Conferences and Keynote Speakers

Meetings industry seeing more people, more dollars.

Kalamazoo, Mich. – In 2017, the meetings industry was robust, with an average of nearly 2,000 attendees and 54 events per association, finds a new report.  Overall, respondents were most likely to expect increases in meeting attendance (48 percent) and gross meeting revenue (46 percent) in 2018, with fewer expecting increases in sponsorship (37 percent) and particularly exhibitions revenue (28 percent).

“This is consistent with the trends we see in our client work,” said Aaron Wolowiec, chief executive officer of Event Garde. “Old transactional models for engaging exhibitors and sponsors are failing. Those associations who have begun to evolve their programs from purely transactional to exceedingly relational are not just surviving, but thriving.”

Event Garde, a professional development consulting firm in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Whorton Marketing and Research in Las Vegas, partnered to conduct a survey of state societies of association executives and their members’ educational programs, meetings and professional development activities.

Other key findings:

  • The typical participant was a state/regional/local association with a median of 750 members and a $1 million annual budget.
  • Most associations hired professional speakers for their meetings. Those that did report a mean of 16 speakers in 2017 and spent a median of $12,000. A slight majority work with speakers to tailor their presentations.
  • Events account for a mean of 30 percent of association revenue, second only to membership. Registrations account for half of this; sponsorships account for more revenue than exhibitions.
  • Eighty-eight percent of respondents collect evaluations after their meetings, primarily online. However, many associations rely on more than one platform to collect feedback including online, print and mobile apps.
  • The most common title for the head of the professional development/education department is director or president/CEO, with a median salary of $81,000. Most are female and hold bachelor’s degrees.
  • The survey found wide regional differences in responses. For example, associations in Wisconsin, Kansas and Michigan pay their speakers the most, while Kentucky, Illinois and South Carolina pay less than the average. Other state/regional differences include the type of venue used for a meeting, evaluations and salaries of association leaders.

“The findings of our study helped to measure the attendance, trends, staffing and identify common practices, logistics and operations of events of smaller associations that are often not well-covered by other surveys in the industry,” said Kevin Whorton, president of Wharton Marketing and Research. “It reinforces what many executives know — that meetings define their association’s culture and continue to have a strong influence on their bottom lines. But it also does so in a way that helps them identify opportunities to improve their meetings and events over time.”
The survey was conducted with 12 state societies of association executives among 1,986 associations during January/February 2018. Florida, Michigan and New York had the most associations represented in the results.
Summary and full reports can be found on the Event Garde blog. A shareable infographic may also be found there. For a direct download of the full report, click here.
About Event Garde
Event Garde is a professional development consulting firm committed to lifelong learning—for ourselves, our community and those who attend the meetings we facilitate—believing in its ability to create well-connected leaders and to foster performance improvement. Learn more about Event Garde
About Whorton Marketing and Research 
Whorton Marketing and Research is a consulting firm that conducts industry and membership research, and develops marketing campaigns for a wide variety of nonprofit organizations. Learn more about Whorton Marketing and Research
Media Contacts
Aaron Wolowiec
Chief Executive Officer
Event Garde

Kevin Whorton
Whorton Marketing and Research