PCMA’s Catalyst community offers PCMA members a platform to ask each other questions, share ideas, or, as the website says, “communicate and collaborate.” Convene frequently features some of the most popular topics in the forum in each month’s print edition. Here’s a sampling from a recent Catalyst discussion.
“I am curious to hear from people that have shifted their live, in-person conference to a virtual one because of the developing COVID-19 situation,” Stephanie Santini, CMP, director of education and events at the American College of Osteopathic Surgeons, wrote. “If so, did you alter your registration pricing structure? Also, did you refund individuals that did not want the on-demand sessions? Thanks for any input you are able to share.”
We just canceled our in-person event (500 people), but are planning a limited virtual offering in early summer. Right now, we’re planning to stream our higher-level talks and some breakouts (out of 60 sessions, we’re going to do a virtual offering with 12 sessions). One thing we considered was credit hours — we wanted to try and retain a similar number of hours that would be offered at our conference since we have attendees reliant on our meetings for continuing education credit.
Re: refunds, we have an unforeseeable events policy that said that, in these types of situations, we could retain registration fees as credits for use for future events or our other services. What we decided to do was to hold the fees as a credit and then roll the in-person registration into the virtual-event registration (the remaining money could be used for other events/services). And, if people really needed a refund because their institutions don’t allow for credits on accounts or if someone wanted to apply the credit to another offering (not the virtual one), we’d make exceptions. I imagine this decision/policies look different based on size of meeting and the organization itself. This is what we felt worked for us for this event.
I’m happy to talk further if you need any additional guidance/support.
— Mariellen Morris, director of conferences, Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research
“Thanks for sharing this Mariellen,” Erica Cullmann, SVP of operations for the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS), wrote on Catalyst. “To follow up, do you use a percentage of the live-event pricing strategy or some other formula to price the virtual event?”
When the event was in-person, we had a package price setup for recorded content ($400, the equivalent of a one-day meeting registration — a little more than half a full registration). We were set to record 18 sessions and so, we did the math for that package to determine how much each session cost. Then, we applied that cost to the number of sessions we’re now offering. I rounded up a little. A crude process, likely, but worked for our purposes. And, we had to consider what we thought people would pay (and for which we don’t have data). For right now, we are planning to offer a flat rate vs. group registrations. We’ve not yet published anything and so, we may change this. Interested in others’ responses!
— Mariellen Morris
“Thank you for sharing this information, Mariellen,” Stephanie Santini responded on Catalyst. “We have just decided to transition one of our spring conferences to a virtual meeting. For the virtual sessions you will be offering, will they be first aired live or prerecorded? This mid-year conference has over 50 sessions (luckily it’s not our annual) but we are going to prerecord all the sessions and then release them to registrants at one time.
With regards to pricing I would be interested to discuss your pricing. Feel free to contact me privately if you prefer. Thanks again and best of luck!”
Right now, we’re planning to use Zoom to stream live, but we’ll also record so people can watch/listen on demand. We are currently using this platform for webinars. We did think about prerecording — honestly, I like this option better. We haven’t yet discussed logistics — we have an online learning team as well and so they’ll be involved in thinking about best platform to use/way to execute this offering (I’m way more knowledgeable about virtual meetings than webinars!).
— Mariellen Morris