April 13, 2020

How Your Association Can Come Out Ahead by Hosting Virtual Events

How Your Association Can Come Out Ahead by Hosting Virtual Events

It’s awful to see the association community dealing with the stress of canceling conferences and the uncertainty about upcoming conferences. For many of you, a large percentage of non-dues revenue comes from these events so the financial impact of cancellations is understandably worrisome.

Virtual events are a solution but they’re unknown territory for many associations. You never had to think about comparing all the different aspects of in-person and virtual events. But it’s a good time to do that because it will make you feel much better about going virtual. The more you learn about the advantages of virtual events, the less you’ll worry. In fact, you may even come out ahead with a virtual event.

Event Budget Predictability and Savings

With a virtual event, your meeting budget is more predictable. Instead of worrying about attrition and fluctuating venue, hotel, and meeting room expenses, you can determine in advance how much your virtual venue will cost.

No more BEOs, dietary restrictions, and catering bills because your attendees can raid their own refrigerators. Depending on your staff bandwidth and event needs, you may still want to hire contractors to help you put the event on, but you won’t have the same restricted choices and high costs for shipping, WiFi, staging, production, and A/V like you would for an in-person conference.

You don’t have to budget for travel and hotel expenses for staff, speakers, entertainers, and other hired help. But as we’ve all seen throughout this crisis, you can definitely have prerecorded or live-streamed entertainment for your attendees.

Going virtual gives you flexibility. You’re no longer limited by venue availability or local weather patterns. You can schedule your event at the best time for your audience.

Expanded Market, Increased Attendance and More Revenue

The prospective audience for a virtual event is much larger than an in-person conference. Without travel and hotel expenses in the equation, you could double or triple the attendance.

People who don’t normally attend your event have the option now to do so. For example, these factors may have prevented people from attending your conference in the past:

  • Lack of budget
  • Scheduling conflicts or inability to take so much time away from work
  • Parenting or caretaking responsibilities
  • Social anxiety
  • Disability
  • Visa issues for international attendees

Virtual events are a much easier sell to the boss. Even better, employers can now afford to send more people since travel expenses are no longer an issue.

If you’re looking for ways to increase volunteerism, virtual events provide many opportunities for microvolunteering. For example, members could serve as tour guides, discussion moderators, room greeters, or session reporters.

One virtual event registration can lead to many more purchases down the road. After experiencing virtual education, attendees are warm leads for your other online learning programs.

Virtual events also provide sponsorship and exhibiting revenue too—we’ll go deeper into that topic in an upcoming post.

Bigger Marketing Budgets for Exhibitors

Exhibitors save money on shipping, customs brokers, expo services, and staff travel and hotel expenses. Good news for you because now they have more money to spend on exhibiting and sponsorship opportunities at your virtual event and throughout the year.

A Different and Better Learning Experience

Presenters make or break the learning experience. Many of them don’t understand the principles of adult learning so attendees quickly forget the information they hear. With a virtual event, you can cast a wider net for talented presenters, just like you can for staff when you allow remote work.

Attendees also benefit from the flexibility of virtual events. If you provide access to recordings later, attendees don’t have to worry about missing a live session. They don’t have to clone themselves to attend two or three sessions going on at the same time. Even better, you don’t have to pay a videographer to film those sessions, yet you could charge customers for on-demand viewing later.

Some attendees prefer the virtual experience. People who are uncomfortable networking with strangers or who get anxious about approaching exhibitor booth staff are more likely to participate in those activities online.

Virtual events are an education business continuity plan for many organizations now. You may think of them as a Plan B, but after hosting one, you’ll see that virtual events have their own advantages. Because they attract a bigger audience, expand the reach of your association, and boost your bottom line, they’re an excellent complement to your portfolio of in-person events.

To learn more about our new virtual event experiences solution, download the info sheet now.