2020 has certainly brought a wide range of challenges to most every aspect of organizations’ operations. Business development in the construction industry has taken a significant hit as companies and associations navigate the myriad of challenges. Trade shows, education-focused conferences and industry events have been postponed or cancelled. Businesses struggle to stay relevant and present for their employees and customers. Likewise, associations face the same challenges with their members. How do these organizations effectively navigate today’s climate to stay visible, and successfully maintain and expand their networks? The good news is there are ways to advance key relationships and business development initiatives in COVID times and they are literally at your fingertips.
At a time when face-to-face interactions are limited, and large gatherings are impossible, virtual events are great alternatives. Virtual (or digital) events free us from physical limitations. Whether you are presenting a webinar, conducting an online conference or hosting a virtual tradeshow, connecting digitally with your target audience ensures your continued relevance and helps drive the expansion of your network.
I recently attended a webinar series, Virtual Events Masterclass for Associations, hosted by EventMobi. The presenters offered great information for associations looking for ways to reach current and potential members effectively and meaningfully. They also recommended four digital solutions that associations should consider adding to their business development toolbox. These include:
- Live streaming through platforms like YouTube, Facebook Live and more. Live streaming enables uploading and broadcasting of audiovisual content in real time. This works best for activities like interviews or Q & As.
- Video conferencing and webinars using Zoom, WebEx or GoToWebinar. This option usually includes registration, live polls and chat in a single session format and are most effective for meetings, workshops, product demos and seminars.
- Virtual events which are, essentially, complete digital reproductions of the event experience including engagement features, networking and sponsorships. Virtual events are great for community building, annual meetings and seminar series.
- Virtual trade shows take it to the next level, often with elaborate 3D graphics, and include product presentations, lead generations and job fairs. As with the traditional trade show, they provide participants with access to exhibitors and product presentations, and create sponsorship opportunities which can generate revenue.
These are all great solutions, but it is important to evaluate your event needs to determine which tool(s) will be the best fit. Knowing the goal of your event (e.g., increase membership, generate sponsorships, etc.) and audience size, and your preferred digital format (live or pre-recorded) will help when selecting the right tool. If you have not done many digital events, start small. Begin with a networking session or seminar. Then measure your success through adoption as well as feedback from attendees and speakers. You can also enhance your attendees’ experience and investment in your event by sending them a goody bag or an event-specific item like a tee shirt, mug, etc. Ultimately, whether your event is big or small, it is important to convey the same spirit as your in-person meetings and events. Keep it interesting by combining different tools like live and pre-recorded. And, for virtual events and trade shows, deliver a comparable value to your sponsors and exhibitors.
Historically, associations’ goals have been to successfully communicate with members, create interactive and engaging events and networking opportunities, and retain or generate revenue from sponsors and members. While these goals have not changed—how you achieve them has. By creating a long-term virtual strategy (including webinars, lunch & learns, annual meetings and events) and mixing and matching the formats to ensure interactive and dynamic engagement, you can create a community where members will network, consume your content and see your association as a relevant and valuable resource.
If you would like more information on how to build your association’s digital strategy, AOE is here to help.