The pivot to virtual meetings is not a 1:1 exchange. It is something different than the “way we have always done it.” If you were thinking of replacing some part of or make changes to your old meeting, now is an opportune time to make that transition. Approach your meeting/conference changes not as what you “have to do,” but as opportunities waiting to be realized.
Celebrate the Changes!
Most recent social media, websites, and emails announcing organizations’ plans to change their meetings/conferences from in-person to virtual tend to sound apologetic. You control your narrative. Instead of being nervous or sad you can’t meet in-person, be excited for this new opportunity you have been given! Announce the positives. Here are some examples:
- Our conference now saves your organization money on travel expenses
- Less time spent out of the “office” (wherever that might be)
- Sponsors have access to greater attendee analytics
Doing things a new way allows your team to stretch their minds and re-think how people can engage with the event and with each other. Virtual events are not bound by brick and mortar and neither is your imagination. Use this as an opportunity to reconsider how that engagement can be exciting and new. The following are some ideas to get you started:
- Introduce your attendees to the virtual conference concept with a fun video
- Have a graphic designer to create a zany virtual background for attendees to use
- Set up avatars for attendees to personalize and promote your event as a “masquerade” themed meeting
- For scientific meetings, encourage people to come up with screen names based on the periodic table and encourage people to talk about why they chose that element or how they came up with it
Your meeting registration is a natural place to begin collecting profile data about areas of interest, product inquiries, reasons for attending, and other relevant information pertinent to your meeting and audience. Use this information to help your team generate ideas that will encourage attendees to want to attend programs and spark topical group discussions among attendees with like interests.
Include All Stakeholders in Your Planning
Because the change to virtual was so swift for so many, use this as an opportunity to reconsider the reason(s) and goals for your meeting. Talk to your stakeholders and reexamine your meeting/conference as a virtual event. Have them question:
- Why are we holding it?
- What are our business goals?
- What do we want attendees to take away?
- Who is/are our target audience(s)?
- How can we facilitate networking opportunities in a virtual environment?
- What are our financial goals (if any) in hosting this event?
- What about our meeting is of most value to sponsors?
- How can we best promote our meeting to sponsors and exhibitors?
- What kind of technology will we need to realize all our goals?
To fully develop your meeting goals and expectations, you will want to collaborate with your stakeholders and build a team. Stakeholders could include leaders from areas inside and outside your organization such as your:
- Executive Team
- Meetings Team
- Membership Team
- Marketing Team
- Past Sponsors and/or Exhibitors
- Technology Support
By getting your stakeholders together, you now have a focus group that will give you better insight into ways to attract, engage, educate, and encourage attendance and sponsorship of your newly reimagined event.
Visions of crowded registrations lines, people running from session to session, and attendees ducking out early to make flights, do not exist in this new virtual world. While change is always different, it doesn’t have to be scary. Embrace these unchartered waters and look toward the opportunities that await you.
If you are interested in receiving help navigating these new virtual event waters, contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org.