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Getting Virtual Meetings Right

Getting Virtual Meetings Right

The novel coronavirus pandemic has shifted much of life online. Among the biggest changes are in the world of conferences and meetings. While replicating the intimacy and spontaneity of a coffee break or an exhibit hall is a tall order, there are things you can do to ensure the core aspects of every meeting—sessions and attendee interactivity—are built into your events. Let’s take a look at a few.

Start from the attendee perspective

One of the best strategies for making a virtual meeting better is to look at it from an attendee’s point of view. What are they looking for, and how do they expect to use the opportunity that you’re presenting?

The Chronicle of Higher Education just featured a relevant piece on the subject by Thomas Tobin, an expert in online teaching long before the novel coronavirus pandemic hit. The focus was on explaining how attendees can get the most out of virtual conferences. It offered insight that organizations can use to make sure they are hitting the marks from event planning and execution perspectives.

Among the tips offered: attendees should think narrow and small. In other words, the more specific a topic, the more valuable a learning experience it is likely to be. “Look for narrowly conceived sessions that will help you learn or improve a specific skill,” Tobin writes. “Find and attend more of those than large plenary sessions on broad themes.”

Similarly, Tobin advocates for smaller meetings vs larger ones. While large meetings may sound like they offer greater opportunities to connect and be a part of something large, smaller meetings are better at fostering engagement.

Speaking of engagement, Tobin says one of the most effective ways to ensure conference knowledge sticks with an attendee is to talk about it afterwards—preferably, as soon as possible. As an organizer, you can facilitate this by offering small breakout sessions designed for participants to engage. You can also create hashtags or special groups on platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn set aside especially for attendees.

Tobin also advocates that attendees connect with their conferences before the events start. This means downloading dedicated apps and, critically, becoming familiar with any platforms or technologies the conference will feature. As a conference organizer, you can be proactive by offering tutorials, question-and-answer sessions, or a simple set of instructions that walk would-be attendees through how you will put on your event. Don’t assume everyone knows Zoom or Google Meet. Instead, take the approach of being as inclusive as possible.

“You can tell that online-conference organizers are well prepared if they provide opportunities ahead of the event for self-guided and/or facilitated practice with the common tools that will be used throughout the meeting,” Tobin writes. “They will also offer you the chance to practice with the tools they plan to use for social interactions, such as chat apps or connection tools in the conference mobile app.”

Tobin’s entire article is available here: https://www.chronicle.com/article/how-to-make-the-most-of-a-virtual-conference. If virtual conferences are in your future, it’s worth the time to read.

Fine-tuning your event

With a topic in place and plenty of pre-meeting preparations planned for attendees, it’s time to shift your thinking to executing the event itself. A recent TechRadar piece shared a few valuable pointers for ensuring your event resonates.

Among the key tips is the suggestion that live events do best. While it’s not always possible to have presenters available during their speaking slots (meaning they record their talks), live is by far the preferred method. “Live presentations are simply more authentic to the audience,” Derek Weeks and Mark Miller, co-founders of the All Day DevOps tech conference, write in their co-written piece. “Think of the difference you feel when watching live television versus a pre-recorded episode. Live events have better engagement.” Plus, it’s hard to ask questions to a panelist that has submitted a recorded presentation!

This doesn’t mean your sessions should not be recorded for attendees, however. By all means, record your sessions for later consumption. But the more live content you have, the better—and you should promote your event as such.

Another item that Weeks and Miller say is often overlooked but very important is having a code of conduct, and enforcing it. Simply put, attendees want to engage without any concern that bad individuals will detract from the experience. “Just because it’s online doesn’t mean that everyone behaves appropriately,” they write. “If people misbehave, don’t be afraid to boot them from your platform.”

Like Tobin, Weeks and Miller also laud dedicated channels for attendees to connect and collaborate. These should be available during the meeting—think instant-messaging features of live video conferencing software—as well as after the event via social media or other means. Your event will start conversations, so give attendees places to keep them going.

Check out more of what Weeks and Miller had to say here: https://www.techradar.com/news/10-best-practices-for-running-a-virtual-conference.

Personalization and connection

Virtual events have many advantages over in-person ones. They are easier to scale, easier to attend, and offer the convenience of being able to go back and experience them later. But the one thing a virtual event cannot do is replicate the intimacy and shared in-person collaboration of a live event.

So what do you do to help close that gap for attendees? As mentioned above, start by giving them platforms to talk on. A more subtle but equally important part of forming that connection is the classic swag bag or conference gift. How many times have you seen a backpack, messenger bag, or bag tag with a certain conference logo on it and thought, “Hey, that’s my industry!” Giving virtual attendees that same sense of community is possible—it just takes a little more effort.

Offer sponsorship to a company for a giveaway, and then tell attendees they can have the gift sent to them for free if they provide their mailing address. This not only helps empower the community, but it can beef up your database for future outreach.

