As associations quickly transition their conferences online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important that they also recognize some of the benefits that come with making the pivot to virtual.
As many associations work fast to pivot their in-person conferences to virtual ones, staff involved in getting it done may feel stressed and concerned about executing it well. For example, how do they get presenters to be engaging on video? How do they create opportunities for virtual attendees to network and collaborate? How do they get sponsor and exhibitors on board?
While those are all important questions to address, it is also important that associations realize the benefits that could come with offering virtual conferences. Here are five of them:
It may appeal to a broader audience. A virtual conference doesn’t require attendees to travel, which means they don’t have to pay for a flight or a hotel room or spend time away from their families. Because of the lower price point and ability to join from anywhere, you may be able to entice people who have never attended in person to join your virtual event. For example, your international attendance could go up, or more parents with young children may register.
Repurposed content could be a new revenue stream. Virtual conference platforms allow content to be easily recorded, which means it can be repurposed at a later date. While attendees could be given access to the archive as part of their registration fee, consider repackaging it and selling it to those who missed the virtual event. This could help your association create a new revenue stream.
It could offer new opportunities for interaction. A lot of people attend events for the networking opportunities and hallway conversations that take place. While those may be difficult to replicate in a virtual environment, consider other ways you can help participants interact—perhaps in ways that would not typically be available at a face-to-face event. For example, you might give attendees access to a live chat with a keynoter or small breakout-room Q&As with your board chair or CEO.
The platform will gather lots of data. Data collection is typically much easier when you host a virtual conference. Virtual platforms let you know exactly who your audience is and what they do. You can gather demographic data, attendance numbers, number of views, types of engagement, and more to get an idea who is tuning in, to what, and for how long. You an also track this type of data for your exhibitors to see how people are spending their time in the virtual tradeshow environment.
The virtual conference could serve as a testing ground. While virtual and hybrid meetings have been increasing in popularity over the past few years, COVID-19 left many associations that perhaps weren’t full sold on them with no choice but to actually host them. While it may have happened faster than you wanted, and you may feel like you didn’t have enough time to create the perfect event, celebrate it as a milestone and consider it an opportunity to test new things. Watch how your attendees, sponsors, and speakers interact with the virtual tools, and ask them what they enjoyed and didn’t like about the experience. Their answers can inform other virtual products, programs, or services your association creates in the future.
What other benefits do you think virtual meetings offer your association? Please share in the comments.