As more associations host virtual events and more people struggle with Zoom fatigue, the Map Dynamics team wanted to tackle this problem to find helpful solutions and ideas for our customers and community members.
Here are the questions we hoped to answer: How can event leaders recreate the energy and excitement of in-person events in an online environment? How can event managers bring attendees together in meaningful ways AND craft memorable experiences while engaging safely at home? To answer these questions and more, asked our friend Teri Carden of 100Reviews.
Make people feel cared for
The challenge isn’t necessarily delivering high-quality education or finding a great platform. The challenge is finding a way to make people feel more cared for and connected in an online environment which is very different from the experience many attendees are used to. One of Teri’s life mottos is: “you take care of people and people will take care of you.” Teri explains that this is how she treats people who come into her home as well as those who come to her events. Attendees should feel loved and cared for as participants in your event. This can create a whole different relationship and dynamic to how you’re building out your program.
Like Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Delight attendees with special touches
Teri helps her attendees feel cared for with special touches. Think through the entire experience from registration to follow up. How can you surprise and delight your attendees the moment they enter your space until the moment they leave? During in-person events, Teri has had speakeasies, live artists, and locally themed food and beverage. For online events, she’s done group toasts, pre-mailed swag boxes, and activities to keep energy up throughout the day (examples provided below).
It’s no longer about the education… it’s about the experience you’re providing.
Prevent burnout with breaks and surprises
Many people are struggling with Zoom fatigue and burnout during long days of online meetings. Teri suggests incorporating breaks, activities and something tangible that can be sent in the mail. For Non-Dues-A-Palooza, attendees were sent boxes in the mail. The boxes held a surprise that had to be opened at a certain time while everyone was together. People appreciate the unexpected and people love surprises. Some examples include trivia, “what is it up close?, scavenger hunts, doppelgangers, messages from celebrities, changing up costumes, special guests, and sponsor rooms with secrets inside.
People appreciate the unexpected and people love surprises.
Create community to help attendees feel connected
Networking, new connections, and hallway conversations are often the best parts of an event. Unfortunately, this is one of the most difficult things to recreate in an online environment. Teri shared multiple great ideas that event managers can implement to facilitate social connection. She suggests creating a space and topic with a facilitator that helps encourage everyone to have an opportunity to speak. She suggests event managers to try to create cohorts of like-minded people or teams to build community. Create specific times in the schedule to invite cohorts to meet or initiate contests where teams can compete.
Engage sponsors by asking them what they want
Despite changes in delivery method, sponsors still want one of three things: brand awareness, leads or content leadership. Event managers can still deliver these in online events. Teri suggests asking sponsors point plank – what do you want of those three things? Then, create packages that incorporate these benefits and craft them into your event. Here’s a list of ways to engage sponsors in online events:
- Have association leaders give shout outs and testimonials at specific times during the event
- Invite sponsor representatives to coordinate a cohort group, lead the toast at the beginning of happy hour, introduce a speaker, or ask a lead-in question during a session or breakout
- Create themed breakout rooms for each sponsor with giveaways
Don’t forget to be human
To help her event attendees feel at home during her events, Teri will give out her personal cell phone and encourage people to email, call or text for any questions or concerns. Teri emphasizes, “Don’t forget to be human. Your members and attendees will understand. Vulnerability is winning.”
Don’t forget to be human. Your members and attendees will understand. Vulnerability is winning.
Alexis Simoneau, CAE serves as an account manager and association ambassador for Map Dynamics, a world-class event management and floorplan booth sales system for in-person, virtual, and hybrid events. She focuses on supporting clients with the highest level of customer service and providing resources to help them achieve their goals using Map Dynamics’ technology.