Meeting Mentor Magazine

July 2024

Learning from NAVC:
Five Ways to Grow Your Brand

Since coming onboard as CEO of the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC) in 2013, Tom Bohn has overseen major changes at the association, and one result has been major growth for NAVC’s annual meeting as well as a jump in association revenues overall. Here’s a look at key takeaways from NAVC’s success:

1. Make necessary logistical changes to your event, even if penalties are entailed. For years, NAVC’s annual meeting was held in three Orlando hotels. This year the meeting was moved to the Orlando Convention Center — a move that cost the association attrition penalties, but which was well worth it, according to Bohn. “When we moved the meeting to the convention center we went from 450,000 square feet of exhibit space to more than 650,000. Exhibitors had larger booths or moved outside the main exhibit hall, creating a common hallway. Our sales jumped and so did our savings, thanks to reduced transportation costs, among others.”

Moreover, because attendees were not spending so much time on shuttles, “we found that classes that normally might not have sold out were suddenly standing room only. Next year, we’re asking people to preselect session they may attend so that we can give popular courses and instructors the space they need.”

2. Rename your event if the old name is outdated. This year the NAVC Conference became VMX. Why? “Creating VMX as its own brand give our conference a stronger identity, especially with younger attendees, who are more accustomed to individually branded conferences, such as CES or SXSW,” Bohn said. “Our event also includes a number of other organizations, such as the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), which aren’t doing their own conferences anymore, so we have built VMX as a kind of super show.”

3. Use digital platforms to build a year-round presence, and revenues. Partnering with AAHA, NAVC now offers the largest online continuing education platform in the veterinary market. The association has also launched its own online television channel, consisting of news updates, lifestyle segments, and features on the association’s veterinary professionals. NAVC partners with Convention News Television to deliver programming. “This is a great way to get content out, and it’s a revenue stream. We anticipate about $800,000 next year from ads and product features.”

4. Rethink your association model. NAVC positions itself as a market-based alternative to the American Veterinary Medical Association. “We stress that we are a community rather than a membership-based association. We try to position ourselves as the top resource for the industry, but we’re market based in that our success is tied not to our membership but rather to the best product offerings.” NAVC, for instance, is now the largest publisher in veterinary medicine, Bohn said.

5. Practice “disruptive” association leadership. Associations typically don’t think about keeping on the cutting edge for their members or customers, Bohn said. “Frankly, if association can’t start looking at ways to disrupt, they’ll lose market relevance. People aren’t going to come to you because you are the dominant player. You have to disrupt.” — Regina McGee, Matthew Ringuard

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