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Association Events Can Learn from Amazon’s Disruption Model

Head off the competition before they catch us off-guard

Amazon owns over 40 businesses, ranging from an online superstore to a robotics company to a film and TV studio to a grocery store to cloud infrastructure services. Who knows what business they will disrupt next? I recently had the opportunity to learn about Amazon’s disruption model. When exploring a market to enter, nine questions are asked to determine if that industry is ripe for disruption. As I listened to the speaker, I couldn’t help but think about association events. Every question Amazon asks seems to apply directly to our events:

1. Is supply separated from consumer demand? Let’s be honest—no one is clamoring for association conferences. Sure, there are many great events that people like attending, but how many of us sell out our registration on the first day? In most cases, people are going because they have to. They need to publish, they need to show face, they need to network. But we are oversupplied with events competing for our attention. You need to think about how to increase demand for your event specifically.

2. Is there a transparent pricing model? I’ve been in situations where using the break-even formula (fixed costs/number of attendees + variable costs) would price us out of the market. I’ve worked with groups where the pricing is set because it just “feels” like $500. When you pay for a conference registration, you have an idea of what you’re getting: a seat, some content, some food. But are your attendees really understanding the value of what is being provided and seeing the pricing as reflecting this?

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