Market Accurately, Book Panels and Get Sound Right to Keep Your Event Audience Tuned in

Over the break I watched a live virtual event interview with the incredible cast of the new film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom starring Viola Davis. Tragically, it became the last film for Chadwick Boseman, and one in which he may receive a posthumous Oscar nomination for his heartbreaking performamce.

The moderator was an esteemed curator of a museum. At the beginning, however, she went into much-too-lengthy introductions of the many actors. If not for the promise of what was to come, I fear she would have lost many viewers—perhaps they did anyway. I recall this now because I’m reading a virtual event survey called the 2020 Redback Report. In it, they specifically advise to tell your moderator to avoid long bios in the introduction. Focus on “what that presenter will be bringing to the session, rather than where they have worked.”

This tidbit is also important because according to the report, 86% of respondents say they have abandoned a virtual event early—up from 66% a year earlier. So it would seem crucial that the early pace of your events moves briskly and gets to the point.

Here are more takeouts from this event report.

Schedule early in the week… Tuesday is their favorite day to attend digital events, nominated by one in three respondents (32%), closely followed by Wednesday (29%). These two days are almost twice as popular as the next most popular day—which is actually Friday, with 17%. Thursday went from 27% last year to 8% this year. Maybe it becomes just too packed in our remote worlds.

…And early in the day. The time of day that respondents prefer to attend an online event is mid-morning, cited by two in five respondents (39%), followed by mid-afternoon (23%). Any other time in the morning ran third (15%), beating out lunchtime, which was preferred by just 13%. “I’m able to focus more easily and retain information in the mornings,” said one respondent. The problem for our east coast events is that mid-morning makes it pretty early for west coast people.

Book more than one presenter. According to this study, single-presenter events are declining in popularity, with close to half of us preferring two or more voices. Almost three-fourths of the respondents prefer a format with multiple people speaking. Only 18% prefer a single speaker. Interactive audience Q&As are also popular.

Talk with your moderator. In addition to shortening the intros, Redback recommends making sure that your moderator fully understands what the presenter(s) is presenting ahead of time. “You don’t need to know the topic in detail, but you should understand it at a high level.” If possible have the moderator and presenter speak to each other before. But “don’t script it,” they warn. “Have prepared questions that segue into each topic of the presentation, but keep the event free-flowing.”

Be clear in your marketing for the event. Remind attendees why they signed up for an event—looking at the email they responded to could help here—because the most common reason to leave a virtual event early is that it was “not what I signed up for.” Another big reason is when presenters are “too salesy and not educational enough.” Being live does seem to have an advantage as live viewing is increasing. More than four in five respondents (83%) attend at least half of all digital events live rather than on demand—up from 64% who did so in 2019. So they recommend that even when you pre-record a talk, presenting it first at a specific time is best, with at least a live Q&A if possible.

Get the sound right. “If you take one thing away from this year’s Redback Report, make it the importance of crystal clear sound,” they write. Besides the obvious, this is important because many people will switch to audio only as they do other things. Asked what’s most important for a digital event, 63% said audio quality while only 33% said video clarity.

Look for enthusiasm. Asked what makes a virtual event great, 49% of respondents said when “presenters are enthusiastic and engaging. Three in four respondents (74%) said passion and good online delivery were essential qualities in a great presenter—well ahead of being knowledgeable about the content (22%). To improve events, 51% said “being able to access the presenter after the event in an online forum” and almost a third said smoother technology.

This particular report, which you can download here, did mostly stay away from the ability to connect and interact with your colleagues. We will address that another day.

‘Produce Work That Fits Their Needs’; 2021 Predictions Focus on Being Essential

While none of us has a crystal ball, the journalists and media execs that NiemanLab chooses every year for their predictions usually come pretty close to being right. In the cross-sample I’ve chosen, we are encouraged to think about what worked well in our COVID coverage to apply elsewhere, be essential to our audience, and over-deliver on value.

“Pull out the red pen and start crossing out what’s no longer working,” writes Jacqué Palmer, a senior content strategist focused on newsletters for Gannett, in NiemanLab’s annual Predictions for Journalism 2021. “Do not go into 2021 with the mentality of ‘this is how we’ve always done it.’ This year has shown us that we need to adjust how we serve our audiences.

