Future-Focused: How AMPED Met Virtual Meetings Head-On
The word of the year for successful associations? Pivot.
For AMPED and our association clients who rely on annual conferences and trade shows to deliver education and grow membership, 2020 was a chance to explore virtual meeting options, try something new without fear of failure, and, yes, pivot.
It started in March, when the pandemic stay-at-home orders hit just weeks before the annual conference of one of our newest association clients. Staff immediately moved the meeting online and partnered with a virtual platform company to deliver four days of education with both live and prerecorded content. The result was a successful event whose net income was 28 times higher than was budgeted for the original in-person meeting!
With the tremendous success and knowledge gained from that first conference, and signs of a worsening pandemic, staff and client leaders made the decision to move all scheduled events online.
AMPED isn’t a stranger to change and innovative thinking. Nor do we rely on one-size-fits-all solutions. This was an important change for our clients and one that required customized solutions for each.
Throughout 2020, AMPED explored dozens of virtual platforms, mindful of the goals and priorities of each client and their meetings. By year’s-end, we had executed dozens of major conferences online for audiences of up to 9,000 attendees, gaining experience on at least nine different platforms, with costs ranging from $2,000 to $175,000.
Without a doubt, the virtual aspect of association meetings will remain vital through 2021 and beyond, whether as a key component or hybrid. And our clients will be ready for it.
AMPED is proud of our innovative culture! It encouraged us to “pivot” and seamlessly deliver virtual meeting experiences to our association clients using solutions customized for them.
Lessons learned and tips for delivering a successful virtual meeting
- Set goals and priorities for the event and keep them top of mind when comparing platform vendors.
- Be future-focused. Can you use the platform later for ongoing or hybrid meetings?
- Allow enough lead time to secure vendors given the heightened demand for these services.
- Know that pricing can be tied to service levels. For example, less expensive products tend to put more onus on staff to execute.
- When budgeting, know your registration numbers. They may be higher in a virtual setting when barriers such as time and travel costs are removed.
- Most platforms have similar features. Consider factors such as the look and feel of the platform, budget, and support availability.
- Support is very important. You don’t want your customer/client staff left to build or execute the meeting because the platform team is spread too thin.
- Look for vendors that provide reliable customer service and tech support the day of the event.
- Consider your staff resources. Can people be “reskilled” to take on new roles?
- Recognize the needs of your speakers. Are they comfortable with technology? Who will train and prepare them? Staff or vendor?
- Know whether you plan to pre-record all or some of the event and understand the pros, cons, and risks of doing so.
- Plan ahead if you want to make content available post-meeting. Will you be able to archive sessions for on-demand access? Also, know whether your organization requires LIVE training for CE credits.
- Don’t rule out the DYI model. Zoom, for instance, is familiar to most. Plus, it has added security features, such as waiting rooms and passwords.
- Most members are more tech savvy than we give them credit for.
- Be creative! Try new things and don’t be afraid of the technology.
- Engage sponsors with unique offerings like video showcases or hosted breakouts.
- Review the post-meeting metrics: individual session attendance, how long participants viewed each session or were on the virtual platform in general, polling metrics, exhibitor/attendee engagement, etc.
- Got swag? Consider sending gift boxes to your attendees to set the mood and enhance engagement.