You know the game where you can connect any Hollywood actor or actress to the movie star, Kevin Bacon, through Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? In short, the ‘Bacon effect’ rests on the theory that there are a few degrees of separation between any two people in the world. That’s a pretty powerful idea, particularly for associations looking to develop highly engaged members.


When association leaders start to think about building and strengthening membership engagement, they try to channel their inner Kevin Bacon. Strong relationships are the key to engagement, whether with members or non-member customers, according to a new report from the Global Engagement Index (GEI.) However, as it turns out, creating and strengthening connections is not always something that associations do well.


So what factor can change that? In one word: events. The GEI study found that people who only join an association are significantly more likely to drop their membership, whereas customers who join and then attend an event or buy product(s) have a stronger relationship. They are more likely to become permanent members and more likely to renew.


In other words, some of your strongest relationships may not be with members; instead they may be with planners creating your company’s events. Real-world attendee engagement is crucial to event success, and events must deliver the benefits that participants want. Creating the experiences that event participants are looking for is what will drive attendee engagement.


“The whole notion of a membership-first strategy could be dangerous,” CEI representative Peter Turner says. “Because what we found is that organizations who are only focused on member numbers vs. engagement opportunities (i.e. events), often times have weaker engagement scores.”


Attendee engagement can be built before, during, and after an event. The most successful event organizers listen to their participants and implement suggestions to ensure that every professional can remain committed to attending the event and, after attending, leave that event feeling satisfied with the time and money they spent and even more dedicated to the event brand or organization.


To build lasting connections, turns out you don’t necessarily need the famously well-connected movie star, but you do need a few good events.