There are some areas — such as livestreaming — where there is beginning to be something approaching industry-wide standards, said MGMA’s (the Medical Group Management Association) senior manager for online events, Victoria Fanning, CMP, DES. But there are others — including pricing and virtual exhibit halls — where the path to success is much less clear.
When it comes to pricing digital event registration, “there is absolutely zero consistency,” Fanning said. “I’ve gone to webinars that are free and webinars with similar topics that cost $250 a person,” she said. It is clearly based on what organizations think of the value of what they are offering, Fanning said.
MGMA charges registration fees for its virtual event — which offers extensive content and exclusive online-only events such as webcam-led tours of the exhibition floor — that approach the cost of attending the live event, Fanning said. MGMA reached that point after years of building online events and incrementally raising the price, she said.
But Fanning doesn’t discount the strategy of offering virtual content for free, she said. “There are benefits that go beyond direct revenue,” she pointed out. “You are engaging more members. Digital events reach new audiences, so you are broadening your reach. You may be selling more books and products.”
And when face-to-face meetings are restricted, the value of digital may change. The American Academy of Suicidology (AAS), in consultation with its members, settled on a $159 base fee when it converted its annual face-to-face meeting to a digital one in April. AAS is planning to charge more for access to the content after the event, said Jonathan Singer, AAS president.
Digital event planners also have struggled to translate the value and revenue from exhibition halls to online. Virtual exhibit halls have been “very difficult to pull off,” Fanning said. Digital event strategists have learned the hard way that people won’t come just because you create something, she said.
The trend has moved away from 3D virtual booths toward “flattened” booths that offer visitors white papers and live Q&A sessions, or sponsor showcases that are more selective and attuned to visitors’ needs, she said.
If organizers pull together the right mix of audiences and content, they may find themselves in the same position as Preet Singh, founder of the DesignX Community. Singh organized the online Remote Design Week in late April, expecting 300-500 attendees. When more than 3,000 attendees from 65 countries logged on, sponsors began to call him, Singh said.
Barbara Palmer is Convene’s deputy editor.
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