Are many members suddenly feeling lonely? Two years ago, associations of all types and sizes reported that many of their virtual conference registrants were members who had never attended a conference in the past. Because of time, money, or various other reasons, these same members might not be inclined to attend an in-person conference in the future. We want to keep engaging them with a conference-like experience, but hybrid conferences can be time-consuming and expensive for us. Hybrid seems like a risky proposition, especially as we see soft registrations for in-person and virtual.
Perhaps if we expand our definition of ‘hybrid conference,’ we can find some solutions to test that are more engaging for members and less risky for associations.
Members Plan the Conference Content
Invite all members to a highly participatory virtual event to identify trends in the industry. Using chat, virtual whiteboards, and perhaps polls, the hosts can lead participants through various questions to brainstorm and then identify the newest trends and the most pressing issues in the industry. Breakout groups could further play with these ideas by identifying track descriptions, sub-topic areas and maybe suggesting content leaders. The resulting information can specify critical topics in the call for speakers, be used to vet session proposals, and make conference marketing more compelling.
Some Tracks Are Better in a Virtual Setting
Can you imagine some presenters wanting to give attendees virtual hands-on demonstrations? Are there topics that demand active whole-group participation? Perhaps some sessions or even a sub-topic or track is a better fit for the virtual setting. What if you run most tracks at the in-person conference except one track or an assortment of sub-topics or sessions offered virtually as an extension of the post-conference experience and are open to all members?
Boost Exhibitor and Sponsor Value
The last few years have been frustrating for sponsors and exhibitors and has introduced risk into our revenue streams. How can you help sponsors and exhibitors get more qualified leads and increase their ROI? ASAE saw a remarkable increase in value for exhibitors when they offered Vendor Demo Days virtually to all members as part of the Tech conference. Matchbox Virtual Media wrote three great posts about what they learned in conjunction with ASAE starting with this one.
Hybrid doesn’t have to mean videoing concurrent sessions to broadcast to the folks at home. Virtual interactions can happen before or after the conference, even at other times of the year, to continue the conference conversation. Stay tuned because more hybrid conference ideas are coming soon!