Today, in-person courses and multi-day conferences are the top two leading learning formats for association members, according to our 2017 Member Professional Development Study. Trailing slightly behind is online learning and webinars, with online taking the number two spot for Millennial learners.

Considering today’s learner consumption habits, how can you offer your members the learning trifecta and extend the reach of in-person events to further create and engage an online audience?

Last month at the Community Brands conference Xperience18, Jessica Lane, Director of Client Success, answered that question to a standing-room-only audience of leading association professionals. Live streaming, in-person seminars and conferences may seem daunting at first, but Jessica helped uncover the key levers toward driving success.

The right virtual experience. Ask yourself, what makes your in-person experience unique and engaging? Then, what elements of those translate online? From there, you can focus on a wish list and roadmap to outline an interactive, user-friendly and engaging online experience.

The right technology system. The infrastructure you use to translate from in-person to online must be flexible with live and on-demand capabilities. Additionally, consider interactivity options to keep the online audience engaged, tools to support repurposing content for a library of any size, robust integration capabilities, both staff and learner support, and production services.

The right pricing and product mix. This is a key driver to pulling in and satisfying your online audience. Determine the right value for your online audience by:

  • Analyzing your cost per person onsite, and how it translates to your cost per online attendee
  • Considering price, based on credit
  • Offering multiple online-only pricing options, providing choice and flexibility for your virtual audience (developed tracks, theme or pick-and-choose subscription levels)

Also, consider pricing and product mix for post-event bundled recordings, rebroadcasts, etc., for both onsite and online attendees. One big tip: Never undervalue your content.

The right content. Choosing the right content to stream is key to filling virtual seats. Consider a mix of popular topics, speakers who are well-known and highly-rated, timely and hot topics, and just-in-time content to attract a crowd. Make sure your programming reflects your learners’ interests.

The right engagement. To truly make a live stream event successful, you must put thought into the online experience. You must also reflect on the choices attendees have onsite, and how those translate to the virtual audience. This means harnessing tools and creativity. Consider these ideas:

  • Keep them engaged. Allow for interaction with onsite speakers through moderated session Q&As, polling, surveys and breakout chats.
  • Provide opportunities for networking. Encourage virtual-attendee-to-virtual-attendee communication and engagement via chat sessions.
  • Throw virtual happy hours. Create a casual online community setting to connect, debrief and allow online attendees to network and chat. Seed the conversation with questions to help get the interaction rolling.
  • Include your sponsors and exhibitors. Bring the exhibit hall to virtual attendees by offering spotlight options for your sponsors. Play recorded or live vendor demos. Allow them to sponsor online sessions, including a customized interface with their branding. Or, set up breakout chat sessions where online attendees can directly connect with vendors. Consider this an added revenue stream, too, for sponsorship and exhibitor packages, as you move these opportunities to the online audience.

A lot of work goes into making the push from in-person to online learning. But, with creativity and the right resources and support, success and ROI are on the horizon.

Take, for example, the American Industrial Hygiene Association’s story. Jessica shared it during her final thoughts at her Xperience18 session. Its Virtual AIHce audience continues to grow year-over-year. Conference satisfaction for virtual attendees is rated higher than onsite. Education quality is rated higher online than onsite. And, profit margin surrounding the annual event reaches 66 percent.

Now, that’s a good story to tell.