Not all of your members will be able to attend the annual meeting. For those who miss it, a virtual expo can be a great way to remotely engage people in professional development.
How to hack it? Every year, the School Nutrition Association hosts about 3,500 attendees at its Annual National Conference. But for SNA members who can’t be at ANC in person, there’s also a virtual expo, which is held earlier in the year. It’s a time for vendors to demonstrate new equipment and technologies—and for members to engage in online learning.
“Those who can’t get to ANC for their own professional development can go online to the learning center and view sessions and earn continuing-education units,” says Sherry A. Carrigan, CAE, vice president of business development and meetings.
This year’s expo ran for six weeks in February and March, and all members received complimentary access.
Why does it work? The virtual expo coincides with a busy bidding and procurement period for school leaders, and many members feel incentivized to visit the online expo. “We encourage them to visit all of the booths to win small gift cards for their [school] programs,” Carrigan says. “We also encourage engagement within the booths by awarding small gift cards for the most booth downloads.”
What’s the bonus? The virtual expo also hosts several live chats, including two networking ones for members to ask career-focused questions. There’s also “live hour” chats with industry partners who talk about new and emerging issues.