Live Events, Virtual Events, Online Conferences... no matter what you call them, they are here to stay. If you have been following the American Society of Association Executives’ (ASAE) online communities, virtual events are the hottest topic – and for good reason. Most associations have been running their annual conference the same way for years but have had to swiftly move on-line and run their meeting virtually. Fortunately, our CAE training kept us from panicking!
At this point, you have either conducted your first annual conference on-line or are in the depths of final preparation. The challenge of running a multi-day, multi-session, conference on-line without adequate time to plan is daunting, but I suspect your focus, as a seasoned operator, has been on minimizing complexities to eliminate opportunities for failure. You have been in survival mode
Now it’s over (or close to over) and you have a full cycle to prepare for next year. While there are many areas for improvement, don’t overlook the wonderful new opportunities from the data that you may be accumulating that you never had before. It is important that you consider the data, and its tremendous value to the organization, before you commit to another platform for the next several conferences. Just like an in-person conference, these solutions provide you information on when your participants registered, how much they paid, and whether they attended. The great new positive is that many of them also collect data on what sessions each participant attended, how long they stayed (and whether they watched attentively), what topics they found most interesting, what they said, and which exhibitors/sponsors they “visited” and interacted with.
powerful new data
This is powerful and rich new data! You now know so much more about individual engagement in every aspect of the conference and you can use this to better understand attendee interests going forward. You also have facts on your speakers. This information can prove invaluable (and eliminate the politics) if you have been wanting to move on from an underperforming speaker or elevate a newcomer. You can enhance this information by collecting data from the chat window and written evaluations.
If you have a modern analytics platform like Nucleus, you can segment this attendance data and uncover what sessions different slices of members (such as executives or students) found most interesting. Now you’ve struck gold! You can personalize future conference invitations to individuals knowing the topics that each finds most interesting. Maybe you’ll find enough interest to set up a special conference track or an entire new seminar on a particular topic for a segment of your membership.
Virtual events provide you the opportunity to collect a great deal of information that your exhibitors and sponsors will find valuable - something they would be willing to pay for. When you have created a conference prospectus in the past, you highlighted the number of attendees, the location and venue, and the composition of the attendees (i.e. executives, mid-career, etc.). The exhibitor had to infer how valuable that would be to them. You really didn’t know how many of these people actually attended the exhibit hall and what type of exposure your sponsors and exhibitors were receiving. With virtual events and a modern data analytics solution, you can measure and report with great specificity on the impact to each individual vendor.
With virtual events, you can provide your sponsors and exhibitors metrics on impressions (the number of times an attendee saw their name by attending a session), and connections (the number of times an attendee requested information from the sponsor). By adding engagement scoring, you can provide your sponsors information about what topics the registrants find most interesting (intent data), what challenges they are facing, and who they are. While you might not be able to charge $5000 for an exhibit, variable pricing might be an option – for example, you might be able to charge something like $1000 plus $25 per impression or connection. Google and Facebook have trained vendors to pay for leads; associations should be able to monetize this service as well.
We’d all like to see the day when we can attend on-site meetings again. I really miss networking with my community of peers, many of whom have become life-long friends. But I suspect on-line conferences and events will remain incredibly important even after business (and life) normalizes. So take advantage of the new data that these conference produce and make more decisions with confidence.