On Thursday 25th February Outsourced Events chaired our first Association Knowledge Exchange, an hour-long roundtable with a select group of our key contacts representing medical, education, and industrial Associations. Sue Frye, our Director of Associations (with more than 30 years’ experience in the sector) facilitated the session, supported by Denise Sharpe, CEO & Co-Founder of Outsourced Events.
During the roundtable, the group focused on the following headlines:
- Their experience with virtual events
- Hybrid events
- Member engagement
- Experience with virtual events
Of the invitees that attended, we had a real mixed bag of experience within the virtual sphere: one association had hosted 90% of their global events virtually since June 2020, while some had very limited experience in the virtual domain. Through the discussion we were able to establish the limitless opportunities that virtual events offer but that this is often restricted by the budget and man hours one can commit to, either inhouse or with outsourced support for the project.
There is the additional strain for Associations of the importance of event revenue within their annual finances. Delegates believe that because catering and a venue are not being purchased/rented the event price tag and therefore ticket price comes down; an issue which becomes all the more complex when looking at hosting hybrid events.
A huge plus when looking at virtual events is the infinite reach of who can access/attend the event, particularly over the past year when we look at key worker sectors. Our teaching association emphasised that virtual events allowed their members to engage with each other, something that they would have struggled to do in the face-to-face environment: “[virtual events are] more accessible to… members in Jersey and Guernsey, for example, who said ‘Actually, it's made it really affordable for them to attend, rather than having to factor in travel and time, things like that’”.
Ever since the full extent of the pandemic was realised, many in the MICE industry have pegged hybrid events as the future. During our knowledge exchange we discussed what that might look like for the Association sector.
How would you deliver an event that was equally and simultaneously as engaging for in-person and virtual members? How would you deliver an event that is as rewarding for sponsorship/partnerships in-person and virtually? Ultimately, what do they look like and are they too costly?
The heart of this issue boils down to two questions:
- What do members look to get out of your events?
- Where is your membership based?
Association events are delivered for their members and content is delivered by their members, keeping an event true to your membership’s wants and needs is key. Social media such as Facebook groups and Twitter have been key to combatting disengagement and “being super mindful that people are very stressed” so as not to add another task to their already extensive list.
Remaining creative has been key to encouraging engagement whether it be providing “snackable bite sized thought leadership content” through podcasts or adding “a fancy-dress competition at [the] Christmas meeting”. It is essential to truly understand and remain in touch with your membership.
Following the success of the first Association roundtable we are looking forward to continuing to grow the group and hosting a second during the next quarter. With so many potential topics to discuss, all delegates agreed that they found the session “helpful to hear others’ experiences”.
If you are interested in joining in the conversation or have questions regarding items discussed in this article, please do get in touch today.
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