Early Engagement is Fleeting

Guest Author: Amanda Lea Kaiser


Speed Matters!

What do I mean by that? Well, there’s a through-line that I found in my research. Planting the seeds of engagement as soon as possible is a key to success. I found:


The most successful new member onboarding programs engage members within three days to 3 weeks after they join.

The speed at which they engage is critical because the programs that react more slowly see lower renewal rates. New members are excited when they join (and they want to confirm they didn’t make a mistake), so take advantage of this open window of opportunity and engage them quickly.

In the New Member Engagement Study, we found that many associations started to employ monthly online orientation events. These events are less like webinars and more like a dialogue between the moderator and new members, ensuring that each new member gets connected to a solution for their problem.


Engage attendees early, and they’ll have a great conference.

I remember talking to a VP who ran a 10,000-attendee conference of high-level executives. He said something like, “If we don’t get them in the first 10 seconds, we’ve lost them. Knowing this, we purposefully make the registration area AMAZING!” The best in-person conferences engage attendees the moment they walk through the doors or even before they arrive.

Many associations are testing out welcoming teams at their events. Designated welcomers circulate through the registration lines, chatting up attendees. Don’t have the person-power for a welcoming team? Just make sure each attendee gets a huge smile along with their badge.


Engage virtual attendees by immediately getting their attention.

We only have a few seconds to engage attendees in virtual events before their attention wanders, and we might not get it back for the entire event. With email, social media, and texts at their fingertips, they can easily check another item off their to-do lists.

As a frequent speaker of many online events, I reduce introductions to a few seconds so we can get into the content quickly. If the program allows, I’ll invite early birds in from the waiting room before the start of the event for an unofficial start activity designed to set the tone and get participants engaged quickly.


New members might tune you out after three emails.

New members will read up to 3 emails before they decide whether an organization’s emails are worthwhile. If they choose “Yes!” they’ll keep scanning your subject lines and open the emails most relevant to them. If they decide “no,” they’ve mentally put your emails into the unimportant category. Because each of your members gets hundreds of emails daily, all messages deemed not critical get quickly deleted.

Don’t let new members get into the habit of ignoring your emails by planning three fabulous emails to welcome them. Some associations hold back all other member emails until a few weeks of onboarding emails have been delivered. Other associations watch opens and clicks and reach out to non-responders in a different way.


Our brains care so, so much about first impressions.

There are a bazillion scientific studies on first impressions, and we’ve learned that first impressions significantly influence decisions. Want to engage members? Create great first impressions.

I just joined a business community in Slack. Likely, the system auto-generated a welcome email, but the email was so personable, fun, and unique that I delightedly read the whole thing. Who says we need to write like robots in the business setting? Let’s communicate to members like we are already friends.

What is the big idea here? Early engagement = lifelong engagement.

The earlier we engage a new member, the more engaged they are likely to be, while every day they hear crickets from us is one more day they get to stew about whether joining was the right decision (or not.) The earlier we engage attendees, the shorter the time they might feel awkward, and the faster they leave their fears behind and join in. Engage people with your first, second, or third email, and they will be more likely to read all your subsequent emails. It might be a flaw or a brilliant feature, but our brains are wired to notice these first impressions or lack thereof. Knowing this can help us engage our most fragile segment, new members and first-timers.

Are you curious about engaging new members and attendees? Really engaging them? Join us in the Member Engagement Labs. This series of three online events is for all association professionals, from CEOs to all member-facing staff, like events, marketing, editorial, membership, community, and more.

We won’t just talk and learn about engagement. We will also play, share, imagine, and ideate. You’ll learn hundreds of ideas you can take back to your members and attendees. This is not a member engagement webinar. It’s a Member Engagement Lab! Join us. I promise these events will be action-packed, full of new insights/ideas/methods, and fun🙃.


About Our Guest Author

Amanda Lea Kaiser is a keynote speaker and author of Elevating Engagement: Uncommon Strategies for Creating a Thriving Member Community. Through her research, Amanda is at the forefront of exploring how member and attendee engagement is rapidly changing within professional communities.

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