We’re in the dog days of Summer, and subsequently- the dog days of event season.
Many associations are gearing up for their annual events and conferences. And if they’re not preparing, then they’re post-event decompressing. With all of the commotion, events can be a wild roller coaster that leave many feeling drained once they end.
But what if we told you there was a way to host an event that required less on-site planning, saved your association money, and brought in members all at the same time?
I know what you’re thinking: All of this sounds way too good to be true. Well, where’s there’s wifi, there is a way.
With online events, your association can bring your members the same excitement and value while keeping things tech-savvy and low-cost. It’s the best of both worlds!
We know what you’re thinking- how do you get started?
Let’s go over what an online event can entail for your association. We’ll talk about common practices of online events and conferences, as well as a few ideas for your association to start an online event of it’s very own!
With the power of the world wide web on your side, any event is possible.
The in’s and out’s of online events
All this talk of online events being a time and money saving machine is great, but how do they actually work?
Online events and conferences are pretty self explanatory as far as the basics go. Take your event that you’d typically plan out for an actual venue, and place it into the online Universe. Easy.
But the logistics of hosting an online event can get a little tricky. Where should you host? How do you plan out activities for members online? Will there be a way to create networking opportunities for members online? There’s a lot to be answered.
Let’s start with hosting.
If your association already has a community space where members can interact with each other, this is a great space for hosting an online event. It’s already in place, and members are more than likely to be familiar with it. It’s a comfortable platform that can bring in members from all across the country- or even the globe.
But let’s say your association doesn’t have an online member community. Where should you look?
There are plenty of platforms your association can use to hold an online event. And they don’t have to be complicated either.
Let’s take Facebook for example. Your association most likely has a Facebook page (and if not- it should). This is a perfect platform to host your online event for all followers to join in on the fun.
You can go live on Facebook and invite members to engage through your live video. Have them leave comments as you go, and be sure to interact with your crowd!
You can also host online events right on your website.
By uploading online event content to your website, you’re not only engaging your website traffic, but you’re also adding credibility to your site. The more valuable web content, the better.
Finding a host for your online event doesn’t have to be a hassle. In fact, you might find it easier than allocating a venue for a real life event- and cheaper too!
So you know how to host, but do you know how to get people to attend?
Want more tech tips to keep your association on top? Check out our free checklist.
Even for live events, attendance rates are both the most important and the most challenging. You have to prove your worth to members and convince them your event will be the one to miss.
But this struggle only increases with online events. Yes, online events are cheaper and save your association time, but they come with the challenge of bringing in members.
Convincing your members of your online event worth is going to be tough at first, but it’s not impossible. Your events have a lot of valuable information and offers, whether in real life or virtual. If you can advertise and promote that worth, you’ll see high attendance rates.
In any case, it’s important to treat online event promotion like in person event promotion. Create compelling campaigns and reach out to members on platforms they recognize and engage with.
For example, an email campaign can help get the word out about your online event or conference.
Sit down with your association’s marketing team and brainstorm email ideas to send over to your email list. The catchier the subject line, the better.
With your online event promotion, be sure to let members know where to find access to your online event or information relating to your online event. Do they need to buy tickets? What about an access code to enter the event? Do they know which platform it’s being hosted on? This is all information that should be advertised to them.
If you can get the hang on effective event promotion, you’ll be sure to see event attendance rates that will make you smile- no matter the platform.
Activities and networking
If you ask your event attendees why they choose to come back to your association’s events year over year, you can bet the answer is probably networking.
Your association is a hub for networking. Think about it, you bring together many of your industry’s professionals with your membership. It’s only natural that others would look to your association for networking opportunities that could potentially enhance their career journey.
So, you need to make sure even your online events can be a place for networking.
Create a community forum on your online event platform. Give attendees a place to chat about your event, it’s activities, or anything else they might want to bring up.
A great way to do this is to open up a chatroom or comment thread that can connect your event attendees. If you’re hosting your event on Facebook or a platform like Facebook, you can create a post and encourage attendees to network in the comments section below.
If your association is hosting its online event on its association app or another app, be sure the app allows for communication. You never want event attendees to feel like they don’t have a voice or presence.
Similarly, it’s important for your association to plan activities for its virtual event.
Let’s face it, events would be boring without interesting activities to keep the ball rolling. And with the limitations of personal interaction that an online event face, activities are that much more important to the success of your event.
Book guest speakers to send in video content for your event and give members the inspiration and knowledge they’ve been waiting for. You can also create webinars and interactive content to host at your event.
If you can execute an amazing plan for networking opportunities and inclusive activities at your online event, you can secure success for your association (and score some evergreen content in the process!)
An online event can seem too good to be true, but with the right execution, it can be the miracle plan your association needs.
Try incorporating an online event or conference into your association’s schedule this event season and see how your members react to a virtual experience.