 

GRC Marketplace

We have several clients that have had success connecting virtual attendees using customized promotional items from our GRC Marketplace (www.grcmarketplace.com). Some are sticking with traditional conference gifts such as key chains or bags, while others are getting creative during the pandemic by sending out stress balls or touch tools that can be used for everything from elevator buttons to point-of-sale pin pads.

Putting it all together

Virtual events are more than just sitting in front of a camera and broadcasting. They require not only different technology but also a different perspective. Recognizing this is the first step to creating a successful and well-received event.

We’re happy to help you plan and execute your virtual event. Reach out and start a conversation!

Contact us today.
sherene@grassrootcommunication.com
info@grassrootcommunication.com
540.428.7000

It’s Spring, and Almost Nothing Is the Same

Springtime is usually the season filled with renewal and growth—both in the world around us and with a lot of membership-based organizations. Our original plan for this issue of Member Centric was to focus on keeping your new members (renewal) and adding new ones (growth).

But this spring isn’t like most springs—in fact, it’s like no other spring we’ve ever seen in our lifetimes. The novel coronavirus has brought the global economy to its knees. Simple pleasures like meeting a friend for coffee are not possible as we stay inside—or at least away from each other—and limit the virus’s spread.

The abrupt shift has meant every organization must change. Working from home is now expected, wherever possible. The Grassroot team is maximizing this, with only our on-site production staff still going to our facility on a regular basis (and practicing aggressive social-distancing measures when they do). We’ve also shifted some of our quick-turn production priorities. We’re printing a lot fewer business cards, and a lot more COVID-19-related posters, signage and other information for use in lobbies, offices, and other places.

For many of our associations, similar shifts have taken place. Virtual meetings have replaced conference-room gatherings, and in-person events are postponed until the second half of the year, at the very least. Communicating with members has taken on an even higher priority. Perhaps your strategies need to shift based on what we’re learning during the novel coronavirus pandemic—distance learning may become a feature, and not an afterthought, for instance.

In this issue, we’ll share some of what we’re seeing, what we believe will help you get through a very trying time, and what long-term changes may be awaiting on the other side.

First Thing’s First: Funding

Before you talk about some ideas for managing and mitigating the disruption caused by the pandemic, you first have to get through it. If you’re like most nonprofits, finances and funding are your most pressing issues, and that’s only exacerbated now. Rather than diving into how to tackle this, we’re simply going to refer you to references put together by the National Council of Nonprofits. Here’s the link:

https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/nonprofits-and-coronavirus-covid-19#funding

There, you will find resources that talk about possible funding sources at the national level, including the pandemic-related emergency funding. There are also links to state-level resources, as well as detailed analysis of some of the most common options.

Member Centric Newsletter

Trying New Tools

If pandemic-influenced workplaces have one thing in common, it’s the rise of using technology to get people together. Maybe your organization already used collaboration software like Slack or video-conferencing tools to help keep everyone on the same page. If so, then you were a step ahead. If not, you now have plenty of opportunity.

Many service providers are offering extended trials of their products. While it’s a good marketing ploy, it’s also a great opportunity for your team to try out some new tools and see how they work. As we’re headed to press, popular video-focused tools that are available free for a time include Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts Premium, and GoToMeeting. Also worth checking out: Dropbox Premium, for file organization and sharing.

 

Maintaining Connections

A membership organization’s foundation is built on community. This has only grown more important during the current era of social distancing. Much like your workforce, your members are seeking outlets to stay more connected. This is an opportunity for your organization.

Hopefully, you have regular newsletters, social media feeds, and other communications tools that help you keep members engaged. Keep using them. You should also consider adding more ways for them to engage with each other, if you don’t have several already. Examples include dedicated Facebook or LinkedIn groups, where members can connect and share information.

Virtual meetings are another possibility. Along those lines, the folks at Higher Logic are offering their event-engagement tools free for any organization that had to cancel an in-person gathering this year.

Going online with meetings, conferences, and trade shows is a worthwhile opportunity, but it also presents some challenges, and requires some planning. Will you be charging for the event? Recording it for later consumption? Thankfully, the same vendors that offer software to help manage events and virtual meet-ups have a vested interest in satisfied customers. Tap into them—it may even be worth budgeting for both the software and some training.

Staying The Course

The pandemic will pass. Many things will be different, but your organization, and your members’ needs, probably won’t shift very much. Your members are surely dealing with pandemic-related challenges, just like you and your organization. But a major challenge does not push the rest of life—or work—to the side.

Remember this as you put together your near-term communications. Your members count on you to keep them informed and educated, as well as connected. By all means, communicating about how the novel coronavirus is impacting your association and your members is appropriate. But don’t forget the reason your members belong to you in the first place.

Looking to get more insight from your data? We can help!

Contact us at sherene@grassrootcommunication.com and let’s get started.

MemberTrends

Grow Your Association.
Get More Members. Keep Them Longer.


MemberTrends uses your member data to develop a step-by-step plan to increasing both retention and new-member acquisitions.

