You Asked For It: CEXy Chapter Event Planning Ideas

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.



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…

  • Hairspray
  • Hair ties
  • Tampons
  • Shout stain wipes
  • Lotion
  • Deodorant wipes
  • Flossers
  • Listerine and cups
  • Advil
  • Pepto Bismol
  • Band-Aids


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.

CEX Registration


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.



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.



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
We Talked Chapters at CEX: The Association Component Exchange


We ordered a custom neon sign from  , a great source for unique crafty items. A word of warning, it’s easy to develop an Etsy jewelry habit, just sayin’.



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.



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.

CEX 2019


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.



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!
  • Pen
  • Custom hiking socks that matched our theme
  • “Navigate Your Chapters” canteen
  • S’mores cake pop


Our preferred swag provider is Woodward Movement, an awesome local (Detroit) business. Ask for Desiree Marx and tell her Sarah sent you. She will find whatever you need.

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.


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.



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.

More CEXy Chapter Event Ideas

Post CEX Events

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.


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About the author

Sarah has a soft-spot for component relations professionals (CRPs), creating amazing experiences, and having a good laugh. She focuses her time at Billhighway on building and delivering chapter-focused resources, creating unique experiences for CRPs through webinars, events and the one-of-a-kind Component Exchange (CEX). Sarah is passionate about exploring new ideas and trying new things. What we really want to say is Sarah is a component bad@$$ who is sure to put a smile on your face.