After a long, gradual move back to in-person events that started with a multi-site hybrid event one year ago, the American Society of Association Executives saw a healthy rebound in attendance for its 2022 annual meeting, held in Nashville from August 20 to 23.
ASAE President and CEO Michelle Mason said that of the approximately 4,920 participants on site this year, 2,699 were paid attendees. This compares favorably to the 2,348 paying attendees for the 2021 hybrid annual meeting, which comprised small on-site groups in 10 destinations across the country plus a virtual audience. In fact, ASAE’s 2022 paid attendance was even higher than the group’s last annual meeting before the Covid pandemic began, held in August 2019 in Columbus, Ohio.
In 2018, ASAE drew about 3,000 paying attendees to its annual meeting in Chicago. However, “putting things into perspective, Chicago is the second-largest market for associations,” Mason noted. “So, we’re really excited about [this year’s] number.”
Aside from the 2021 annual meeting, the one other event that ASAE has held in person since the start of the pandemic was December 2021’s Technology Exploration Conference, which drew about 800 attendees to Washington, D.C.
One factor that might have contributed to the healthy attendance at the 2022 annual meeting was the fact that ASAE did not offer a virtual option to attend. “We were very intentional about that,” Mason said. However, some sessions from the meeting will be available online in the coming weeks, at a cost of $399 versus the in-person fees of $999 (early bird) and $1,199.
Another possible factor: Those in-person prices remained the same as ASAE’s last large-scale in-person annual meeting three years ago. “We were committed to not raising the attendance fee from 2019, even with inflation,” Mason said. “We had to watch our expenses closely ... but as we re-emerge, our members are expecting good experiences, [and] they can get value from us watching the bottom line because they have to do that as well."
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In addition, the roster of more than 100 educational sessions was focused on how associations must adapt their approaches to operating in the new business environment. This was especially relevant to convention and trade-show planners now dealing with higher costs for all event elements despite fewer staff to deliver an acceptable quality of service, airline disruptions, changing health and safety protocols, sluggish business-travel activity, and other post-pandemic complications. Key takeaways from some events-focused educational sessions will be posted on MeetingsNet.com on August 31.
Near the end of the meeting, Lakisha Ann Woods, CEO of the American Institute of Architects, was welcomed as ASAE’s incoming chair, taking the baton from Steven Anderson, CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.
ASAE’s 2023 annual meeting will take place August 5 to 8 in Atlanta.