MemberTrends Data Analysis

Your data holds the keys to your membership-campaign strategies. GRC MemberTrends analyzes your data and reveals immediately actionable strategies that you can use to drive renewals, new-member campaigns, and other efforts aimed at strengthening your organization. And you won’t have to break your budget in the process. Using GRC MemberTrends, you will learn:

  • Learn more about why your members lapse
  • Identify members at risk for lapsing and learn the steps to help keep them
  • Gain insight on how to target new member candidates
  • Per-member revenue insights that help identify upgrade and ancillary-sales opportunities
  • Common attributes that can be used to target new members
  • Member-acquisition and retention costs
  • Members’ lifetime values and attrition rates
  • Snapshot of members by your organization’s categories
  • Historical growth trends and future growth projections
  • And much more.

 

MemberTrends

Each GRC MemberTrends report is delivered with both in-depth analysis and easy-to-digest charts and graphics that summarize the major takeaways. They also include recommended action plans based on the specific results generated from your data. This sample report gives you an idea of what to expect, but remember–each GRC Member Trends report is customized based on results generated from your data.

Ready to gain new, actionable insight from your data? Contact us today

 

 

 

 

 

Membership Data Analytics | Learn What’s Working, And How It Can Help You

Not long ago, using data to super- charge your marketing efforts was seen as the next big thing.
Today, most association marketing professionals are using data to help shape and judge marketing
efforts. That leads us to the next big question: HOW are you using data?

Let’s start with the basics: your member data contains a vast array of insights that can tell you a lot about your operation. You will of course learn a lot about current members. But you should be able to glean a lot about past and potential future members, too. All of this can help you prioritize your marketing programs and create effective campaigns.

Breaking down how current members interact with your organization can help uncover useful trends. As they progress in their careers, are they consuming more of your educational content? If so, then this could point to outreach opportunities to members in similar places in their careers that have not been exposed to what you have to offer. By contrast, if you notice a decline in engagement, perhaps this is a sign that more needs to be done to keep these members connected.

These insights can help you add members, too. By developing a demographic and psychographic profile of an ideal member— one that is exhibiting maximum engagement with the association— you can target prospective new members. If you know when along the member journey your members are disengaging, you can adjust your new-member marketing away from similar prospects while you make appropriate adjustments.

Adding and keeping members is just one part of keeping an association thriving. Understating the value that those members generate is also key. A deep data dive can show you, on a member-by-member basis, the events they attend, supplemental services they pay for, and anything else they purchase that helps drive top-line revenue.
Understanding these trends will help you identify low-hanging fruit, such as up-selling and cross- selling opportunities, that can be targeted immediately. Gaining insight on how your programs  are performing also has the added benefit of providing insight on what’s working and what’s not from a programmatic standpoint, giving you evidence that helps determine where best to invest resources to gain the most return from members.

Once you have a solid handle on member and prospective-member data, a logical extension is monitoring how your audiences interact with your content. Tracking direct actions, such as clicking on a link to sign up for a conference, is a no-brainer. But the analysis should go deeper, evaluating trends such as whether members are reading your marketing emails, or if prospects are responding to social media posts. Understanding how audiences are interacting with your content and marketing outreach, and how that interaction differs within audiences, will help you tailor marketing and communications efforts. For more on using content to engage with members, see our January 2019 issue of Member Centric.

Sold on the value of using data to drive your marketing outreach? Good! The first step is to understand where things stand right now—and if you have data, you can have that insight. Many of our clients are using a new service we’ve rolled out: MemberTrends.

Simply put, we take your data and run it through predictive models that generate insight on your member and prospective members’ activities. The results include basic metrics such as renewal rates and lifetime values, as well as more nuanced insights such as up-selling opportunities.

All of the information is delivered in a confidential report that provides high-level breakdowns, detailed analysis and a customized action plan that you can begin immediately.

Looking to get more insight from your data?
We can help!

Contact us at sherene@grassrootcommunication.com and let’s get started.

Membership Data Analytics

 

Keeping Members On Track

Another long-time client of ours—a performing-arts venue—faced an interesting challenge. Its primary venue was undergoing a major renovation, but the shows had to go on! A temporary venue would host events while the main complex was being improved.

The situation created two immediate needs. First, patrons had to know what was going on—how long would the temporary venue be used, what were the changes coming in the new venue, and the like. Basically, expectations had to be set and managed.

The second need was more subtle but no less important: The organization wanted to make it as easy and convenient as as possible for customers to use the temporary venue.

Working closely with the client’s marketing and outreach teams, we developed a multi-channel strategy designed to get customers excited about the new venue and keep them engaged during the transition.

Membership Appeal

A direct-mail campaign used personalized URLs—or PURLs—on postcards that gave each recipient a customized web page that had directions from their address to the temporary venue and back. It also included recommendations on where to eat in the area.

The site also gave customers a customized view of the new theatre from their future seats.

All of it was backed with reminder emails to keep the information handy—and provided easy access to the PURLs.

“The idea was to turn an inconvenience into a chance to elevate member service, while getting members excited about the big picture,” Rapoport says. “The client was happy, and most importantly, so were the customers.”