January 22, 2024
By Elizabeth Powell

In the new event landscape, association and membership organization professionals are using the Total Event Program framework to drive more value from their events. For many associations, events are viewed as a necessary expenditure to offer content and networking opportunities to current members and to market to potential members; but not necessarily a large source of non-dues revenue.

What if your association could transform its event playbook to make, measure, and maintain additional revenue for the organization? Because proving event ROI is increasingly important, this fresh approach encourages organizations to think about event strategy as one cohesive plan rather than a collection of marketing campaigns or member offerings. Adopting this view can deliver a greater return on events for associations of all types and sizes.

In this post, we’ll cover:

  • What is a Total Event Program (TEP)
  • How technology helps maximize engagement across all event types
  • How technology can help you gather critical member and event data

Why Your Association Needs a Total Event Program

The pandemic brought accelerated innovation to how associations structured their events – first with the transition to virtual, and now with the inclusion of hybrid event elements. Association events, especially in the pendulum swing back to in-person, are still navigating so much change happening all at once.

Whether it’s an annual conference or a small group educational webinar, your association’s events are now multi-audience, multi-format, and increasingly digital. These trends are causing associations to rethink the strategies and technologies they need to thrive in the new environment—for in-person events, virtual events, and hybrid events.

Enter the Total Event Program, which is changing how associations create, market, and deliver events to generate the most value for their attendees, sponsors, and the organization. By taking a holistic and strategic approach to event management, associations can ensure that their events generate the desired outcomes. The Total Event Program framework provides a method for doing just that. And with in-person events already making a massive comeback, now is the time to build a strategy for all of your events. That speaks to what your different member groups want most.

What is a Total Event Program?

The Total Event Program (TEP) is a conceptual framework for planning, executing, and activating all of an association’s meetings and events. It provides a holistic approach to event program management using integrated technology to design and build the event, drive marketing and attendance, optimize engagement, make informed decisions throughout the planning process, deliver in any format, and drive value for your organization.

Your TEP includes all the events, large and small, internal and external, online and in person, that your association hosts and attends to reach and engage its prospects, members, and third-party sponsors.

What if all your association’s events - conferences, trade shows and expos, conventions, educational seminars and workshops, industry leader panels, exclusive small group speaker sessions and discussions, membership onboarding, member reunions and social receptions; fundraisers for member scholarships – were organized to drive cohesive content and revenue-generating opportunities throughout the calendar year?

Think of each event as part of an entire system designed to produce specific outcomes for your association. A well-designed program includes multiple components working together in sync.

The Total Event Program approach puts prospect and member engagement at the heart of your event strategy, giving you opportunities to connect with and build meaningful connections for all of your event attendees – driving new membership, membership value, and sponsorships all year long.

The Total Event Program approach relies on using a single technology platform in every step of your association’s event process to deliver a customized experience that reflects your brand and authority in the industry, engages your audiences, provides a single source of truth, and produces quantifiable results.

A holistic approach with integrated technology takes the stress out of planning, executing, and activating events by providing your association with one centralized place to manage all aspects of event strategy – whether you’re at the national, regional, or local chapter. And it streamlines many of the manual processes to help you do your job more efficiently.

Will Total Event Program structure work for my organization?

Not just for corporations

The Total Event Program structure is not limited to businesses. Adopting a holistic, cross-event viewpoint can help maximize the value of any multi-event program, including those run by associations. Check out how YPO leveraged the Total Event Program strategy to host over 6,000 annual events across the world.

Not just for large associations

It is not necessary to host many events every year to adopt a Total Event Program strategy. Smaller associations should look for solutions that scale with them, allowing them to start where they are and expand seamlessly as their program grows. Start anywhere. Grow everywhere. See how the Wisconsin Bankers Association was able to increase their program net profit by 15%.

Advantages of the Total Event Program Approach

By implementing a Total Event Program strategy across your association’s meetings and events programs, you can arm your team to most effectively:

  • make the most of event investments
  • streamline workflows with a centralized event platform and manage your entire event portfolio under one framework
  • create cohesive and complimentary experiences for your members and foster always-on engagement
  • understand the impact events have on organizational goals

Engagement: How to Select the Best Technology to Maximize Engagement for Any Event at Any Time

Technology can make or break an event experience. If it isn’t done right, attendees can feel disconnected from each other and your association’s image. But if your association chooses the right tools, they will be more engaged both with each other and with your organization, than ever before.

Selecting the best technology to delight attendees and sponsors is easier when you know what to look for. Read on to learn why always-on attendee engagement is so valuable and how to select the right technology to maximize engagement across your association’s Total Event Program.

Engagement is currency

Associations have known for a long time that member engagement is important. But what is so special about engagement? And why should we care about it so much?

In short, engagement is currency. It enables the creation and exchange of value—it buys your association awareness, membership demand, prospect conversion, member retention, loyalty, or any other conversion outcome you hope to achieve. Engagement is what makes an event successful, and it’s also what powers your association. Without engagement, there is no conversion—and without conversion, there is no revenue.

Key Takeaway: Engagement is the currency of the new event landscape. Without engagement, there is no conversion, and without conversion, there is no revenue.

Engagement is always-on

Your association’s events are no longer individual islands, where members hop from one to the other. Engagement is not limited to a single point in time; it can happen before, during, after, or between multiple events. Engagement goes beyond the traditional start and stop dates of an event, beginning weeks before the event through content and well after the event is over via on-demand.

