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COVID-19 has completely changed how members view meetings and events. For as long as there are still new cases across the country, potential conference attendees are going to hesitate to join a few hundred (or thousand) of their peers in a singular location and sit in big rooms with other people. While we’re certainly headed in the right direction in many locations (particularly Michigan!), we’re not anywhere close to being out of the woods.
The dream scenario is that we’re all back together for conferences this fall or early 2021. The reality is that offering a virtual component to your next conference likely isn’t a move to tide us over in the meantime; it’s possible that virtual options for attendees may be the norm going forward (at least for the foreseeable future).
If adding a virtual experience to your event sounds daunting, we get it. This is uncharted territory for a lot of association executives and meeting professionals. Below are tips and resources to help get the virtual component of your next event off the ground.
If you think finding a platform to host your event is going to be the tough part, think again. There are a plethora of options out there, so you’re bound to find one to fit your event needs and budget. Just a few that we’ve used or heard good thing about are:
YouTube Livestream (Free)
You’ll have to check each one out to see if they’re a good fit for you, but many offer polls for viewers, analytics to see who is participating and engaged, social media integration to involve your social media followers and much more.
Registration will work similar to an in-person event, but there are certainly some options to help streamline the process. For example, HeySummit is an all-in-one virtual event platform that does everything from process registration, build landing pages for registration leads, provide different event package offerings by price, and more. A few other options to check out are:
If you need help comparing your platform options, Capterra is a super helpful website. It allows users to compare streaming platforms, event registration platforms, and pretty much anything else involved with organizing and executing your virtual event.
Duration: While many in-person events like conferences, meetings, and expositions usually are all-day affairs, your virtual event probably shouldn’t be. Your attendees are in front of a computer screen, so even the most exhilarating content can’t be expected to keep people stationary and looking at pixels all day. Consider trimming your event duration to no more than a few hours, and offer times for attendees at home to take a break.
Engagement: Don’t forget about your attendees at home! While your in-person attendees can be engaged at an event with relative ease, your attendees at home need to be actively brought into the conversation. Online polls are a great way to have your remote attendees contribute, and online chat allows them to be part of the conversation. Having your speakers field questions from online participants is a must, and you’ll likely find that some of the best questions come from virtual attendees.
Feedback: Participants know that virtual events are a new thing for many associations, so they’re more likely to be understanding if things don’t go exactly to plan. But to get good at these things, it’s crucial to get honest feedback from virtual participants. A survey with specific questions tailored to the remote audience should be sent to virtual attendees after the conference. Knowing what to improve for the next event will set your association apart from other groups.
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As events and meetings have gone virtual, event sponsors have had to change their approach to getting the most out of their sponsorship dollars. Adapting to virtual events has been a boon for sponsors who have brought innovative ideas to the new platform, proving that just because we can’t be face-to-face, doesn’t mean sponsors can’t see excellent ROI on their investments.
As is the case with in-person events, sponsors who lean into the event with energy and innovation will have far more success than those who remain flat-footed. Besides, it’s more fun to be part of the action, so why sit on the sidelines and hope for the best?
Here are five ideas to differentiate your business, fill your sales funnel, and get more out of your investment in virtual event sponsorships!
Event Promotion on Social Media
If you’re sponsoring a virtual event, let the world know about it! Write a blog post about the event and its importance to the industry and share it on social media. Create event-specific profile pictures for your social accounts in the weeks leading up to the event to let your audience know you’re sponsoring and attending. Your event promoters will love the help spreading the word about the event and will happily share your content with their own social media audience. It’s a win-win for sponsors and promoters alike.
I like to start out my client meetings with “tell me about your organization” and “tell me about your event.” These questions don’t directly impact the Audio Visual quote that I will later write, but the answers are invaluable as to how my team approaches the look, feel, suggestions, and options that are available to our clients. Plus, honestly, it’s one of my favorite parts of this job – learning who we are supporting, and why they do what they do. It’s usually extremely rewarding to know how we are helping to get the message out and successfully meet the event goals.
Over the last few months, we’ve all likely spent a considerable amount of time on Zoom calls. If you’re at all like me, you’ve quickly realized that virtual meetings and events quickly separate attendees who know how to be engaging and prepared participants from those who, well, very much aren’t.
Given the uncertainty of the pandemic, ORGPRO was always going to look different in 2020. On our call, we went over why we’re offering a hybrid conference, with a virtual experience to complement the option of attending in-person. The conversation was enlightening in a variety of ways, but in two polls we conducted during the call, it was clear that many executives share similar attitudes and concerns about the future of their events.
The Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE) recognizes the current COVID-19 situation and is monitoring for potential impacts on our members and associations. While the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic today and Governor Whitmer has declared a state of emergency in Michigan, it is not yet clear how these declarations will impact business, meetings, and travel. MSAE will continue to monitor the situation and keep you posted.