“Pull all the email data you can for the past three years. If the data is showing you that no one’s reading your sports content in email, pandemic or not, then nix that newsletter. Find out what other channels resonate more with that audience, create a strategy around serving them there, and invite those newsletter subscribers to join you. Do this for all your newsletters. Commit to developing a more intentional strategy around your newsletters that have high engagement, retention and loyalty rates.”

Palmer’s assessment is just one of many excellent entries in this year’s predictions. Here are three more that seem especially on target for us (see them all here):

Take the COVID resources idea into other areas. “When the coronavirus pandemic first hit northern Ohio in early spring, our team at Mahoning Matters poured their efforts into building resources on topics like ordering from local restaurants and educating kids at home, as well as updating a rolling FAQ, writes Mandy Jenkins, general manager of The Compass Experiment at McClatchy and publisher of its two local news sites.” Of course, we saw similar efforts from many SIPA publishers, but then Jenkins goes further: “We took the same approach in compiling our voter guides for November’s election—including content on the issues and candidates on the ballot as well as the basics of how to register to vote. These resources and guides ranked among our most visited stories of the year, serving our regular readers and attracting new ones via social shares and search.”

Don’t chase — build. And build with integrity. “I believe 2021 will be (should be) the year we embrace audiences of all shapes and sizes and work to produce work that fits their needs—as opposed to chasing as many people as we can to pay attention,” writes Cory Haik, chief digital officer at Vice Media Group. “We need to be essential. Here is a non-comprehensive list of some of the things I’m thinking about as I consider the needs of my audience, as opposed to my own business bias in how I serve them:

– Ask your audiences what they need. Talk to real people; be a reporter about it.
– Tell your advertisers what your audiences say they need.
– Community and connection are part of the value proposition of a digital publisher, which can be the opposite of “race for as many eyeballs as possible.”
– People follow people, not brands. Consider how you show up in places where you weren’t really invited (i.e., TikTok).
– Our products should be content-led; we are content companies.
– Dig into the insights and source material. Understand the why and the need being served before launching anything new.”

Deliver more value than expected. “If growing content personalization and the rise of AI were journalism predictions of past years, the prediction for next year goes further—combining both, accelerating personalization to become more comprehensive and integrated,” writes Renée Kaplan, head of digital editorial development of the Financial Times.

“We’ll be developing much more than just the customization of content preferences, combining it with understanding preferred modes of accessing and consuming content. We’ll seek out and leverage every possible kind of behavioral data about our users, trying to understand their day, their seasonal habit shifts, their weekend evenings, their professional aspirations, their families, their holidays—understanding what topics in what formats or devices we need to prioritize for their needs, whether it’s shorter audio briefings in the morning, an email digest of text links on Saturdays, or a customized desktop homepage during working hours.

“The future of news media is one in which we deliver more than what subscribers think they paid for. We compete with not only other similar news media but every kind of frictionless and dynamically adaptive content experience that users get from all the other content apps on their phones. As always—for better or for worse—excellent journalism, even the perfect customized mix of journalism, isn’t enough anymore… We need to learn how to anticipate a specific kind of content need and develop an adapted editorial product for it: the capacity to offer our journalism in a content experience suitable to any (ideally all!) of a user’s needs.”

These four happen to be all from women leaders. Fitting then that the last one I’ll mention is titled, Let’s Normalize Women’s Leadership,” by Errin Haines, editor-at-large at The 19th.

Woman with mask using phone with city traffic background

What Price Events? Value, Not Pandemic, Should Dictate Your 2021 Pricing.

While publishers and media companies worked hard last year to provide similar and even more value for their virtual events, one element that varied was pricing. Low-priced—and even free—registration became the norm. But a pricing consultant wants you to now remind your audience that 2020 was an outlier due to the pandemic, and you have to return to a sustainable model, especially as hybrid models get closer.

“I think discounting and knee-jerk reactions to make everything free need to stay in 2020,” said Michael Tatonetti, a consultant who specializes in organization pricing, in an excellent article on Associations Now. I understand that for 2020, we wanted to get the right education to our members. That’s noble, but moving forward, it’s not sustainable financially. It can undervalue you if you eventually decide to do hybrid [events] or if we go back to in person.”

