This article originally appeared on AssociationSuccess.org on September 4, 2018.
Virtual events are more than just a convenient and fun means for education and engagement. While it is important to work hard to translate the in-person experience into the virtual space effectively, virtual events are in themselves a unique and valuable form of interaction (which I have written about before). Understanding your event attendees’ needs and creating experiences to exceed their expectations is key to planning any successful event. Engaging a task force of trusted individuals that represent the collective insight of the community to help craft that vision proves to be one of the most effective ways to do it.
At Innovatis Group, we primarily manage and support technology user groups in creating and delivering programs throughout the year. Most often, user groups are communities of IT professionals seeking information and best practices on specific products, services and technologies they use within their organizations. It is our team’s role to provide programs and events that enable them to do their jobs better. But we are not technology experts. Therefore, in creating any event it is necessary for us to gather their collective input in identifying the topics, sponsors and speakers that are most relevant to their needs, through our events task force.
How does it work?
There are three key components to our user group events (both virtual and in-person) – the content, the attendee experience, and sponsorship engagement. The task force plays a role in building all three elements.
First, we engage members and volunteers that represent various product areas, member types and industries. Ensuring the task force is representative of the broader community enables us to create balanced and effective agendas, and to identify event speakers and sponsors that will be most relevant to our community. The task force work closely with one another on reviewing all keynote, breakout and on-demand content for the event. They consider current member needs and challenges, the conversations that are most relevant and timely, and the extent to which content aligns with the fast pace of technological development in our external environment.
They also play a key role in helping us identify and engage our sponsors. As with most association events, partners play a key role not only in the experience of the program itself, but in generating revenue for the organization. The task force gives input on sponsor engagement, offerings, and the sessions they submit to share during the event. Hearing directly from members about the ideas they are considering offers sponsors a fantastic way to test their content for feedback before the event takes place. Sponsors are then more prepared for the event and have a higher likelihood of considering the event a worthwhile investment of time and money.
Lastly, the task force makes it fun! As members themselves, they give direction into prizes that would be appealing, chats to host, experts to feature, etc. Their insight rounds out the experience and ensures that from start to finish the event will be relevant and meaningful to attendees.
Having a dedicated and trusted committee in place helps us effectively bridge the gap between member expectations and the event offerings. Whether virtual or in-person, ensuring that our content is in line with the current trends of our industry, that our sponsors are relevant, and our networking opportunities are rich is always more effective when designed not just for, but with the community.
Candice Davis is a Virtual Programs Manager at Innovatis Group, a full-service association and customer engagement agency located in Nashville, TN. Her primary focus is on driving year-round value for members and partners of technology user groups through unique and creative virtual strategies and offerings.