The AMC Strategic Event Management team collaborates with AMC clients to develop event strategies based on their goals and objectives and to determine successful outcome metrics. This dynamic group of event professionals was ready to head into 2020 with insights on venue sustainability, wellness initiatives, 5G, and more—then came COVID-19.
The entire meetings and events industry had to reimagine how to support their clients during a pandemic, and the AMC Strategic Event Management team was no different. They were determined to provide solutions and resources to clients in these uncertain times.
Dionne Wilson, National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN) Executive Director, shared their biggest challenge, “There was a learning curve to learn and utilize the conference software. We had to build the virtual space from scratch, so in addition to being marketing, meetings, and sales professionals, we also had to learn a lot of technical skills related to the software/technology."
To serve their clients, the team had to expand their virtual skillset to be the most versatile event planners they could be, as COVID-19 drove the realization that virtual events were rapidly going to becoming our new reality. The team quickly came to recognize the amount of work and research that would be needed to plan successful virtual events and conferences alike.
In response to what quickly became a challenging business climate, the meetings and events industry became inundated with a multitude of videos, webinars, articles, and other resources focused on assisting businesses with their event needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was important to share with AMC’s clients what other associations and organizations were accomplishing virtually, discussing what worked well and focusing on lessons learned. The Strategic Event Management team's goal was to showcase expanded expertise in strategic planning, RFP vendor management, project management, attendee experiences, and day-of and post-conference leadership in a virtual setting.
As AMC’s Vice President of Client Relations Dave Bergeson explained, “A conference is an experience, not simply a transfer of content. Content will always be king, but holding a virtual conference is more than just providing a different vehicle for the transmission of this content. Part of your association's DNA and part of its brand is crafted by the experiences that members and attendees remember from your events. A team should seek to paint the picture of what a user-friendly and engaging online conference will look like above and beyond content transmission.”
AMC hosted an internal Virtual Conference Framework Webinar in May 2020, providing an opportunity for the Strategic Event Management team and staff from other internal teams to present their initial research and speak to their expanded responsibilities in a new virtual events world. Some of our newly focused department responsibilities included guiding clients through force majeure and cancellation negotiations, understanding client teams' goals and desired outcomes for virtual conferences, and developing new virtual strategies and objectives. Following the May webinar, hosting demos for virtual platform and AV vendors, understanding networking platforms, and everything in between has become status quo.
The desired benefit for clients partnering with the Strategic Event Management Team was the ability to utilize their organized project management documents and expertise. The shift to virtual provided an opportunity for the team to craft project plans and virtual program schedules that were customizable to each client's virtual mission. The team engaged in several different pre-planning and day-of responsibilities on a diverse number of virtual platforms. Some of the virtual responsibilities included organizing live attendee experiences such as virtual Bollywood dance lessons and magic shows. The team hosted several event functions through partner platforms including e-poster discussions in Remo, networking receptions in Airmeet, conference internal communication through Microsoft Teams, and breakouts and chat moderation in Zoom.
Talia Lionetti, Operations Coordinator for American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) noted the clear benefit of partnering with AMC’s Strategic Event Management Team, “Strategic Event Manager Michelle Whitworth is incredible. She stepped in at a time when I was feeling extremely overwhelmed and brought structure and a clear understanding of our virtual conference plan. She was able to explain the nuances of Zoom and provide a plan for how we should move forward when we hit a roadblock with our virtual conference platform.”
Michelle also organized weekly touch bases for the ASBH team to review event strategies and objectives, a virtual project plan document to stay on track with tasks and discuss important topics, bouncing ideas off each other for the future. Serving as the overall project lead, Strategic Event Managers worked with clients to safeguard a steadfast planning process and constructed the network of communication during conference that was essential to the event’s success. Managers led client’s post-con reviews to survey the client’s conference notes, sharing developmental topics for next year.
Data collected from AMC’s Fall 2020 virtual conferences demonstrates many significant accomplishments for the year. Client staff teams took the time to understand members’ virtual requirements, furthering the Strategic Event Management Team’s ability to help support and oversee these needs. Success was measured by exceeding budgeted attendee registration numbers, positive attendee feedback collected in surveys and by word-of-mouth, creative networking sessions, attendee experience activities, and various financial achievements.
The appeal of a virtual conference with a lower registration fee certainly caught the attention of several associations' members and non-members. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) and the Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses (APHON) both saw an increase of 100 first-time attendees as compared to their in-person events in 2019. Virtual events entice an entirely new pool of attendees, particularly those who historically haven’t been able to attend because of cost or inability to travel. Both APHON and the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN) reduced registration fees by more than half and saw significant increases in registration numbers. APHON’s registration numbers increased 55%, leading to an astounding 1,432 registered attendees. NANN saw a 17% rise in attendance for a total of 1,112 registered attendees, nearly 50% more than what was budgeted.
Post-event survey data confirmed attendees’ satisfaction with new virtual components. The American Association of Neuroscience Nurses (AANN) Stroke Conference received rave reviews through word-of-mouth and their post-event survey. The success of providing virtual content has unfolded immense possibilities for future years. The Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (ARN) President gave a high-praise testimonial regarding the networking platform Remo, sharing how comfortable she felt moving between different tables virtually. The International Transplant Nurses Society (ITNS) and Psychonomic Society (PS) both took advantage of tutorial videos to guide attendee's user experience that was beneficial.
Pre-event survey data showed attendees were looking for interactive networking experiences. The Strategic Event Management team researched vigorously to provide an assortment of experience options suitable for different attendee needs and demographics. Attendees were able to network through coffee chats, poster Q&As, and receptions within Airmeet and Remo. Popular activities included CVB-sponsored trivia, live yoga, escape room games, and an extremely humorous magician. These activities also offered a new format for sponsorship. ITNS arranged sponsored product theatres that contributed to their exceeding sponsorship revenue.
As clients savor their successful pivot from in-person to virtual events, they are also reflecting on key takeaways for 2021. Amy Sherwood, APHON Executive Director, was extremely proud of her team's relentless and dedicated work ethics, “Different staff strengths emerged in this new virtual setting and team members took on duties outside of their ‘normal’ responsibilities—embrace change and capitalize on strengths as much as possible.”
2020 gave AMC’s staff the opportunity to showcase new and expanded skillsets inclusive of event design and creation that continue to grow and benefit our clients. In an effort to better prepare for future virtual and hybrid advances, the Strategic Event Management team will take lessons learned, newfound strengths, and successful experiences as their driving force to support their clients in 2021 and beyond.
To learn more about how AMC’s Strategic Event Management team can engage your virtual audience, create connections for members and industry, and help you reach your event and revenue goals, view our Virtual Event Management Services.