Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

September 12 2016

Beyond Borders: Using Virtual Engagement to Connect With New Attendees

David McMillin

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The digital landscape can feel very overwhelming — particularly when it comes to audience acquisition. There may be millions of prospective attendees in dozens of countries, but reaching them requires a tremendous amount of resources and a massive budget. This produces some big questions for every meeting professional. How can an organization decide which markets represent the biggest opportunities? And how can the marketing team tailor the message to these audiences?

The Radiological Society of North America continues to grow its digital meeting offering, and Janet Cooper, CMP, Director of Meetings and Convention Services at RSNA, and her team are working to answer these questions and more. As a US-based organization, Cooper says RSNA has traditionally focused on English-speaking countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Canada. However, the organization expands its efforts to non-English-speaking markets based on its trade show presence. “Whenever we have a booth at a show in a new market, we aim to promote our virtual meeting,” Cooper says.

For example, after having a booth presence at radiology conferences in Japan and Germany in 2014, Cooper and her team made medical professionals in these two countries primary targets for the 2015 RSNA Virtual Meeting. This year, the organization is sending representatives to conferences in Peru and China, so these two markets will both be key targets for increasing the growth of the virtual audience. “We want to make sure our investment in the physical presence aligns with the rest of our marketing dollars for the best ROI,” Cooper says.

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Where in the World Are All the Possibilities?

While RSNA picks primary targets for virtual attendance growth, there is a huge demand for radiological education around the world — not just in countries where the organization participates in trade shows and conferences. To better understand each market, Cooper says that RSNA’s International Affairs Department analyzes the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report to consider where RSNA’s offerings may be best received. “The report comes out every other year, and it helps drive decisions on where our marketing budget should be going to promote RSNA to prospective attendees and members,” Cooper says.

The report provides a wide range of valuable information including details on the infrastructure of countries, level of higher education and medical education, Internet connection capabilities and more. “It’s a comprehensive look inside countries that helps us understand whether there are opportunities for RSNA to connect with the local medical community,” Cooper says.

Timing and Testing

RSNA’s Virtual Meeting attendance figures show that those opportunities exist everywhere. In 2015, the virtual meeting attracted more than 4,100 attendees from 99 countries. As attendees from a range of new countries continue to register and log in, this surge creates a challenge for the meetings team. “There is no way to fit into each attendee’s schedule,” Cooper says. “So we look at the timing of the on-site broadcast to make sure the sessions are fitting in a slot that will appeal to a wide international audience.”

Outside of getting the timing right, Cooper and her team have experimented with an equally important piece of the equation: pricing. When the virtual meeting debuted in 2012, the program was free. Now, the experience is $100 for members, $300 for non-members and $25 for members-in-training. It’s a much more robust experience now, too. The virtual program offered 46 sessions in its first two years before expanding to 60 sessions. In 2016, RSNA will continue to deliver even more with 90 sessions.

“We’ve made the program very interactive, too,” Cooper says. “In addition to adding more sessions, virtual attendees have opportunities to do more than listen to speakers. We offer a popular Case of the Day to solve, and they can view digital posters.”

“The virtual meeting started as a pilot,” Cooper adds. “We weren’t sure what to expect, and it’s grown so much since inception. It’s only going to get more popular.”

Interested in learning how RSNA educates virtual attendees on the behind-the-screen experience? Check out the organization’s User Guide here.

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