Engaging Virtual Events Offer Value, Opportunity, and Connection for Members
By Pam Sefrino, Senior Sales Executive, Member Clicks
One thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has not changed is the mission of all chambers to help their members boost business through active participation in chamber events, educational programs, and volunteer opportunities. Now, more than ever, chambers are steadfast in this pursuit.
In-person events have long been the vehicle for providing members of the business community the opportunity to connect and learn. Today, chamber hosted “virtual events” are now the new hot rod for providing opportunity and value that can solidify member loyalty and even spur new member growth, while producing much needed non-dues revenue.
Emotion and Results Feed the Event Engine
With both in-person and virtual events, results can be measured through attendance, engagement, feedback, and of course, revenue. But with onsite events, results always feel tangible. Attendees experience the rush of excitement upon entering a buzzing room filled with the movers and shakers of the community; speakers see and connect with their captive audience and take cues from their body language, live comments, and questions. Sponsors revel in the opportunity to showcase their hottest new marketing initiative and are rewarded by the face-to-face “well done” offered by influential business peers.
In this new environment, it can be a challenge for chambers to replicate the energy, excitement, and value that in-person events offer, and ensure that members view the continued investment as worthwhile.
Creativity Revs It Up
Keeping the energy and enthusiasm of attendees in mind, chambers are getting creative in the way they present (and produce) their events. The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, for example, took their Annual Women’s Leadership Conference, which typically attracts more than 1,000 in-person attendees each year, to the next level through a combination of software tools including a Learning Management System as the virtual conference venue, paired with their chamber membership software, to take registration and payment.
According to Jackie Huitt, VP of Membership Engagement at the chamber, the Learning Management System helped to create an environment for attendees to safely be together, connect, and continue to advance their skillset. She said it also enabled the chamber to feature sponsors and provide them access to new business connections in a similar way to what they would have onsite.
“Keeping members engaged and enthusiastic during a virtual event is entirely different than when they come together onsite,” says Huitt. “Their attention is definitely going to be harder to hold and challenging to keep, so you have to project energy, provide opportunities for connection, and make it worthwhile and fun in creative ways.”
With that in mind, the chamber created an event-branded virtual portal through the LMS platform that included a mix of live and recorded speakers, a chat lounge for networking, and a Sponsor Exhibit Hall. Adding to the energy was the fist-pumping playlist during session breaks that accompanied conference-branded slide images featuring event sponsors and on-point data snippets emphasizing the importance of bringing women’s leadership topics to the forefront.
The Chamber now has the Women’s Leadership Conference recordings available within the same branded event platform, enabling attendees to review sessions and materials post-event.
The Conway Chamber of Commerce decided to get creative in recognizing local high school students with a virtual Academic Signing Day, highlighting academic “all-stars” among graduating seniors. This event had been held in-person previously, and they felt it imperative to continue this tradition, especially given the circumstances. Purchasing time on their local CBS affiliate, the chamber featured video highlights of 34 student scholars, and also shared these videos on the Chamber’s website and Facebook pages, in addition to local cable news. They were able to generate even more sponsor revenue than ever before, with the business community rallying behind this feel-good initiative.
No matter what events you choose to take virtual, the key is to offer both unique opportunities and unquestionable value to members, sponsors, and speakers and make it as engaging as possible. Be creative and fun, so as not to create virtual event fatigue, and find ways to keep energy high. You’ll have a winning event formula that will keep members engaged and coming back for more.
MemberClicks provides a suite of solutions designed to help chambers of commerce thrive through connected software. From comprehensive membership management to virtual events, content delivery and education tools, MemberClicks helps chambers to do so much more — efficiently and creatively.