No one had definitive answers on virtual event pricing in 2020. Attendance fees ran the gamut from free to $600, and no one seemed sure about their strategy—at least until after the fact. ASAE—after starting with a fee to attend—and The Atlantic both made their major annual events free, but with several sponsors.

I just checked CES which begins next week—it was $149 up until yesterday and now jumped to $499. That’s actually interesting; I would guess that they are trying to price against the major trend that people sign up very close to the start for virtual events. (Can be a bit nerve-racking, especially for a big event like that.) Will be good to check with them afterwards to see how that strategy works.

“Sit back and ask, what is the value? What are we charging? What is the strategy?” Tatonetti said. “When we get into conversations about value, we are actually having a conversation about innovation because we are saying, what else can we do? How else can we serve? What new things should we be doing? What should we stop doing? Is there anything that is no longer of value that we can sunset?”

Here are some pricing examples from last year:

Charge for access. The Financial Times put their value on special access and on-demand networking. For their FT Live event in October, they offered three tiers: The Knowledge Pass ($299) gave you access to the live talks and the Q&A and polls. The Professional Pass ($599) added meet-the-journalist sessions and that networking—and video—on demand. The Group Pass ($3,000) multiplied everything by six people.

Price low, aim high. On the lower end, Christine Weiser, content/brand director, Tech & Learning, a Future plc division, said they charged just $25 for a big virtual event they put on—with good value—and more than 1,300 people signed on! “We had no idea,” she said. “Will they pay more? For education they do have professional development budgets.” She said if you do price low be ready for late signups.

Add value. “We feel that people are getting a lot more value [this year],” Jared Waters, training director for BVR, said about their Virtual Divorce Conference. “We can do a lot of things to add value to an event. So we figure a price point—[they charged about half of last year]—and then throw a lot of value on it. It really is a great deal for our attendees.” That value included pre- and post-conference bonus sessions and a $200 credit on their registration to a future in-person event.

 

Waters will be delivering a webinar for us on Jan. 21 titled Pricing & Product Evolution from Single Sale to Multi-headed MonsterRegister here – free for members.

 

Keep pricing similar but deliver more value. “There had been, at least back in March, a sense that virtual should be cheaper,” Heather Farley, COO of Access Intelligence, said at SIPA 2020 in June. “But people are starting to appreciate the value of what we bring [virtually]. It still has the value of live, and [brings] the experience to connect buyers and sellers. The connections that you’re bringing aren’t all of a sudden cheaper. And the same amount of time that goes into [putting together] live events goes into virtual events. We have to make sure we don’t give deep discounts.”

Cut prices but get more sponsors. TechCrunch’s Disrupt 2020 cut ticket and exhibition prices roughly in half. Individual ticket prices started at $350, down from $695 in 2019, while exhibition passes went from $1,000 to $445. There was also a Disrupt Digital Pass for $45 that offered access to one stage of programming, but did not include CrunchMatch. (It’s amazing how many names there are for virtual networking now.) Sponsorship revenue was actually up, thanks to more expensive packages (by about 6%).

When you do decide to raise prices, Tatonetti advises communicating the value you’re still providing to your audience. “As we do come back to some level of normal, now is the time to introduce some new things, and try some new things, and reprice a bit because it’s almost expected,” he said.

 

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Revenue, Remote Work and More: 40% of Respondents to SIIA-Connectiv B2B Media Survey Say Business Has Returned to Pre-COVID Levels

A ray of hope in our collective slog through the COVID-19 crisis: 40 percent of respondents to a recent (and unscientific) SIIA-Connectiv survey of B2B media and information companies say revenue has already returned to pre-pandemic levels.

However, that’s tempered by the fact that the second largest group of respondents (30 percent) say they don’t know when revenues will recover (the remainder anticipate revenue bouncing back in either first half 2021 or in 2022).

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While more than 90 percent of respondents said they see up to 25 percent and 50 percent of revenue coming from live events, close to 40 percent say they don’t know when live events will return, while 25 percent anticipate hosting live events in the second half of 2021 and another 25 percent say 2022 or later. Just over 10 percent expect live events to return in the first quarter of 2021

Remote Work, Return To Office

Predicting a return to the office is equally murky but most B2B media and information companies surveyed noted little change in productivity with remote work except in a few key areas.

