Gaining An Edge In The World Of Virtual Events

determined-business-man-w-boxing-glovesIf “pivot” was one of the most used words of 2020, what do you think was the most commonly asked question by associations? Right or wrong – my guess is, “How do I engage with my members if we can’t meet in person?”

Enter - virtual events… or in its most foundational form, a single or series of livestreams with interactive digital tools integrated for audience participation.  

2020 has forced many organizations to shift into this new framework and do more of these virtual events. If you haven’t already “pivoted” (there’s that word again), you are likely really feeling the weight of this change. But I’m not here to talk about WHY you should be doing virtual events. I’m here to tell you HOW some associations have been able to gain an edge.

 

Here are three best practices Association TV® has observed after producing more than 700 hours of live content this past year with our clients. 

Plan early. Sell early. 

I’m a boxing fan. No, not the type who memorizes the entire history of the sport – that’s what Google is for. As much as I find the actual fight entertaining, the build-up and anticipation of the clash is equally satisfying. After all, you can’t have one without the other, which brings me to my point. 

Boxing is a business. Without pay-per-view sales, the event itself isn’t viable. This is why the event promoters obsess over the details. Your event should be no different.  

    • Which fighters will draw the largest crowds? A larger crowd means more exposure and subsequently, more sales. When planning your event the fighters are your keynote speakers. 
    • What time (or time zone) will yield the most exposure? During 1975’s “Thrilla in Manila”, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier battled early in the morning to accommodate an international audience. Think about what schedule works best for your members.
    • Does my content align with my target sponsors, and how much time do I need to secure the sponsorship? To schedule a boxing match, trainers need to protect the time needed to train their fighters. The business of events is no different. Promoters need to protect their ability to monetize. And if the stakeholders do not feel there is enough time to be successful in this, they reschedule the event. 

Ask yourself, has your association effectively balanced event engagement and business? Or have you rushed into virtual events with fingers crossed, hoping the business will sort itself out? 

 

Keep it short but sweet. 

The American Society for Quality (ASQ) figured out early in 2020, the value of orchestrating smaller, bite-sized events that happened more frequently. This is not to say there isn’t a demand for a multi-day affair. But if your viewers are globally dispersed and working remotely — dealing with the distractions of family members, pets, and the other responsibilities of being home — then why expect your members to be glued to a screen for an extended period of time?  

Smaller events can also be quite targeted and more meaningful for sectors of your membership. In early December, ASQ hosted a Women in Quality Symposium. This one-day event met and exceeded all expectations for registration and engagement. Their data suggests many registrants participated in most of the day’s activities with hundreds of questions submitted and more than 1,400 comments shared via the virtual event platform.

Moreover, one participant commented, “I’ve attended many virtual events. This one is by far the best.” In addition to the quality content (the start fighters) perhaps the length and delivery of the event was perfectly timed to leave the attendees wanting more? Put your members first and be rewarded with engaged, satisfied attendees. 

 

Not if; but when. 

During in-person events, there are risks. Your keynote speaker might show up late (or not at all) due to inclement weather. The speaker might go rogue and share off-color remarks. The venue sound board might fail mid-way through a keynote. 

I’ve seen all of the above firsthand. And, like live in-person events, virtual events carry just as many risks that you cannot always control. The speaker might not show up on time because he or she misunderstood the time zone differences. The power and internet connection might go down. 

Risk is a part of any event – in-person or virtual. It boils down to how you manage the risk when it presents itself. This is an area in which ASQ excels – not surprising since it’s an organization dedicated towards quality. Whenever Association TV® is producing an event with ASQ, we collectively engage in a redundancy planning meeting. In other words, we forecast what could go wrong, and what we need to do in order to manage risk or avoid it altogether. 

TIP: When constructing a virtual event solution, look for technologies that have built-in features that align with your redundancy or disaster planning. For example, if your live event speaker experiences an internet or power outage, does the solution have a failover in place that allows your livestream to continue running, instead of crashing entirely? 



Summary

The goal of this post is to make you reflect and think about your opportunities as you plan for 2021 and increase your frequency of virtual (or hybrid) events. There are associations out there achieving their KPIs around engagement, registration, sponsorship – and we at Association TV® invite you to learn from those who have been there before you. 

Contact us today to learn how our Association TV® team can help make your next virtual event your best event.

 

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And check out our Virtual and Hybrid Events video channel for more expert advice on taking advantage of technology and creating successful harmonized events.

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