Considerations for Moving to a Virtual Event
We’ve heard from association leaders interested in exploring virtual meetings. To help, we’ve put together the following information to assist you in your decision-making process. Whether you’re considering virtual meetings the for the long-term or simply have an immediate need related to COVID-19, it’s always wise to approach this process with a strategy.
You just canceled your meeting. Now what?
First, we’re sorry to hear that! We know it was an excruciating decision and that you made it with the best interests of your members and organization at the forefront. There are many complexities that you’ve already considered – finances, refunds, sponsors, communications, member satisfaction, attrition, CEUs, insurance – the list is long. But, have you considered what you’ll do to recoup some of your investment, re-engage and excite your members and presenters?
Consider conducting a virtual meeting. Your presenters still have outstanding content to share and your members are still looking to you to provide the education they need. If you need help, .orgSource can provide you with a roadmap, strategic support, vendor selection and management, communications and project management assistance. Let us help you showcase your agility as an organization in a positive way. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It can be done! Learn how Pauli Undesser, Executive Director, Water Quality Association (WQA) and Water Quality Research Foundation (WQRF), converted their face-to-face meeting into a digital event in just 72 hours because of a hurricane. You can view the video replay of the .orgCommunity Innovation Summit 2019 session here.
Areas of Focus When Moving to a Virtual Event
The major areas of focus for considering moving to a virtual event are:
- Content and Format
Content and Format
Does your content lend itself to a virtual meeting?
Is there content that just won’t “work” in a virtual setting, such as hands-on training?
What kind of virtual meeting would work best for your members? There are a few options:
- Live-streamed meetings offer audience participation options (audience polling, Q&S) but require more monitoring and support during the event.
- Pre-recorded meetings require more work upfront to capture and package the content. While they don’t offer the same sort of interactivity as a live streamed meeting, you can still run the session at a specified time and have faculty available online to answer questions through a chat function. Pre-recorded meetings can be packaged for on-demand viewing only. As soon as the content is ready, it can be put online and accessed.
- Hybrid meetings – with some events live-streamed and some pre-recorded.
Your decision may depend upon the technology you have available and/or that fits within your budget. Live-streamed meetings are generally more expensive than pre-recorded meetings.
- Review your existing technology platforms to determine if any can be utilized to support a virtual event –your LMS, web meeting platforms, social media platforms, a/v vendor, etc.
- Research potential delivery platforms – the most traditional way to move a live session to a remote session is via web conferencing such as Zoom or Go-to-Meeting.
- Consider leveraging social media for less formal content and/or vendor demos – Facebook Live for example.
When reviewing the platform consider the following:
- How familiar are faculty/staff with the selected delivery platforms?
- What do you know about the learning preferences of your audience and what their comfort level is with virtual learning opportunities?
- Does the platform support the necessary number of simultaneous “seats”?
- In what areas can the vendor provide support?
- How many staff will be required to support each session?
- Does the platform offer the appropriate tools to provide interactivity such as polling?
- Will you offer Q&A for a session? If so, create a plan with the faculty on how it will be handled. Plan to have dedicated staff to manage the question flow.
- Will you offer simultaneous/concurrent sessions? If so, make sure your technology platform can support this.
- How will you manage session registration? Are there registration options provided by the vendor and can any of them integrate with either your LMS or AMS?
- If your sessions offer CME/CE/MOC or other credit, can you leverage your LMS to manage tests, surveys and/or evaluations and certificates?
- Develop a communications plan for your faculty or presenters. It should include information on platforms, delivery expectations (video, PowerPoint, etc), deadlines, training, practice sessions and staff support resources.
- Understand the media that faculty plan to use (video, PPT, etc.) and determine how best to manage it on the selected platform.
- If offering multiple simultaneous sessions at a live meeting, do you want to re-create the schedule virtually? Consider that if you are live-streaming and change times, faculty may not be available.
- Train your staff to manage issues that can occur during live-stream events. Communicate to your speakers how we’ll let them know of any issues.
- Communicate with faculty on how audience members will submit questions and how they will answer them. For example, do they need a second monitor to see them? Will a staff member relay them verbally?
- If your sessions have handouts determine how these will be submitted by faculty and distributed to virtual attendees.
- What does your audience need to know to effectively learn in this format?
- Will some sessions be closed (committee or board members only) or limited to paid registrants? Will some sessions be open to everyone?
- How will you answer any technical questions before or during the sessions?
- Develop a detailed communications plan. If virtual is a change to your event, rather than a new offering, the communication should include why you’re changing as well as what the changes are.
- Determine how the transition to virtual events can be done as smoothly as possible. Develop an internal plan and how you’ll involve any external stakeholders.
- Consider leveraging a conference app or other tools that will guide learners to the virtual content and make is as easy as possible to engage.
- Leverage social media and email to provide info and updates.
- How will you incorporate sponsors in a way that provides them real value?
- Is there a way to include sponsor acknowledgement around any non-CME content and/or in messaging?
- Could sponsors have dedicated time segments to live stream demos/product info between sessions?
- How will they be able to leverage their sponsorship? Will you share audience information with them?
- How will the sponsorship programs be designed? How do they fit with your current offerings.
Feel free to reach out to .orgSource directly if you have questions or just want to have a quick chat about your specific situation. We are prepared to help with areas of strategy, vendor selection and management, communications and project management. You can reach us at email@example.com.