Mixing Physical and Virtual Events for Lasting Engagement

Digital elements can be used to complement in-person events, giving attendees year-round connection. (Getty Images) Soon, event organizers will be hosting physical meetings just like in pre-COVID times. The virtual component has been filling a transition role until all of your members are ready to hit the road again — but don’t think of it only as a stopgap measure, or you’ll be cutting the connection to your attendees at the end of your physical event. Instead, use the power of virtual to say “hello” with a monthly event that will strengthen your engagement, build your community, and support your association’s mission. Digital events proved to be effective educational and community-building tools when meeting in person was not possible, and we’ve seen their ability to increase reach and engagement if the right steps are taken. Before we consider where complementing the physical event with virtual can take us, let’s review five truths that were revealed during the industry’s 2020/2021 pandemic experience. Virtual events can be exciting, well-executed, and well-supported. Attendees experienced the ease of tuning in for education and networking sessions from the comfort of their offices or homes via digital platforms and Zoom. Virtual meetings can effectively provide comparable levels of education and networking, including professional credits. Virtual events (and their replay capability) can carry a FOMO aura thanks to special speakers, sessions, networking, and community aspects. You can keep the conversation going on hot-button topics, leading to future discovery and resolution. So how do you use digital elements to complement your physical event for maximum year-round impact? Imagine a monthly virtual event, similar to a city’s First Friday art fair, except it is focused on a high-importance topic for your membership. With Ascend’s Member Connect Live! platform, you can use a combination of live and recorded education and networking to allow members to connect with one another and engage with experts.

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Ascend Media

Ascend Media

Digital elements can be used to complement in-person events, giving attendees year-round connection. (Getty Images)

Soon, event organizers will be hosting physical meetings just like in pre-COVID times. The virtual component has been filling a transition role until all of your members are ready to hit the road again — but don’t think of it only as a stopgap measure, or you’ll be cutting the connection to your attendees at the end of your physical event. Instead, use the power of virtual to say “hello” with a monthly event that will strengthen your engagement, build your community, and support your association’s mission.

Digital events proved to be effective educational and community-building tools when meeting in person was not possible, and we’ve seen their ability to increase reach and engagement if the right steps are taken. Before we consider where complementing the physical event with virtual can take us, let’s review five truths that were revealed during the industry’s 2020/2021 pandemic experience.

  1. Virtual events can be exciting, well-executed, and well-supported.
  2. Attendees experienced the ease of tuning in for education and networking sessions from the comfort of their offices or homes via digital platforms and Zoom.
  3. Virtual meetings can effectively provide comparable levels of education and networking, including professional credits.
  4. Virtual events (and their replay capability) can carry a FOMO aura thanks to special speakers, sessions, networking, and community aspects.
  5. You can keep the conversation going on hot-button topics, leading to future discovery and resolution.

So how do you use digital elements to complement your physical event for maximum year-round impact? Imagine a monthly virtual event, similar to a city’s First Friday art fair, except it is focused on a high-importance topic for your membership. With Ascend’s Member Connect Live! platform, you can use a combination of live and recorded education and networking to allow members to connect with one another and engage with experts.

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You could start simple with a 45-minute education program, followed by a 15-minute industry theater, and wrap it up with a Zoom happy hour. The main education piece could be a virtual thought-leader roundtable. You can extend the conversation via social media with Twitter chats, conversations with the CEO, and live Q&As, as well as build micro-communities based on these topics to keep your viewers engaged and exploring the topic.

As you get your feet wet, you can evolve your monthly content and networking by:

  • Hosting multiple live panel discussions by topics on a bi-weekly or other schedule.
  • Creating 20-second videos that feature authors who preview member magazines and journals.
  • Enabling members to submit short how-to’s or tips on lessons they have learned in their careers.
  • Hosting a hackathon.

Beyond that, you can spin off many other ideas, such as live roundtable events, industry theaters, guru bars, and other live events inspired by content from your association journals.

Ascend’s Member Connect Live! feeds the need to learn as well as network with colleagues in order to stay on top of the profession all year long. Using it builds and reinforces a sense of community as well as the importance of the association and the benefits of membership. Finally, you can monetize these events with sponsored elements, including roundtables and happy hours, providing an added revenue stream throughout the year.

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