Designing a member-focussed conference

NSW Rural Fire Service Association 2021 Conference

Fast facts

Event: NSW Rural Fire Service Association 2021 Conference

Date: 4-6 June 2021

Venue: Crowne Plaza, Hunter Valley

Registrations: 562

Challenges

The NSW Rural Fire Service Association wanted to further enhance the member experience for its 2021 Conference – to encourage attendees to interact with the content as well as with one another, and to feel included in every detail. Part of this involved encouraging more women to attend the Conference, to better reflect the industry ratio of men and women rural fire volunteers than previous conferences.

In the midst of fast-changing Covid regulations, achieving this goal meant safeguarding against sudden changes to travel and physical distancing restrictions and ensuring a thorough risk management strategy for the event

Solutions

In order to drive member engagement and ensure the RFSA Conference was an event to look forward to, the committee wanted to ensure the Conference remained free, which meant achieving and, where possible, exceeding sponsorship and exhibition targets. To enable all to attend despite changing regulations, a virtual platform was designed to complement the face-to-face conference. This platform allowed for live questions during plenaries from both in-person and virtual attendees.

To demonstrate the members-first mindset, all signage and marketing was redesigned to include members in the imagery. Women were appealed to by adjusting the language in communications and inviting more female speakers.
New initiatives enhanced interactions among members and exhibitors including;

• Live demonstrations throughout the Conference in the exhibition, allowing a more hands-on experience, making it a natural focal point.
• A Guess Who game where attendees had to speak to exhibitors in order to obtain the answers and go into a prize draw.
• A new social media campaign encouraging attendees to share on their social channels photos of themselves while in service, which were then displayed on an electronic photo wall at the Conference and the platform.

Outcomes

The new initiatives were met with overwhelming success. Registrations exceeded forecasts by 40% with delegates having the peace of mind that they would be able to attend regardless of the ever-changing travel circumstances. The sponsorship-focused changes led to stronger support and take up, with sponsorship targets exceeded by 25% and with 100% of sponsors reporting they achieved their set objectives.

Stronger engagement among all attendees was also noted, with the social media campaign bringing together virtual and online attendees and the Guess Who game strengthening connections and establishing new ones. As a direct result, one new group of friends opted to have dinner one evening to cement their new-found relationship. Overall, attendees reported the Conference felt inclusive and accommodating.

Finally, the initiatives aimed at attracting more women worked with the Conference achieving a gender split of 63:37, which is reflective of the number of men and women in the industry.

quote I was always confident, knowing the Arinex Team were going to be there to look after everything. However, they exceeded my expectations, and their enthusiasm, energy and professionalism were exemplary. They made the magic happen for our conference.”

 

Sharon Ellicott, CEO, NSW Rural Fire Service Association