It is safe to say the global pandemic that struck the world in 2020 ruined almost everyone’s plans. Organizers had no other choice but to cancel events they planned for months, even years, to comply with the health and safety protocols. Since physical contact is limited, some events found a way to continue by being held online.
Non-profit organizations like the Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) pivot their conference events virtually using event management technology. Although this is different from what they are used to, they share how it benefited the organization.
How Did COVID-19 Affect Event Organizations?
The global pandemic not only raised health concerns but also shook the economy around the world. The entire event industry had no choice but to hold off its operations throughout March, April, and May of 2020. It is indeed a time of uncertainty and fear, considering that we face an enemy that is not even visible.
As a result, scheduled in-person events planned and booked had to postpone, if not completely canceled. Therefore, it wasn’t long before the concept of transitioning these events into a virtual set-up came up. Unfortunately, since virtual events were in their infancy and the world had never traversed this issue, nobody knew how to proceed.
Although feasible, one cannot say for sure if virtual conferences can succeed. It is something new to everyone in the event world, but alternative options are limited. Organizations need to step up and move forward if they want to make a difference.
Recommended Resource: Curious about what your event peers are doing for virtual events? Check out our latest whitepaper and uncover what event professionals have learned about hosting and holding virtual events over the past several months. Download our the full white paper.
How Did WTA Transition Into Virtual Events?
Clearly, as an event organizer, the Washington Tourism Alliance had to do something to start hosting events once again. So, this quickly led them toward figuring out how to successfully host a virtual event with their annual tourism conference. Facilitating virtual events has been one of the most cost-effective ways to push their initiatives and engage with potential donors. Virtual conferences are an effective avenue for conveying the plans of the organization for establishing a state-wide tourism effort. Holding virtual conferences can also be their way of presenting how they will use their funding during these trying times.
Once COVID-19 became widespread across the United States, the Washington Tourism Alliance leaders decided that it is best to hold their future conferences online. While staying safe and healthy, convening forums can help them address the Washington residents’ questions and concerns. One of their notable conferences features industry leaders to share advice on how to recover from the pandemic. Tourism experts also touch on business adaptation, inclusion, cross-border tourism, tourism economics, and more.
After a 10-year hiatus, WTA brought back their annual tourism conference in 2020 with Aventri. The virtual event was possible using the following event tools:
- Virtual Event Platform: All-in-one platform for event management
- Professional & Managed Services Team: Having a team of event professionals walk you through the entire process of planning the event
- Event Registration: Deliver seamless registration experience to increase repeat attendance
Overwhelmingly, WTA’s highly anticipated event became successful with 90% registrant to attendee conversion. There is a 1-month turnaround from inception to live event, all thanks to Aventri’s state-of-the-art event technology. Entering into the virtual space might be new to the organization, but they managed to have 48 virtual event sessions.
Lessons on Running Virtual Events During the Pandemic
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hold off in-person events from happening, organizations like the Washington Tourism Alliance rely on online gatherings. This system allowed them to continue engaging the public in civic dialogue at the comfort of their home.
While most of these virtual events are free to attend, they can be an avenue for drawing additional members, encouraging donors, and generating revenue from sponsorships. Here are some of the lessons worth remembering if you are trying to organize a virtual event:
Thorough Preparation is a Must
Despite all aspects of the event being online, it is still imperative to take time to prepare. The organization must carefully select the video conferencing platform that they are going to use. Whether it is Zoom, Facebook Live, Cisco Webex, or Crowdcast, they should know the functions for sharing screens, muting, raising the volume, adjusting the camera, and more. It is also integral that the camera setup, lighting, sound, and the event’s content and format get prepared before the conference.
Implement Appropriate Security Measures
Security is something that organizations must not overlook during virtual conferences. Unauthorized people can easily hijack collaborative meetings by default if the links to the summit are vulnerable. You can switch platforms like Zoom to a webinar format instead of the typical online session to prevent such incidents. There should also be designated security personnel that monitor the entire event.
Offer Links to Pre-recorded Sessions For People Who Missed the Event
When it comes to virtual conferences, the event does not stop after you finish recording. It is integral to share the recorded sessions for people who failed to attend. Multiple ways to reproduce the content can also be in the form of transcripts, recaps, and video replays. Take this continued exposure as an opportunity to expand your reach and let more people know about your initiatives.
Every Virtual Event Has a Silver Lining
It is difficult to gather sufficient attendance during in-person conferences amidst the global pandemic. Whether your participants or your high-profile speakers cannot make it under unprecedented circumstances, the chances of turnout might increase for virtual events. This option can help you reach a wider audience without jeopardizing the health and safety of anyone involved.
Recommended Resource: Event planners must be able to seamlessly pivot from exclusively online events to hybrid and, ultimately, in-person events once restrictions lift and it’s safe to do so. Read our latest blog post and learn why it’s essential to have a fully integrated event management platform, that can handle events of all types to help your organization move forward.
Overall, organizations can anticipate several drawbacks to virtual events, but this is the only way to present your initiatives in the middle of the pandemic safely. It is especially difficult for communities with low access to technology to hold such events. However, there are already a plethora of virtual platforms that make online interactions seem natural and normal. Although organizing online gatherings is something many are not familiar with, the emergence of event management technologies has made it possible to make it work.
To learn more about virtual conference best practices, and organize your next online meeting, subscribe to the Aventri newsletter. In the meantime, please post any questions you may have in the comments section below. Do not hesitate to share this post.