When staffing an event, you get the same questions over and over. Where’s the bathroom? What’s the WiFi password? But we heard an entirely new set of questions—and compliments—during Association Component Exchange (CEX), the one-day conference for component relations professionals (CRPs) we co-host Peggy Hoffman and Peter Houstle of Mariner Management.
We fielded questions about the giant letters spelling out CEX at the front of the room and compliments on our bathroom survival kits. The questions kept coming even after getting home so we decided to share our CEXy event discoveries with you so you can file them away in your chapter event planning ideas folder.
A CEXy Selection of Chapter Event Planning Ideas
As attendees walk into the venue, help them transition from their usual busy mode to a relaxed mindset. As your guests, they can rely on you to take care of their needs, including their need to figure out where they’re going.
We use floor stickers from Sticker Genius to welcome and direct attendees to registration. The stickers don’t get lost amid other meeting signage, although some hotels and event venues may restrict you to certain locations.
Restroom survival kits
We know some attendees made a pit stop before coming to the registration table because they raved about our restroom survival kits. You’ve seen similar kits in nice hotel and restaurant restrooms, but we believe ours was even bigger and better. Our kits included…
- Hair ties
- Shout stain wipes
- Deodorant wipes
- Listerine and cups
- Pepto Bismol
We kept everything contained by grouping items in cups and displaying it all on a tray with a cute sign. These kits echoed the tone we wanted to express to attendees: we’ve got you covered, relax and enjoy your day.
Custom name badges
Every year, our custom name badges are printed by Conference Badge. They integrate with Eventbrite, our registration site, so all the attendee data exports over. You can get badges printed with a custom design or order an on-site printing kit. They have free 3-business day and paid 2-business day shipping.
Event theme and decor
When you have a theme you love, conference decor is an easy and enjoyable task. In 2019, the CEX theme was “Show Your Chapters S’more Love.” Here are the sites we relied upon for our camping/hiking-themed table and room decorations as well as swag bag items.
Pinterest inspiration boards
Once we decided to go with a camping/hiking theme, we created an inspiration board on Pinterest to save and share ideas. We found ideas by searching for:
- Camping themed party and cabin themed decor
- Hiking decor, camping decor, and mountain decor
- Tree wall stickers and greenery
- Camping party supplies
- Camp mugs, campfire, and s’mores
- Woodland baby shower and kids party
You’d be amazed at what you can find on Amazon, or maybe you wouldn’t. We used some of the same searches that worked on Pinterest, plus specific phrases for items we wanted like “camping props,” “plush stuffed moose,” and “faux bear rug.” We ended up with:
- Red LED hurricane lanterns
- Buffalo plaid table runners
- Centerpiece pine trees
- Round rustic wood centerpieces
- Large light-up birch trees
- Greenery and pine boughs
- Ranger hat
- Plush campfire
- Faux wood stump stools and hampers
- Kids tent
Crafty items from Etsy
Since we couldn’t figure out how to tie the hiking/camping theme to our regular backdrop, we rented a greenery backdrop and displayed the custom neon sign on top of it. Find a rental company that handles weddings—they should have what you need.
Fat Head cut outs
We used Fat Head to print our bear, hiker, and small animal cut outs. For special moments, encourage attendees to put their head in the cutouts. You may have to model this behavior first so they take notice.
Giant letters spelling out your event’s name
Our giant C-E-X letters were a hit. We purchased 4-foot 3D cardboard cutout letters from Shindigz for the front of the room where they became a backdrop for photos, selfies, and other tomfoolery.
For extra pizazz, we put removable wallpaper on them. You can find that type of thing on Amazon, Target, or Wayfair. However, this craft project took our team several hours to put together. Build in that extra time or make it a micro-volunteering opportunity for crafty members.
Swag bag items
Another fun event challenge is coming up with ideas for unique, reusable, and non-junk swag items. This year’s Happy Camper reusable grocery bag included:
- CEX workbook—more on that in part 2!
- Custom hiking socks that matched our theme
- “Navigate Your Chapters” canteen
- S’mores cake pop
Our buffalo plaid swag bags were from Bagmasters. I like to peruse their website for swag ideas and themes too.
Okay, I didn’t consider us part of the decor, but maybe we were. The Billhighway team all wore matching buffalo plaid shirts—just like the swag bags—so attendees could easily spot one of us if they had a question or concern.
I bet you can’t wait to see what we wear next year! Please join us for CEX 2020 on October 26 in Washington DC. Registration will be open soon.
We’re not finished with our CEXy shares. Stay tuned for part 2 where we talk about our CEX workbook and app as well as hiking buddies, the CEX Experience Squad, and all the extra touches that make great sponsorship opportunities.