While most respondents reported less than 25 percent of their employees worked remotely pre-COVID, 80 percent said their entire staff is currently remote during the pandemic.

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That’s led to some creative policies for publishers to enable employees to balance home life and work. Industry Dive has adopted a flexible approach to supporting employees should they decide to live in another part of the U.S. during lockdown, while keeping staff connected by offering a video-based story time hour for employees’ children as well as cooking demonstration, yoga and workout sessions.

Meanwhile, just 10 percent of survey respondents say they have already started returning to the office, while over 30 percent anticipate say they will start going back in 2021.

However, more than 40 percent of respondents do not know when they will go back to a traditional office setting (respondents were equally split between saying they anticipate needing the same amount of office space they had pre-pandemic and requiring 50 percent less). The majority of respondents say remote work will still be an option when offices re-open while more than 30 percent say they are considering going remote permanently.  

Productivity Scores Well, Collaboration Suffers

Productivity with remote work has either increased or stayed the same for most disciplines (while advertising sales received the biggest knock for the inability to meet face-to-face with clients, the majority still said productivity with ad sales was better or the same, particularly as sponsors look for digital and marketing services outlets for dollars that normally would have gone to events)

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Still, an increasing chorus (not just in media but business as a whole) says the main problem with remote work isn’t getting the job done (as employees on back-to-back Zoom calls from dawn till dusk can attest) but in fostering organic collaboration and on-the-job learning for junior employees.

However, the single biggest positive impact of the pandemic reported by Connectiv CEOs (and leaders at Connectiv sister associations such as SIPA and AM&P) is the way teams have pulled together. With pandemic working conditions unlikely to change significantly through the first half of 2021, enabling that trend to continue will be critical to the industry’s recovery. 

crisis mode

‘We are thinking differently’, Crisis Mode May Mean Innovation Mode

Our condo association told us that we have to get our dryer vents cleaned out this year. A neighbor put up a sign recommending we call this company for a group rate. So I called. They told me that the date they’ve set to come is Saturday, Oct. 24 because people can be home. I said, ‘Maybe that was true in olden times (like 2019), but I know I’m tied to my laptop and condo Monday through Friday and try to get away a bit on Saturdays, so that wouldn’t work. How about another day?’”
 
“Well, we barely have anyone signed up that day so I don’t think so—we need to fill that day first.” Argghh. 
 
The pandemic has brought on circumstances that require we change many of the ways and habits we have become accustomed to or to innovate and start a new habit. Here are positive examples that I’ve seen.
 
Double down on content. When the pandemic hit, Morning Brew launched a guide telling readers how best to work from home. It quickly became a pop-up, three-days-a-week newsletter, The Essentials, with tips on how to be active, healthy and happy during quarantine.” More than 75,000 subscribers in the first three days later, and it’s now sponsored by a cold-brew coffee company. “Another example of our mission and how we’re being a resource to readers…,” said Alex Lieberman, CEO and co-founder. “We are thinking differently about the media landscape.”
 
Create new reports. InsideARM, which addresses the debt industry, is promoting a free whitepaper titled Succeeding in Collections Today Requires More Agility. “Collection Operations of all sizes need to be more agile in order to handle the growing number and frequency of changes they will have to make in the NEW NORMAL.” I can hear the clicks now.
 
Build crisis hubs. I’m sure I’m not alone in looking for the coronavirus news hub on any site I visit. Spidell Publishing has an excellent one, replete with tax information and Spidell webinars that address that information. Almost every publisher I’ve interviewed has said their coronavirus hub has brought increased engagement—and goodwill because most are paywall-free. Of course, we all hope that nothing takes over our lives like COVID-19 has. But the success of these news hubs could provide a blueprint for future hubs around big-ticket or charitable topics.
 
Run virtual demos. According to a Brand United report, B2B publisher HousingWire has been hosting virtual software demo days to educate its audience of mortgage lenders and real estate professionals about technology solutions that enable business continuity during the pandemic. “We looked at the environment, we looked at what our clients were looking for, we looked at the needs of our audience, and were able to bring together a product that we’re going to repeat again and again and again that solves a lot for those needs on both sides of the equation,” said HousingWire CEO Clayton Collins.
 
