2 Associations Tweak Plans for Second Year of Digital Events

Author: Casey Gale       

Nutrition Live Online 2021

Dr. April Stull, incoming treasurer of the American Society for Nutrition, introduces the June 8 event lineup for Nutrition Live Online 2021. ASN changed its pricing model for this year’s digital event.

In 2020, Convene associate editor Casey Gale wrote about two associations who, like many others during the pandemic, made the move from in-person events to online-only experiences. She recently checked in with the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) and the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) to learn what they are doing differently this year.

ASN’s Nutrition 2021 Live Online Has a New Pricing Model

2020 Event: Free Registration for This Virtual Event Was a ‘Game Changer’

In June 2020, the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) debuted Nutrition 2020 Live Online, a free digital event that attracted nearly 10 times ASN’s usual number of in-person attendees, for a total of 30,000 participants over the course of the event.

Mary Pat Cornett

Mary Pat Cornett

This year’s ASN event, June 7-10, was initially planned to take place in Boston, but due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns, will be fully digital for the second year in a row. But Mary Pat Cornett, CAE, CMP, chief strategy and operations officer for ASN, is looking at this on the bright side.

“As much as we wish we were going to Boston as planned, having another virtual meeting is a perfect way to further solidify our relationship with these new customers before we start to bring them to an in-person or hybrid event next year,” she told Convene.

While the complimentary registration offering isn’t sustainable for a second consecutive virtual event, ASN has worked out a pricing model that Cornett thinks is still attainable for attendees.

“We determined a $195 max price point for members as the sweet spot where we felt that most could attend,” Cornett said, adding that the non- member cost is double that to keep the incentive for membership. The organization is offering registration discounts for students, early-career professionals, and retirees. For those in need of financial aid, there’s a hardship waiver “due to the ongoing significant challenges COVID-19 has placed on the scientific and educational communities,” Cornett said.

Last year, ASN’s foundation (ASNF) sponsored the meeting in its entirety to provide complimentary registration; this year, ASN will accept foundation donations in the registration process “to fund the subsidies, discounts, and waivers,” Cornett said. “After hosting the largest, most inclusive nutrition meeting ever held [in 2020], we were committed to minimizing barriers to attendance as we moved to a fee-based model for 2021. … The entire community benefited from coming together, and there is big enthusiasm around doing that again this year. Our people are very generous.”

SIOP Focuses on Interactive Online Experiences

2020 Event: Keeping a Fully Planned In-Person Program Intact Online

In 2020, the idea of planning a digital event was “completely and 100-percent new” to the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), Scott Tonidandel, Ph.D., SIOP’s 2020 conference chair, told Convene last year.

2021 SIOP Annual Conference

The 2021 SIOP Annual Conference was scheduled to be held in New Orleans, so the virtual-only event’s platform, Gather.town, featured elements of The Big Easy.

But this year, organizers were able to confidently plan their annual conference, held digitally April 14-17, based on their experiences — both hits and misses — hosting their 2020 online event.

“Last year, there was strong desire for interactivity,” even though the program was online, said Whitney Botsford Morgan, 2021 SIOP conference chair. “A priority for the 2021 annual conference was to introduce live interactivity,” she said, which was missing from last year’s pre-recorded, asynchronous sessions.

This year’s program featured approximately 150 live synchronous educational sessions and 17 live poster sessions for more than 3,100 registrants to participate in during “Conference Week,” what Botsford Morgan referred to as the “heart of the conference.” In addition, SIOP introduced “SIOP Season” — a seven-week expanded schedule of both live and pre-recorded programming — which ran from mid-March to early May. The expanded schedule “allowed for increased participation,” Botsford Morgan said, “as it separated the intense screen time and time away from professional responsibilities.”

The conference also featured new, interactive breaks on contemporary topics using Zoom during Conference Week, as well as networking events. “We offered live synchronous events and receptions in a virtual conference venue” provided by Virtual Chair, Botsford said. Virtual Chair built a virtual venue on the Gather.town platform, “which permits freedom of movement for attendees such as they would have at an in-person conference venue,” she said. All of these initiatives focused on interactive experiences “allowed for connectivity and community building.”

Casey Gale is associate editor at Convene.

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