Saying goodbye

September 1, 2017


Dana’s Meeting Minutes is based on the Meeting Planning Triangle©. Click here for a link.


It’s the last day of your meeting and your participants are heading home. What is that experience like? Make sure they are saying, ‘I can’t wait until next year!’



Tip #1

Departing this year’s meeting is the start of next year’s meeting.

  • Launch next year’s meeting this year by generating enthusiasm, energy, and interest. Although you’re exhausted and dreaming of your own bed, don’t drop the ball at the end.

  • Let each attendee know that the association appreciated his/her participation and sincerely looks forward to it next year.

  • Distribute a datesaver at the last event, at the exits, and/or at the hotel(s). Make it easy to slide into a pocket or bag and has some chance of sticking around. Include the date registration will be open, even if it’s ‘Early May.’

  • Invite them to post their photos on a photo-sharing website. Incentivize it and make it known that posting pictures gives you permission to use them in future publicity.


Tip #2

  • Design your closing event as a preview for next year, theming it to the destination with food and décor. e.g.  serve gumbo for New Orleans, or horseshoes for Springfield, IL. (Yum; look it up!)

  • Show a video or other entertaining preview of the next event. For state associations, that might mean highlighting the dates, new ideas and/or benefits. For national associations, it might mean highlighting the destination and its features.

  • Hire an artist to create customize artwork (e.g., caricatures, performance poetry, lettering, handwriting analysis). Brand it with next year’s dates.

  • Distribute next year’s booth contracts. Offer an incentive for early registration that does NOT decrease your income from exhibitors who will be there anyway. Identify booths that return a signed contract with a sign with next year’s logo, dates, and ‘We’ll see you in 2018!


Tip #3

Collect info.

  • People won’t want to stop to complete an evaluation form, but may be willing to answer one question about their experience. Incentivize it with their name in a drawing or a piece of dark chocolate, which would persuade me!

  • Ensure it’s a constructive question by determining what information will be useful in improving future meetings. You’re seeking the real reason for their responses; not the multiple choice ones.

  • For example, ‘Did you attend the new, hands-on session?

    • Yes. Follow up with ‘How did it meet your expectations?’ (Not ‘Did it…’)

      • Follow up with ‘How did it disappoint you?’

    • No. Follow up with ‘What did you do instead?’ (Not, ‘Why not?’)

      • Follow up with ‘Why did you choose that instead of participate in the session?’

      • If the response is ‘I went to my room to work.’ Ask what would make them continuing participating.

  • Another example, with a different goal. Ask participants to name one or more things they learned at your meeting that they will apply to enhance their personal lives, career goals, and/or companies. This services two purposes. 1. Identifying valuable aspects of your meeting. 2. Proving that attending was beneficial.



Ask (require?) board and committee members to say farewell.

Stage leadership at key exit points (see above) where they distribute the datesavers (Tip #2) as they shake hands and offer their sincere gratitude. Staff or reliable volunteers can collect the data (Tip #3). Provide association-branded name badges with titles so the leadership is easily recognized.


If you have the budget, facilitate their trip home. Send them off with brown-bagged snacks for the road; assistance with loading their vehicles or getting transportation; or even a bottle of water. Get them sponsored, of course!



The Best Photo Sharing Sites by Natasha Stokes for Techlicious

Photo sharing websites:



Information disclaimer: WANT MORE? references do not imply an endorsement for any company, product, or service.




Dana L. Saal, CMP, CAE, has been planning meetings for associations for more than 30 years. She recently decided that coaching meeting planners is now more fun than proofing BEOs, counting coffee cups and writing scripts. If you think a bit of coaching could improve your meeting, send a message via her website.

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