Mary Pat Hanlin, Meeting and Marketing Manager, International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD)
Virtual and hybrid events allow participants who might not otherwise attend a conference or training because of costs, security concerns, or scheduling an opportunity to participate and engage. According to the American Express Global Meetings and Events Forecast, 27% of all events in 2017 will include virtual or hybrid components. As your association considers adding virtual or hybrid events to your annual events calendar, here are ten things to keep in mind:
- Start with an Objective: Not all events have the same purpose and the objective will help share the planning of the event. Some events are meant to generate income, others are meant to provide free content to members, others are meant to showcase a sponsor.
- Develop a Timeline: Just like with an in-person event, developing a timeline of all tasks that need to be completed is a key to success. If you are preparing for a hybrid event, some tasks completed for the in-person portion of the event will be the same for the virtual portion.
- Select the Right Technology Partner: Not all technology platforms are created equal. What works for a 50 person webinar with one speaker might not work for a hybrid conference. Do your research and figure out which partner fits your needs for each type of event.
- Choose Speakers Who Fit the Needs of the Event: We have all heard that content drives attendance for meetings and this is equally true for hybrid or virtual meetings. Choose content that has a broad appeal, especially if you are only offering once session during a particular time-frame. Work with your presenters in advance to make sure their presentations are engaging for both in-person attendees and those participating at home.
- Don’t Forget the Legal Aspects: Make sure you have the appropriate sign-off from speakers to use the content of their presentations both live and in a recorded format. Forgetting this step could be costly down the road and might prevent post-event use of the recorded content.
- Pricing is Key: For first-time events, consider making the event free or available at a special reduced rate to encourage participation. If using early and late pricing for a hybrid event, make your early bird deadline much later for the virtual portion than for the in-person portion as participants in this type of event tend to make purchasing decision much closer to the event.
- Market Early and Often: Allow plenty of time to market your event and create a marketing plan that includes items such as email marketing and social media. For hybrid events, market the hybrid portion separate from the in-person portion.
- Enhance the User Experience: Producing a digital or hybrid event is about more than setting up a camera and streaming out a presentation to an at-home audience. Truly successful hybrid and virtual events engage the at-home participants through chat and polling questions and allow participants to submit questions to the presenters. Consider finding a member of your association who is an expert in the content to be presented to serve as the moderator.
- Develop Metrics for Measuring ROI: These metrics go far beyond the dollars and cents of registration fees. Other items to consider are conversion to in-person meeting attendance, increased participation in future hybrid/virtual events, and new memberships.
- Repackage and Resell to Maximize Audience: Just because your event is over does not mean that your opportunity to monetize the content is also over. Recorded content can be packaged for viewing later by those who cannot attend the event live. Also, consider rebroadcasting the content and bringing in the speaker to answer questions live at a later date.
Source: American Express Meetings & Events. (2017). 2017 Global Meetings and Events Forecast (Rep.).