attendees. We created a special place in the corner of the room to make her ‘set’ feel more intimate yet still visible from elsewhere in the room.
KiKi, a former CRP herself, talked to attendees about the role of CRPs and why component relations matters. Interviews like these can capture the energy and thoughts of attendees and provide fodder for future newsletter, blog, and/or promotional video content.
Our hiking theme continued into our break with a DIY trail mix bar that offered a mix of healthy and sweet ingredients. Think about how you can turn break time into a sponsorship opportunity. Could a sponsor offer a theme- or break-related item that attendees can bring home to enjoy later?
Whether it’s coffee or alcohol, create a custom drink menu with beverage names that match your theme—another great sponsorship opportunity.
Our photographer wandered around throughout the day capturing candid moments. We share these memories on our conference website and plan to use them in next year’s marketing.
We hired a musician to create a custom song for the conference and perform it live at the end of the day. It helped that his workstation was near KiKi’s set so he could hear her conversations. He also stayed after the scheduled programming to play during happy hour.
We’re doing webinars and workshops with our sponsors to extend our partnership beyond the event. For example, Matchbox Virtual Media helped us put on CEX Virtual, a one-hour virtual summit to continue the chapter conversation.
Each year, we bring our content writer, another former CRP, (hello Deirdre!) to participate and listen in on the sessions. From her notes, she crafts outlines for potential blog posts and then we decide which ones to pursue. So far, we’ve published eight posts from CEX content with more CEXy posts and webinars to come.
What’s our key to conference success? Without a doubt, it’s our CEX Experience Squad. We invited some of our most loyal conference attendees to provide feedback on everything: content, speakers, experiences, and songs for our playlist.
But no hour-long phone calls for this group! We used SignUpGenius to have them sign up for micro-volunteering tasks. We then sent out weekly emails with requests for their insight and ideas. They can reply to all or individually with their thoughts.
Would you like to experience all this (and more) in person? Join us for CEX 2020 on October 26 in Washington DC. Registration will be open soon.