Partnering with / acquiring / managing association events

Rebecca KingAuthor: Rebecca King, CMOO, Collingwood Advisory
Word count: 540
Time to read: 3 mins

Emerging from a conversation in the Media Entrepreneur Meetup community, Rebecca King, Collingwood Advisory’s CMOO led a conversation with our Chairman at, Julian Graves and Managing Director of 73 Media, Ed Tranter on their top tips and lessons learned from their many experiences of working with associations at International Confex. 

Key takeaways

Establish the motivations of the association

This can vary on a case by case basis, so consider what is making an association want to partner with an event organiser. Is it commercial? Is it political? Some associations are privately owned, but the majority are run by people who have a passion for the industry and want to best serve its community, so running with a commercial mindset may harm your initial pitch. You need to be cognisant of why the association does what it does, and keep that at the centre of your proposal or pitch.

Take your time to choose the right partner 

It’s important to remember invariably in any sector that there is more than one association, so choosing the right partner is absolutely crucial, not just for now, but also in the future. Where can you see the relationship being in 5-10 years time? It’s important to remember that some things are seasonal and some things are long-term. Don’t be afraid to let a partnership run its course if you are no longer serving one another. 

Firmly establish roles and responsibilities early on 

Get granular in your planning and organisation before kicking off to make sure everyone is aligned on who is doing what, and also what you mean by the different roles and responsibilities. For example, venue booking may fall under operations in your events business, but for an association, that may sit under venue management. Clearly outlining who will be doing what can save you a lot of time and frustration in the long-run. 

You have to be the driver in the relationship and work hard to make it work 

Communicate to the association as you would to one of your bellwether clients. Being in regular contact with the association will mean there is less chance things will fall between the cracks, and creates accountability within the partnership. Most people working for an association will not have it as their sole position, perhaps they are retired and have been in the industry for many years, or they may have other roles outside of their position at the association. So the onus to drive the success of the relationship needs to come from the events business that is focussing on the event. Find people within the association who are driven to push the partnership forward. This will help with your goals and targets when you have the right people taking part. 

Be prepared to renegotiate terms

Industries and situations change, and what may be serving you at the start of your partnership may not be a few years down the line. Put clauses into your partnership agreement that allow for renegotiation at certain points. This could be after a certain amount of time, or it could be once certain goals have been reached. It makes sure you both have the opportunity to reevaluate the partnership, and walk away if you need to.

Rebecca has over 17 years’ experience in global B2B media as a marketing and project management leader.