Don’t just virtualize but redefine your events. With in-person events, we mostly traveled to a place, so the dates of the event were finite. For virtual events, there really are no time limitations. For their Virtual Divorce Conference, BVR added bonus sessions both before and after the main event. So there was a 50-minute conference preview on Aug. 27, then the actual conference Sept. 9-11, and then three 100-minute, follow-up programs Sept. 17, 24 and 30. “We feel that people are getting a lot more value this year,” said Jared Waters, training director for BVR.
 
Add more webinars but make them shorter. The Association of Proposal Management Professionals initiated a Power ½ Hour Webinar Series. They are free for members and $75 for non-members. For a time, they also increased their standard one webinar a month to as many as four—some of those are sponsored—knowing that members needed more information to navigate the crisis. 
 
Mail swag boxes to members/subscribers. Hearst Group Autos launched R&T Crew (Road & Track) Magazine in January with a subscription box geared to kids. The first box included a beanie with a designable patch, trading cards featuring different cars, socks with auto graphics and a car kids can put together and paint. Subscribers receive six boxes for $225/year. Of course, adults like cool stuff, too, especially now. If you can get a sponsor, mail out some of the swag that people would normally get at your events. Michelle Panzer of Hearst Autos said, “The goal is to find ‘white space’ in the market where you can fill a need that no one else has already identified.”
 
By Ronn Levine
The dome of the US Capitol obscured by the trees of Washington, DC.

Election Outcome Scenarios: Webinar Recap

 

By Jesse Spector – Recording available for SIIA members here.

We’re less than a month away from one of the most hotly anticipated and consequential elections in our nation’s history. And despite recent polling, the outcome and reverberations are still anyone’s guess. To help us ‘game-out’ possible election outcome scenarios and examine what they would mean for the overall policy agenda, SIIA hosted a virtual discussion on October 6th with Steve Haro and Dean Hingson, two Capitol Hill veterans and Principals at one of DC’s top government relations and strategic consulting firms, Mehlman, Castagnetti, Rosen & Thomas.  Although politically Haro and Hingson sit on opposite sides of the aisle, they were able to find some points of agreement, and both had plenty of thoughts on potential outcomes for the months ahead.

Haro forecast a 291 electoral vote win for Joe Biden and a 50-50 split Senate result.  Hingson emphasized that President Trump was very much still in the running and agreed on the probability of a 50-50 Senate.  In Hingson’s view, the biggest risk in this election is the validity of the vote (i.e. whether Americans will see the result as valid). He pointed to two cases out of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as examples – one that set a high standard of technical compliance for mail-in ballots, and another that allows ballots received up to three days post-election to be counted. With these rulings, one could envision a high level of rejected ballots and extended counting delays which could call the validity of results into question.  Both did however, agree that voter turnout will likely be historically high – up to 150 million ballots cast, compared to 128 million in 2016. 

One point of agreement was regarding the stimulus, with both agreeing the prospect of a fourth relief package before the election was low, despite reportedly promising talks between Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Speaker Pelosi.  In fact, shortly after the event President Trump instructed Secretary Mnuchin to discontinue discussions with the Speaker. 

With respect to tech policy, both Haro and Hingson predicted more similarities than differences between Biden and Trump.  Either administration would be likely to increase antitrust enforcement in the sector.  With regards to the liability shield under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), in their view it not a question of whether this will be amended but rather how and when. 

Hingson anticipated that should Trump win, policy on the pandemic and the economy would likely not change much.  While Haro expects that a Biden victory would lead to a greater emphasis on solving the pandemic including a heightened interest in addressing social issues.  

The conversation between Haro and Hingson was lively and cordial (if daunting at times) and members are encouraged to watch the video recording linked below.  The bottom line is that many outcomes are possible, including several that would lead to a 269 to 269 electoral college split and/or a 50-50 Senate.  The only thing that anyone can say with any certainty is that the next several months will be interesting.

Back view of male employee speaking on video call with diverse colleagues on online briefing with laptop at home.

Hybrid Model of Remote and Flexible Working Might Be Plan C

By Ronn Levine, originally published on the SIPA blog. 


