Recently, I joined an #engage365 Twitter chat and answered virtual events questions posed by host Jenise Fryatt (@JeniseFryatt). I’m posting the chat questions here and inviting you to provide answers.
- What do you see as the biggest obstacles to virtual events right now?
- Would you please define a “virtual event?”
- What are some of the ways that planners are funding their virtual events?
- With hybrid events on the rise, are you seeing more organizations offering free remote attendance, or charging?
- With more free remote attendance, it would seem more organizations are understanding the marketing value, agree?
- When people do charge for remote access, what types of events still get good remote attendance?
- How can organizations best prepare for the growth of virtual events in the future?
- Do you think a new position that combines IT knowledge with event knowledge will evolve to meet virtual event needs?
- Do you see websites of events transform into virtual events year round? Examples maybe?
- What part of a virtual events team should have a dedicated person? I see content and experience as labor intensive. You?
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Use the Comments area to provide your answers. In addition, feel free to provide comments to the existing answers. Thanks!
Dennis, lots of thought provoking questions in your top 10 list. Here’s my thoughts on a few of them.
3. What are some of the ways that planners are funding their virtual events?
I work primarily with associations, so understand their drivers best. At first, many viewed virtual or hybrid as a new way to monetize content. Most now realize that it is more about adding to their value proposition and attracting new members/participants. The most common model that I’m seeing is to secure a limited number of sponsors, offer free to members and a modest charge for non-members.
5. With more free remote attendance, it would seem more organizations are understanding the marketing value, agree?
More organizations are treating virtual and hybrid events as campaign elements for something bigger. That might include in person attendance, membership retention or membership attraction. Most virtual events are really nothing more than content marketing elements.
Strategic associations realize that they have a lot of mailbox members who can never get approval to attend a national conference. In order to build loyalty and to serve the industry you represent, virtual and hybrid experiences allow you to reach inactive members and make them feel part of something.
9. Do you see websites of events transform into virtual events year round? Examples maybe?
I think the 365 day vision is very unrealistic. Most conferences or shows would significantly improve by engaging 30 days before or after their conference. I recommend they start there. Using drip marketing tactics to help promote, extend and reinforce learning and networking is a huge opportunity. Going to an on-demand/365 model, significantly reduces the value. I recommend scheduled views where participants can learn together.
The only exception to this is where there is CEU value. Even then, the on demand views are far less valuable than the scheduled events.
Bonus – The two greatest barriers that we see to virtual/hybrid experiences are:
1) Selecting and coaching the best presenters to deliver quality experiences to both a live and virtual audience. If you’re just capturing content, the value to the organization and viewers will diminish.
2) Over-producing. Some organizations think that they need to spend an arm and a leg to deliver a quality hybrid or virtual experience. As an industry, we need to help planners select basic/affordable solutions so that the adoption and value can be more widespread. Once we get more people leveraging the tools, they can more confidently invest in bells and whistles.
Dave: excellent insights, thanks. Regarding associations going hybrid, this video features American Dental Association’s thoughts behind taking their annual meeting hybrid: http://meetingsreview.com/americas/news/view/72881. ADA highlights many of the points you live above.
It is a fascinating topic and one that will be the next evolution of events – let’s face it there is still a very small percentage offering this. I think some associations (ie PCMA with the pre-event virtual audience interviews from the Learning Lounge) have started to do some things very well.
8. 8.Do you think a new position that combines IT knowledge with event knowledge will evolve to meet virtual event needs?
I would argue that IT knowledge is less important – but event production knowledge is important. Most critical is understanding how you will use that technology and IT to provide excellent content delivery and interaction that enhances learning on both the face to face and remote audience sides. This I would say is often the biggest missing piece – it is not just about having a camera at the back of the room feeding information out.
This should be a next position – but as we all know the programming is often left to either a volunteer committee or to one or two education directors in an organization. It is often not a paid position – it should not be seen a as luxury but it is seen as a cost centre not a revenue centre or is something the organization wants perceived as being inclusive so you end up with it being done by committee. When you are seeking content and presentation styles conducive to two audiences the challenge increases. So will there be a next position as noted above – maybe in the most progressive or education driven corporations or associations but I believe it will be rare – but it may be outsourced. That may be the opportunity for experienced event professionals who can combine IT with event and education delivery knowledge.
Tahira: agreed. Creating great hybrid or virtual experiences is not about IT; rather, it’s about the fundamentals of content and engagement. Focus on those core competencies and if IT expertise is required, look to a partner to fill that need.
Dennis, nice post… this discussion could go on for ever and get heated if the right people show up.
1.What do you see as the biggest obstacles to virtual events right now?
Strategy. Strategy. Strategy. To many planners still have the “If you build it they will come” mentality. The nature of the Hybrid Event is that it has two audiences, and the remote participants MUST be catered to or they will not return. Turning on the cameras and selecting a qualified vendor to work with won’t cut it. They’ll gladly take your money and deliver a flawless event, but they’re not going to help you out when your boss is looking to you to justify ROI. Additionally, that approach is going to blow you’re one and only chance at proving that you can deliver value to those “mailbox” members. A wise friend of ours once said, “Do it right the first time and you’ll earn the right to do it again.”
3.What are some of the ways that planners are funding their virtual events?
Dave, you’re spot on as usual. I’ve witnessed the same thing… a shift from monetization to creating more strategic programming aimed at delivering value to those unable to make it in person. Once you get moving, this approach key to maximizing overall value. It only takes time and money to attend an event, making it free takes care of half the battle. The problem is that many associations lack the bandwidth to bring additional sponsors onboard and sell them on the value of participating in the event. Luckily, there are companies that will gladly help out with these type of negotiations and get the ball rolling.
5.With more free remote attendance, it would seem more organizations are understanding the marketing value, agree?
Ditto, Dave. They are finally realizing that if they doing right around their conference, delivering a hybrid event may be the easiest way to convert and inactive member into an active member and convert a non-member into a member. There are finally some unbiased stats showing this activity following hybrid events.
7.How can organizations best prepare for the growth of virtual events in the future?
Easy, start planning now! Organizations do not and should not decide now to host a hybrid event next year. But, they can begin to plan and go through the motions as if they may. Ask your membership what they think. Engage potential partners and sponsors now so they can do their due diligence. Before you know it, you’ll be more prepared than your association friends who’ve already tried and failed. Organizations must also realize that a “pilot” hybrid event is not usually the best approach. Just don’t set yourself up to fail… there are plenty experts out there that will guide you through the process and put on the brakes for you if you’re not yet ready.
Nick: thanks for sharing your insights. I love the quote from your wise friend!