Last week, MemberClicks hosted MC Thrive, a one-day virtual education experience designed to prepare association and chamber professionals for what’s next.
When we first started talking about the idea of a conference, the goal was clear — produce an event where attendees could engage virtually and get meaningful takeaways related to our current world — but when it came to actual execution, we had a lot more questions than we did answers.
We had hosted a number of webinars and a handful of virtual product training events in the past, but never anything more conference-like. How could attendees network? What about giving sponsors meaningful value? What should we even CALL it?
We know we aren't alone in that — so if you’re looking for some tips on putting together an engaging virtual event, look no further! Here are a few things we learned along the way:
Branding and Visuals
Cari Chen, Sr. Creative Specialist
Having a mission statement or value proposition for your event will help you out a lot when it comes to establishing a strong brand for your event. Start by asking yourself questions like, who is our ideal audience? What needs are we trying to address? What vibe would resonate with our attendees? That will help guide you when it comes to picking out a name, deciding on a logo, writing a tagline, and ultimately figuring out what you want your event to look, feel, and sound like.
On our team we remind each other a lot to not let “perfect” become the enemy of “good.” That’s especially true when it comes to (quickly) organizing events like this. In our case, we brainstormed several potential names for our event, but had to be willing to come to a consensus quickly and move forward without looking back!
When it comes to creating a cohesive look-and-feel for your event’s brand, I would recommend coming up with a logo and color scheme (based on those questions you first asked yourself), and trying to use them as consistently as possible on your website, promotional posts, and whatever platform you use to host your event. Infusing those colors where you can and using your logo consistently helps the whole experience feel more immersive (and impressive) to your attendees.
What if design isn’t your thing? There are lots of resources out there that can help those who are not design-inclined! Try out Canva, Creative Market, Fiverr, and Shutterstock, among many more. Some are free, and some may require small fees (or a slight learning curve), but there’s no reason your event shouldn’t have an amazing look-and-feel!
Speakers and Content
Callie Walker, Sr. Inbound Marketing Specialist
Having unique speakers and/or unique content is what will separate your event from other events. But sometimes finding new and unique speakers can be a challenge. You don’t know who you don’t know.
While planning MC Thrive, I learned just how important and valuable networks and online forums can be. I asked the association community via a private Facebook group (Association Chat) if they had any recommendations, and boy, did they deliver!
That’s actually how I landed on a speaker for our most requested topic...a speaker that ended up getting RAVE reviews. The takeaway: Use your network(s)! Join Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups, and don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations. There are hidden gems all around!
Technology and Production
Colleen Bottorff, Inbound Marketing Specialist
Choosing a platform to host your event is just the first step. While we didn’t have to research platforms, it was our first time using MC | LMS to put on an event like this, so we still had to spend a considerable amount of time deciding how that experience would look.
One thing I would recommend: map it out ahead of time. How do you envision attendees moving through the platform? What content do you want to include? Where should it live? As with any event things will change but doing this before you even start building it out will cut down on a lot of time spent guessing, second-guessing, and restructuring.
And when it comes to producing the event itself, there’s no such thing as too much detail. We had a twenty-three page (yep, double digits!) document detailing who would be doing what and when throughout the day. We started it a couple weeks ago and continually added to it as we answered more of our questions — and the day of, it was a total life saver!
Lindsay Smith, Director of Marketing
Much of sponsor value is contributed to face-to-face connections, so how do you deliver value in a virtual environment? First, we created a virtual marketplace and each sponsor had a booth with company information, contact information, promotions offered to attendees, and either a video or PowerPoint presentation.
Second, driving booth traffic is always a concern as a planner. To engage attendees and create sponsor value, we encouraged attendees to complete sponsor quizzes which gave attendees extra entries into a grand prize drawing and also contact info for the sponsor if an attendee wants direct follow-up.
Lastly, we encouraged sponsors to submit a question for trivia and/or donate a prize either for an interactive activity (like trivia and social media contest) or for the end of day raffle (because everyone loves to win stuff!). This created more visibility in a fun way.
We spent a lot of time (probably too much time) going back and forth on how long breaks should be, when and how to introduce activities, and what activities to even try and pull off. In the end, we realized that one benefit of using an LMS was that we could add tons of interactivity throughout the day without even touching the agenda itself.
Attendees saw that in things like the MC Thrive Lounge, Resources, and Brain Breaks hub. And for those attendees who stuck with us through the LIVE activities — like trivia and the raffle — Tao appreciates it! 😉
Something that we were pleasantly surprised by was how valuable the in-session chat was. You all were ACTIVE in there! And it was an amazing replacement for the networking attendees would have normally done in person.
This is just a snapshot of all we learned during the planning process — and there’s still more to come, but in the meantime, if you weren’t able to attend MC Thrive last week, the on-demand version is now available! Learn more here.
And for a more high-level look at the steps toward creating an online learning program — whether it’s an event, a way to deliver content, or an industry certification — download our guide: