The following is a brief recap of that discussion:
Many businesses rely on events and conferences to provide educational experiences for their members and customers, often providing a major non-dues revenue source for the organizations. While most associations have some form of webinar and podcast offering, the majority of them rely on in-person events with exhibits and sponsorships to deliver content, provide options to meet with industry partners and provide networking and social opportunities. Although associations have been moving to explore virtual meeting options, recent events surrounding COVID-19 have accelerated these efforts and forced organizations to move more quickly to a virtual format.
So, what options should associations consider for virtual events?
While taking events online will likely mean different things to different organizations, here are some of the standard tools used by associations and others to conduct their events virtually.
Webinars—Platforms that provide the means to conduct online sessions [typically PowerPoint or similar] and offer varying levels of interactivity such as chat, questions, etc. Sessions may be joined either live or on an archived basis, as recording such content is a frequent feature.
Learning Management Systems (LMS)—These systems can provide a broad range of features that support both in-person, online and hybrid activities. While the primary function of an LMS is to track learner activities, many such systems also include additional features such as authoring tools (to create online learning experiences), built-in webinar platforms, and live/threaded chats.
Virtual Events—These are typically a group of platform solutions that provide a series on online experiences such as online events, virtual exhibits, social interactions, etc. Frequently virtual platforms use other services, such as video meeting applications, to augment the base service.
Here are links to some of the most active providers in the association space for your further review and exploration.
Please note that while these classifications are meant to help clarify distinctions between platforms, at times the lines become somewhat blurred and a provider’s platform may cover multiple areas.
Others have shared resources on ASAE Collaborate and related sites, including Zapnito –a community platform that has been used by some associations to host events. In addition, the following corporations are offering free services:
- TechSmith – free subscription to its popular Camtasia screen recorder/video editor program
- Google Hangouts (free, but requires the use of Google Chrome browser and related extensions)
Keep Goals in Mind
As you start to look at virtual options, be clear about the goal of the virtual meeting – it's more than moving an in-person meeting to virtual.
Just like any project, ensure you set clear goals related to the project.
- What is the purpose of the in-person meeting?
- What are the goals to delivery content?
- What are relevant options to delivery content?
- What do people need – attendees, sponsors and exhibitors?
- What is the tolerance of time and duration?
- What are social components that need to be considered?
- Keynotes and entertainment
- Informal interaction (e.g. virtual coffee or happy hour)
- What is the plan to experiment and try different options?
Generally, DelCor recommends that associations follow the same selection/assessment process used to select other systems. But with regard to administering virtual events, it’s quite possible that there will be a collection of systems, rather than just one. On a high level, the following should be considered when looking at various options for creating virtual meetings.
- Speaker/Staff Experience
- Vendor Experience