In-person courses and multi-day conferences are the top two leading formats for learning for association members today, according to the 2017 Member Professional Development Study. Trailing behind just slightly is online learning and webinars, with online actually taking over 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, on the last day of Community Brands conference, Xperience, Jessica Lane, Director of Client Success, answered just that 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? Now, what elements of those translate online? From there, you can focus in on a wishlist and roadmap that outlines an interactive, user-friendly, and engaging online experience.
  • The Right Technology System The infrastructure with which you translate in-person to online should be flexible with live and on-demand capabilities, interactivity options that keep the online audience engaged, tools that 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 that translates to your cost per online attendee
    • Considering price, based on credit
    • Offering multiple online-only pricing options that provide 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 that will draw in a crowd. Make sure your programming reflects your learner interests.
  • The Right Engagement To truly make a live stream event successful, you have to put thought into the online experience and reflect on the choices attendees have onsite and how that translates 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 even breakout chats.
    • Provide opportunities for networking Encourage virtual attendee to virtual attendee communication and engagement via chat sessions.
    • 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 even set up breakout chat sessions where online attendees can connect with vendors directly. Consider this an added revenue stream too, for sponsorship and exhibitor packages, as you parlay these opportunities to the online audience.

A lot of work certainly goes into making that push from in-person to online, 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, included in Jessica’s final thoughts at the close of this insightful session. Its Virtual AIHce audience continues to grow year-over-year, conference satisfaction for virtual attendees is actually rated higher than onsite, education quality is rated higher online than onsite, and profit margin surrounding the annual event reaches 66 percent.