How to Anticipate Your Association Members’ Event Preferences During Uncertain Times

Updated: Nov. 2, 2020  |  Categories: Meetings/Events  

How to Anticipate Your Association Members’ Event Preferences During Uncertain Times

It’s been almost seven months since our lives, and our economy, were forever changed. (In some places it’s been longer.) Realizing things weren’t going back to “normal” anytime soon, many chapters continue to look for new and creative ways to meet association chapter members’ needs virtually, going online for monthly meetings, educational events, speakers and even conferences. (If you’re still not holding events online, you may want to add some, before your members go elsewhere to get the support and interaction they need.)

As we head into the end of 2020, how are your members holding up? Do you know if you’re still providing what they want in the manner they want it? Have the rules around gatherings changed in your area? If they have, do any of your members want to return to meeting in person? Some? None? Can you easily articulate how many of your association members are willing to come together in person and how many still want to meet virtually?

How members want to meet as a chapter today might not be the same as what they wanted three months or even three weeks ago. It is time to better understand how should be operating right now.

Develop a Meeting Strategy Based on  Your Members Preferences

Your members probably fall into the following categories when it comes to meeting:

  • Super cautious. This group will only attend virtual events, out of fear of contracting COVID 19 or passing it on to someone they care about, if they’re at higher risk or have at-risk family members.
  • Completely open. They’ll come to any in person event you hold.
  • Somewhere in between. They’ll come to event, but with caveats, such as requiring the meeting be outdoors with the proper precautions or indoors if it’s a small group and socially distanced and masked.


Ask short, relevant and specific questions. Clarify your chapter mix, by using surveys to understand their feelings about meeting in person, virtually or in a hybrid model. We’ve seen association chapter members respond best to surveys of five or fewer multiple-choice questions that they feel are relevant to them. Talk to your board and ask them what they want to know and develop the right questions to get that information.

Sample Relationship Review Questions

  1. Would you attend any in person events right now?
  2. If you would attend in person events, would you come inside?
  3. Is there anyone in your household you would consider at higher risk?

It can also be useful to include space for an open answer, to give association chapter members the opportunity to expand their responses to any of their answers.  

Adapt your programming to what you learn. Use the data you gather to adjust your offerings and better show members you are continuing to support them as things change. If the majority of your association chapter members remain concerned about meeting in person, you may want to continue to hold all your events virtually. But if more are open to meeting in person, look for ways to accommodate that need, by adding an in-person meeting back to your schedule and gauging the response. Does an association chapter member or someone in your local community have a large outdoor area, or is there a local park with a covered area? You could hold a small event outside, with social distancing and limits on the number of tickets sold or try the same sort of event indoors.

Consider hybrid events. If your survey provides a mix of responses, it might be time to try a hybrid event. At its simplest, this means holding an event with a combination of in person and remote aspects. One example would be a small group in person speaker event with a speaker that’s live but in another location, which expands the types of speakers you can have while saving money on the speaker’s travel expenses.

Your association chapter members need you and they need each other. Be proactive and take the pulse of your membership periodically and adjust your offerings to meet their needs in the current moment, keeping in mind that those needs could change. Even if your state has reopened completely, you will still have members who won’t be comfortable attending. Increase their comfort, by providing the types of events they need right now, based on what you learn.

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