To keep attendees engaged, you need to constantly create new and exciting content, experiences, and opportunities for them. Fortunately, technology can help you with this challenge. The most effective technology solutions support a Total Event Program.

Key Takeaway: To maximize engagement, stop thinking of events as one-time experiences and start seeing them as part of a continuous Total Event Program.

Choose Technology that Supports a Total Event Program

So, how do you go about selecting the best technology?

To create maximum engagement, you’ll want to select technology with features that will keep your attendees and members hooked. But not all tools are created equal, so be sure to choose a platform that supports a Total Event Program.

When evaluating technology solutions, consider these questions to be sure your solution is fit for a TEP:

  • Does the solution offer you a single source of truth for a multi-event, multi-format, multi-audience program?
  • Does it offer a single platform for events of all types and sizes, from webinars and local chapter meetings to multiday conferences?
  • Does it have tools to drive engagement and real-time, personalized experiences?
  • Is the solution scalable and flexible to meet your association’s changing needs?

The answer to all these questions should be yes! If not, keep looking.

Activation: How to Use Technology to Capture and Activate Event Data—Virtually and In-Person

To produce the most value from your event program, your association will need to get better at capturing and activating data. Capturing data is about recording what happens. Activating means bringing data to life so you can use it as a valuable tool to make better decisions.

With so many options on the market, from event management platforms to webinar technology, choosing the right tools to capture and activate data can be daunting.

What is event data, and why should my association care about it?

Analytics and data are the new gold, so understanding your event data is key to success. It's not enough for people to engage with your association across multiple channels; you need to collect and package a record of that engagement and activate it so you can take informed action.

Your association’s events are packed with data, and if you want to produce value from your event program, the first step is to capture it. However, data delivers no benefit left sitting in a drawer; it must be integrated into an AMS, CRM, or automation platform to unlock the value through activation.

Your marketing teams need to prioritize the best channels and following up with the most engaged prospects to maximize their success. They need to know who attended multiple events and prioritize them accordingly. The more data they have, the easier it is for them to identify the most engaged leads, build relationships, and increase membership dues revenue.

Platforms that help you succeed in the modern era provide integrations that get your event and attendee data quickly and easily into systems like Marketo, HubSpot, and iMIS. There, you can use it to build relationships and generate revenue.

Five steps for transforming data into measurable value

To help you unlock the promise of your association’s event data, consider these five steps—from setting goals to measuring results.

  1. Figure out what you want to accomplish with your data first. What do you hope to learn? Where will this insight lead your organization? Data for data's sake is worthless—you need a clear, actionable goal to turn data into measurable outcomes for your association.
  2. Identify what data you need to accomplish your goal. Start by thinking about all the sources of information that could help you understand what happened at your association’s event. What did prospects and members do when they got there? What was their experience? What were their interactions with your organization? With sponsors? Which pieces of data are most relevant to your goals, and which sources yield the best quality information?

Keep in mind that data is not limited to during your event. Consider capturing data for your Total Event Program so that you have a complete data picture that includes engagement before, during, after, and between events.

  1. Map out what you currently do to capture event data. Think about how this data is stored and whether it's accessible in a way that will make it easy for you to use. You should also consider what you do to activate event data—how are insights turned into action?
  2. Contrast your current approach with the results you want. What's the best way to answer your association’s most important questions? How confident are you in the data you currently have? What are the potential risks of not using data at all? Are you creating extra work by housing data in multiple systems? How can you integrate those systems so your data is easily accessible for insights?
  3. Select technology that will help you accomplish your goals. While there is no single silver bullet in technology, there are a few essential features. The technology should be able to turn data into insights with minimum human intervention, it should be easy to implement, and it should accommodate growth and change.

Use a centralized platform for maximum value

When selecting technology to capture and activate data, consider a centralized platform for maximum value. A centralized platform will allow you to easily scale activation, make real-time adjustments to campaigns, and drive conversions.

A centralized approach offers you a single repository for engagement data across all events (internal and external) and in all formats (virtual, in-person, and hybrid). You can scale activation more efficiently with a standard templatized lead definition across all events. The benefit of centralizing data cannot be overstated.


In order to further your association’s mission, you must be looking at how to drive more membership and non-dues revenue that can be reinvested into organizational goals. Establishing a framework that supports your total event program is essential for driving more value from your association’s events. It helps you consider your event strategy as one cohesive plan rather than separate but related campaigns. As a result, the Total Event Program will help you reach and engage your prospects, members, and sponsors more effectively.

One of the most important things you can do to maximize engagement and a seamless experience is to use the right technology. Choosing a single platform that supports your total event program is the key to creating experiences that provide continuous engagement and optimize your association’s event value. With the right platform in place, you can turn disparate data into actionable insights that support program growth and engagement for your association.

Take a look at these fantastic customer success stories and eBooks to learn more about how association event teams like yours leverage technology to optimize workflows, strengthen engagement strategies, and improve their bottom line.

Elizabeth Powell

Elizabeth Powell

Elizabeth Powell is a Solutions Marketer at Cvent, where she champions the perspectives of associations and non-profits within the company’s initiatives, resources, services, and product development. Outside of brand marketing and content strategy, you can find her twirling on a dance floor to bachata and salsa, or traveling the globe, one open water dive at a time.

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