Virtualizing Your Association’s Events

Virtualizing Your Association’s Events

In light of COVID-19, many associations are needing to cancel, postpone, or virtualizing events, tradeshows and events. In previous blogs Richard MacNeill, President of OTUS Group, shared tips on mitigating the financial impact of event cancellation, and tips for holding a virtual AGM. 

In Canada, while it appears that our efforts to flatten the curve are working, it is very likely that restrictions on gatherings and travel will persist for months. Given that possibility, it would be wise to consider contingencies for your in-person events. 

Alternatives to In-Person Events

Many associations rely on sponsorship and registration revenues to make their annual budgets. Cancelling an event can be costly and postponement may prove difficult because post-COVID event space is already scarce. As an alternative to in-person events, many associations are turning to webinar and virtual conference/tradeshow platforms. 

When deciding on a webinar or virtual conference platform it is key to remember why you host the events you do. Events may be key for associations to maintain critical interactions with and between their members, meet their members’ demand for education and networking or maintain essential revenue streams.

Some associations are using COVID-19 as an opportunity to start producing webinars, either in place of their events, or in addition to hosting virtual events. Others are exploring virtualizing their entire conference, including hosting a virtual tradeshow. 

In general, there are two groups of event platforms available:   webinar/meeting platforms, and virtual conference/tradeshow platforms. 

Webinar/Meeting Platforms

Many are familiar with the webinar/meeting platforms available, such as:

Most webinar/meeting platforms provide the same basic features.  Associations hoping to capture more revenue from their webinars may want to consider the more sophisticated (and expensive) platforms, that offer the capacity to include advertisements and other sponsorship assets. 

Virtual Conference/Tradeshow Platforms

For associations that want to re-create their in-person conference or tradeshow, there are several virtual conference/tradeshow platforms to consider:

These platforms are quite sophisticated. They allow attendees to navigate virtual event space and attend virtual plenary and breakout sessions, and visit a virtual tradeshow. 

The down-side is that they tend to have longer implementation periods, and tend to be more expensive (vFairs estimates their average implementation cost at $8,000 USD, and Communiqué starts at $35,000 USD!). The upside is that by being able to offer a variety of sessions, associations may be able to generate higher registration revenue, and being able to offer virtual exhibition space maintains a revenue stream that would otherwise be lost in the new reality of physical distancing. 

Choosing the Right Platform

There is no one-size-fits-all platform. In picking a platform to host your virtual event, you must balance cost and functionality with your chosen goals.  We will explore the factors to consider when choosing a virtual event platform in a future blog post. 

Jeremy Newman
Jeremy Newman brings significant executive-level national association management experience to the OTUS team.

Over a period of five years in the association space, Jeremy modernized and streamlined many association operations, generated novel revenue streams through partnerships with major national brands, expanded sponsorship and event revenue, and much more.

As Director of Business Development at OTUS Group, Jeremy’s mission is to help deliver and develop OTUS’ suite of consulting services to a broader audience and grow OTUS’ network of like-minded organizations.

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