Almost overnight “virtual” became “reality” for association meetings and events planners. Standard best practices are no longer practical and finding alternatives to in-person events must be done strategically, but quickly.
While the future remains uncertain, association event planners can use innovation, ingenuity, and available resources to determine a new path forward.
Pivoting to Virtual and Hybrid for your Event
Meeting professionals are turning to virtual and hybrid events as either an immediate quick fix or potential strategy for their upcoming events. Taking this route has led to many questions of exactly how to do that well. After all, why offer an event that does not deliver value to all its stakeholders?
Figuring it out isn’t easy, which is why Conference Managers and Sponsorship Boost partnered to create a new virtual event offering. It will help association meetings and event planners transition to virtual events while mitigating live event revenue loss in the near term and build new meetings models for the long term. Our methods combine our experience, knowledge of available technology, and analytics expertise to help association meetings and event planners achieve positive outcomes.
How to Start the Virtual Event Planning Process
Step one in the planning process is to set goals for your virtual event. Start by imagining what your ideal event would look like. Will it include educational content, exhibit displays, or networking opportunities? Reevaluate your goals for attendance, exhibit, and sponsorship revenue, and other key performance indicators that you had established for your live event and develop measurable goals for your virtual event. Ensure that these goals reflect both the challenges and opportunities of a virtual event. For example:
- Establish revised registration fees. Virtual events offer the opportunity to participate to a wider attendee base, not restricted by geography, budget, or travel limitations.
- Sponsorship: Be creative with virtual sponsorship offerings. Online platforms such as websites, webinar, eblasts, and electronic newsletters have the potential to generate sponsorship revenue. Consider annual sponsorships, not just those tied to your event.
- Exhibitor participation fees should be in line with virtual offerings.
- Speakers and abstract submissions. Reevaluate speaker honoraria given changes to your event, including no need to travel, or a reduced time commitment.
- Adjust your participation goals, considering the fact that in-person attendance requires a larger time and financial commitment. Your virtual or hybrid event is more accessible to potential attendees, and therefore offers the opportunity to increase attendance.
- Consider your attendees, number of first-time attendees, students, international
- Set realistic goals for the number of exhibitors for your event. Encourage participation by offering an interactive experience that will replace many of the aspects of an in-person meeting.
- Less restrictive time restraints are an opportunity to deliver more content.
- Quantification of engagement and participation: through chats during sessions, polls, Q&A from anyone.
- Take advantage of your online platform to survey meeting participants about their experience
Transitions from live events to virtual events are not a one-to-one correlation. You should not expect your virtual event to look exactly the same or even achieve the same goals as your live event, but it can be successful and deliver a positive experience for all of your stakeholders.
Next Steps in Virtual Event Planning
The next step will be to execute on your vision. There are many tools available for bringing virtual events to life. In the coming days and weeks, we will post more information to help you navigate them. Our future blog posts will address:
- Choosing the right technology platform for your organization
- Profitability and monetization
- Best practices
- Engagement and fun in a virtual world
Check back in regularly for our latest ideas.
On a final note, it's time to get creative. Our industry has innovated before and we know we can invent new ways to bring people together and offer memorable experiences to our audiences. We’ve been proud to be a member of the events industry for more than 30 years and we look forward to the challenge.