Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

February 06 2016

3 Key Virtual Engagement Lessons For Meeting Professionals

David McMillin



More than 3,800 meeting professionals and suppliers came together in Vancouver for Convening Leaders earlier this year, but the impact of the programming extended well beyond British Columbia. Thanks to the strong support from Meetings + Conventions Calgary, almost 1,400 virtual attendees from 22 countries around the world were able to tune into the Convening Leaders LIVE broadcast. They didn’t just log in, though. These attendees were active participants, asking questions during sessions, staying involved during end-of-day virtual happy hours and posting more than 6,500 chats in moderated discussions.

How did the hybrid team make sure virtual attendees stayed engaged throughout three days of at-home and in-office learning? Here’s a look at three key tips from the broadcast that can apply to your next virtual education program.

1) Don’t let your virtual attendees feel lost during lunch.

In Vancouver, face-to-face attendees were all looking forward to eating lunch together. After a full morning of listening to speakers and taking notes, the lunch break provides a perfect opportunity for networking, discussing the content and quieting growling stomachs. While the program block is good for the on-site experience, it creates a challenge for engagement with virtual attendees.

“Convening Leaders on-site lunch time programming doesn’t work well for us,” Jennifer Kingen Kush, Executive Director, Virtual Edge Institute, says. “It’s like someone inviting you over for dinner, but you don’t get to enjoy the whole meal with them.”

To fill the dark time on the schedule, PCMA partnered with seven leading technology sponsors for the Tech Spots series. Each company offered a five-minute tutorial on their technology solutions, and the virtual audience asked questions in a 10-minute Q & A following the presentation. The sponsors connected with an impressive audience, too. Between 300 - 400 attendees tuned in each day for the demonstrations.

MORE: How One Meeting Professional Is Preparing For The Digital Future

2) Give the virtual audience something exclusive.

Let’s face it: at-home attendees aren’t getting the full experience. They aren’t shaking hands with colleagues or sampling the tasty treats during afternoon snack breaks. However, that doesn’t mean they have to sit at home feeling the sting of FOMO. During Convening Leaders LIVE, the team gave virtual attendees content that was only available in the hybrid experience. For example, as face-to-face attendees waited to hear Arne Sorenson, the CEO of Marriott, speak, virtual attendees were one step ahead. They were listening to Deborah Sexton, President and CEO of PCMA, chat with Sorenson in a 10-minute conversation in the MashUp Studio located directly outside the general session ballroom.

“It was something really special for the remote audience, and it was all because of the on-site broadcast studio, specifically designed to provide exclusive online content,” Kingen Kush says.

MORE: How One Association Fine-Tuned Its Virtual Meeting

3) Timing is everything.

For face-to-face attendees, 8:30 AM was an appropriate time to kick off a full day of learning. However, for a large section of virtual attendees, that 8:30 AM was actually closer to 11:30 AM. In the onslaught of work emails and meeting requests, it’s easy for virtual attendees to let their daily responsibilities get in the way of their education. For Kingen Kush and the LIVE team, that meant an earlier start time with pre-general session live interviews that featured upcoming speakers from the rest of the day to capture attendee attention early.

“With a Pacific Time Zone program schedule, we took steps to engage our further east time zone audience before they got lost in their work day,” Kingen Kush says.

Interested in learning more about how PCMA made the broadcast a success? Click here to watch a free webinar on the behind-the-scenes work at 2016 Convening Leaders LIVE.

Virtual Meeting Education — Made Possible By Meetings + Conventions Calgary

PCMA thanks Meetings + Conventions Calgary for the organization’s commitment to the growing virtual landscape. As a sponsor of PCMA’s virtual and digital initiatives, Meetings + Conventions Calgary’s support powers our expanding online audience, which increased by 28 percent in year-over-year comparison with Convening Leaders 2015. To learn more about what makes Calgary a top meetings destination, click here.

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