How to Phase Out Your Onsite Guide

Smart Business Associations Now Spring 2020 Issue By: Samantha Whitehorne

It can be tricky to say goodbye to your printed onsite conference guide. One association succeeded in doing it with a four-year phase-out plan.

The problem. While looking to trim expenses related to its annual conference, the American Association for Respiratory Care realized the printing costs for its onsite program guide exceeded the ad revenue it brought in—and the gap was even larger when staff time was factored in. “We were spending somewhere between $7 and $9 to produce each program,” says AARC Associate Executive Director Douglas S. Laher, MBA, RRT, FAARC. “It was more than we expected.”

The tactics. Knowing that attendees would be upset if they took a cold-turkey approach and immediately got rid of the guide, AARC opted to make the transition over four years, with the goal of eliminating it by 2022. In 2019, attendees were asked if they wanted a program during the registration process. If they said yes, they received a ticket with their name badge that they exchanged onsite for a program. This year, AARC will offer a $5 registration credit for anyone who opts out of receiving a program. And in 2021, attendees who want a program will have to pay an upcharge. “We’re thinking $10 to $15—something that makes them really think twice about it,” Laher says.

The results. AARC saw some serious cost savings in year one, since only one-third of attendees opted to receive the printed program at its November 2019 meeting. “That was better than we thought it would be,” Laher says. “Now we’re extremely confident we’ll have everyone on board and fully using our conference app by 2022.”

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Four-Year Phaseout."] 

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now in Washington, DC.