The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) has been offering digital and online events for at least five years, but needed a “full-blown strategy” to support those offerings, said Jessica Pagel, who earned her DES certification in 2016. As AIHA’s assistant director of education, Pagel manages the eLearning program and its digital offerings.
What prompted you to pursue DES certification?
Everything was performing well with our digital and online offerings, but when we thought about where we wanted the program to be in three years, we were floundering. I sought the DES as a way to learn to be strategic about our events. The preparation for the DES, especially the DES course, equipped me with the right questions to ask. What’s our goal? What outcomes are we seeking? How can we design this event to produce those outcomes? How are we evaluating success? How do we build a business case for further growth? The tough part is answering them!
How are you using digital and hybrid events at your organization?
AIHA’s most successful event is the Virtual AIHce, which is a live stream of our annual conference. The online option was born out of necessity; for our 2013 annual conference in Montreal, we faced a double whammy of newly tightened travel policies and an international location. Thankfully, I had leadership that embraced the concept and the results exceeded everyone’s expectations. Over the past five years we’ve added a little bit more each time to really make the Virtual AIHce an experience unto itself. Offering the Virtual AIHce has allowed us to reach people who would otherwise not attend our conference and generate additional revenue.
What is the future for digital events?
I believe the future is going to bring more intentional design and creativity to digital events. A lot of great work has been done, especially by PCMA, to give credibility to digital events and show their value and power. Most organizations are comfortable offering them and most people are comfortable attending them. But what was two or three years ago a cutting-edge event is becoming standard. Expectations are higher and we need to raise our game to exceed them.