Tagoras chose a very timely moment (April 2020) to ask meeting planners to “assess the role of virtual conferences, trade shows and other events, and provide insight into how these events may evolve.” Fair to assume that the results of that survey could only be amplified six months later, as in-person conferences and meetings are not yet scheduled on anyone’s calendar and we are getting used to virtual everything.
There are key takeaways from Tagoras’ The Virtual Conferences Report 2020 worth exploring (visit its website to download the free report). To keep this post short, I am choosing my top five.
- Decisions about hosting virtual conferences are not being made based on a virtual conference strategy – 80% of survey respondents said they had no strategy or weren’t sure if they did, although revenue generation was top of mind – my takeaway is that this gap can create opportunities for questionable decision making, which can be avoided by taking a step back to reflect and strategize, and by working with experienced virtual meeting planners.
- “The field of virtual conference technology is fragmented, and the fragmentation is exacerbated by the fact that options ran the gamut from platform-only offerings to full-service providers” – my takeaway is that being able to assess the technology needs and then match those needs to appropriate technology is complicated, but doable with experience and expertise.
- Virtual conferences are more than live virtual sessions delivered in real time – participants expect archived recordings, real-time forums and messaging, pre-recorded sessions with on-demand playback and virtual exhibit halls – my takeaway is that the expertise meeting planners have worked years to develop needs to immediately transfer over to the virtual conference world – we can’t expect to return to the way things were.
- Evaluating an online event is just as important as it is for an in-person event – my takeaway is that just because the experience is different, we still need to know if we met or exceeded stakeholder expectations.
- Expecting to have very satisfied participants, and then making each decision along the way based on that expectation, is key – my takeaway is that online does not equal unsatisfied participants; Sea to Sky has certainly experienced very satisfied participants and clients.
A total of 78% of survey respondents (meeting planners) were new to managing virtual conferences in April. I expect that percentage would be much lower six months later. Clients who host conferences and meetings, as well as the planners who manage them, are all in this together. For me, reading the report cemented the positive experiences Sea to Sky has had with our clients since April. It also made me, as a meeting planner and association management executive, realize that what we are experiencing right now is more than a moment in the history of association and event management – and acknowledge that my team and I are well placed to see this moment through and plan for the next one. I look forward to reading Tagoras’ upcoming reports!
Sarah Lowis, CMP, CMM, CAE, BA (French)
President and Founder