‘Nobody told me there’d be days like these’

‘Nobody told me there’d be days like these’

I took the reins as CEO of SITE at the beginning of 2019 and, as you do when you start a new job, I expected the usual roller coaster ride with upswings and downswings. But, to quote John Lennon, “Nobody told me there’d be days like these”.

Following two full years of upswings at SITE, during which we reached historically high membership numbers and retention percentages, our entire industry is now in a downward tailspin with little knowledge or understanding, at time of writing, of what awaits us when this all stops.

At this stage we have a diagnosis, but not a prognosis. We know what has happened, we even know why it happened, but we don’t know when it’s going to end and what to expect if and when it does.

Nobody told me there’d be days like these!

So what are we doing at SITE during these “strange days, indeed”?

Our first action has been to focus attention on our members. SITE exists because of our members, so these are the people from whom we must take our marching orders and for whom we must deliver value.

Back in March, it quickly became very clear that some members of SITE were losing their jobs, or being furloughed, and risked having to leave SITE as their membership dues were usually paid for by their employer.

To mitigate this, we created a compassionate fund in SITE, The Moira Fund, named for Moira Hearn, a much loved, deceased member. To date many members in difficulty have availed of the fund to keep up their SITE membership and remain as active participants in our community.

In an early member survey we learned that our members wanted to hear from us more often – so we doubled the frequency of our newsletter – and wanted access to expert opinion on burning issues such as contract law – so we commenced a regular webinar programme.

We were also told that members wanted access to our educational products – so we made access to our learning and development platform free of charge.

We quickly understood, too, that our chapter network around the world was doing a great job with their own webinar programme so we promoted that to our global membership.

Open rates, click rates and registrations on our digital assets have doubled since the advent of coronavirus and, despite many being laid off or furloughed, membership retention is at a solid 72%.

Our focus on members will culminate with SITE Week, a week-long series of events – some in-person, some hybrid – during which we’ll stage a Town Hall and use hackathon techniques to hash out our road to recovery.

The creation of the Manifesto series (see previous CMW coverage of The Bangkok Manifesto and The Vancouver Manifesto) taught us about the wisdom of crowds – we’re very excited by the prospect of channelling the ideas of our global membership into a robust road to recovery.

Nobody told me there’d be days like these but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m privileged to lead an association that’s forward-facing and finding new ways to build value around the transformative power of incentive travel experiences.

Conference & Meetings World is published for the international conference and meetings industry. It tackles the issues facing organisers of international events. The editorial is independent, fresh and news driven, with a global reach.

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