Many associations are concerned that a hybrid conference will reduce footfall at a live event, reduce revenue and market share. This is true to an extent isn’t it? What would be your counter argument?
I don’t happen to think this is true and believe that a well executed hybrid event would actually deliver the opposite affect. I often ask “what percentage of your membership base actually attends your physical event?” The figure normally sits around the 10% mark. What about the other 90%? The peripheral members that can’t or simply won’t come along. What are you doing to engage them? Historically the answer has been nothing, however gradually they are beginning to understand that the physical and virtual audience are two different creatures.
Physical attendees attend events because they prefer the in room, face to face experience. Virtual attendees, and by that I mean those far flung, who can’t afford the travel and accommodation costs or just don’t have time to make the journey, the people with disabilities or families to look after. These are people that would prefer to consume and participate in your event from the comfort of their own device. And in this digital age, why shouldn’t they be able to do that? The answer is, they should!
Let’s also not forget about the second screen users. Those delegates that turn up to an event with their smart phone or their tablet expecting to be a part of the conversation. An online destination allows delegates to become more involved in your event, answering polls, posting questions, consuming additional content and being advertised to! The use of technology reflects well on your brand as being progressive offering interactivity and opportunities for peer to peer learning.
Online events generate content that can be captured, archived and used again for further education and promotion. They also allow the conversation to begin before your event, develop throughout and continue on after it ends. Real value and what is swiftly becoming expected amongst attendees.
I believe that instead of cannibalisation, Associations need to consider the process protection. A way of enhancing your delegate experience, brining redundant members back in to the fold and dare I say it, monetizing them. Either through pay per view or sponsorship, the fact remains, that taking part online means they are still with you and haven’t gone elsewhere.
The MPI foundation reported in 2012 that 17% of associations now use online meetings alongside face to face, a significant increase from the previous year and the figure is rising. The Virtual Edge Institute also found that 82% of the online audience found the environment helpful in making a decision to attend in person next time around. Makes sense when you think about it.
As we move towards a tipping point within our industry, I believe that by not embracing technology, reduced revenue and market share could become a genuinely unwelcome reality.