 

“It is time to re-imagine what the workplace is for,” writes Sue Unerman, chief transformation officer at MediaCom, on Haymarket Media’s Campaign site. “If you took someone who might have known Charles Dickens and, through the power of time-travel, transported them to an office in 2019, undoubtedly they would be shocked and surprised by mobile phones, computers and the number of women around. They would be less shocked by the overall look of the place: lots of people with their heads down at desks working away, with some managers walking around occasionally to see what they were up to.”

Up until now, most of what we have read takes the form of, “when offices reopen…,” “people going back to normal…,” etc. But as spring turns to summer turns to fall, new conversations are taking place, more focused on the realities of the new normal—where people are not returning to offices until at least next summer and as some do, many others will continue to work from home.

I spoke to Erin Hallstrom last week, an incredible, do-everything person for Putman Media—SEO, podcasts, she created their groundbreaking Influential Women in Manufacturing program—and she told me that half of their staff had been working remotely before this, including her. And she’s always felt more productive.

“For 12 years, I’ve always had a digital job; at 10 o’clock at night I might have an idea [to write down]. If there’s a huge fire at a factory [at any time], someone needs to write about it. Why do I have to go into the office?”

Hallstrom believes, however, that there will still be a need for in-person collaboration. “I used to go in two days a week, with digital folks similar to me. On one of those days, three or four of us would sit down and put our heads together. The people I’ve been closest to, we haven’t seen each other, but, of course, we still have conversations. I miss you guys.”

I remember a couple years ago interviewing Cassandra Farrington, CEO of Marijuana Business Daily. They figured out quickly that some face-to-face communication was needed from their remote team and decided to require people coming in for about 20-25 hours a week. “The rest of the time, as I tell my team, I couldn’t care if you are working from the surface of the moon, so long as the work is getting done to high effectiveness.”

>I think you’ll see some of that in the new normal, with even less hours required in the office, but still some hopes to get people in for a day or two a week—while also finding better, more participatory technology for those working remotely. Back in October, Dan Fink, managing director of Money-Media, who was already embracing working from home, said that they had “installed some large screens in conference rooms [to accommodate remote staff]. There’s a marked difference in how that person participates. And how the people feel; it feels like that person was in the meeting room. It really does make a significant difference.”

But as Unerman relates, having people come in to just put their head down and work won’t make sense anymore. 

“A hybrid model of remote and flexible working, with offices re-imagined for the better is likely,” she writes. “These experiments are under way, and they do raise another question—what is office culture without everyone in the office?”

Here’s how she finishes. “In a great culture each person enhances each other’s performance. Helping the collective is rewarded. Without everyone in the office most of the time, leadership of a good culture is even more crucial. And in a good culture there are cultural leaders and advocates in every single seat, wherever that seat is located.”

In April, Steve Cody, founder and CEO of PR and marketing firm Peppercomm, spoke with Ragan’s Diane Schwartz, who credited him with building a team culture, steeped in tactical communications that especially helps in these precarious times.

“It will be a foreign experience; how do we ease that transition [back to the office]?” he asked then. “This idea of re-boarding—not onboarding, but bringing them back—we’re working on that now.”

Odds are he’s now working on Plan C.

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Use Virtual’s Strengths, Integrate Sponsors and Offer a Mix of Content Types for Successful Event Pivots

By Ronn Levine, originally published on AM&P blog. 


Thursday morning, Eric Shanfelt, founding partner of Nearview Media, led a Connectiv Digital Media Council on virtual events, and perhaps the first thing he advised was not to simply move your in-person event to online, but reconfigure it. “I think we know this intrinsically. But I see the biggest problems are when we’re trying to emulate an in-person event. Take advantage of the unique strengths of the virtual.”

This reminded me of an article I just read on the ASAE site by Angela Hickman, director of research and marketing at the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) in Alexandria, Va. “As we began planning for a virtual event, we knew we didn’t want to simply move our event online,” she wrote. “School counselors were frustrated, exhausted and concerned about what virtual education was going to look like. We wanted to inspire, energize and inform these critical educators on the front lines.”

ASCA’s members now depend on the strengths of virtual communication. Knowing this, ASCA did the following: 

  • found a high-quality platform that met their needs—HUBB; 
  • sent every registrant a pre-event gift package; 
  • provided multiple learning formats for the event; 
  • made it fun with happy hours, live trivia, a movie night, a live awards presentation and cocktail demonstrations—which coincidentally, Shanfelt mentioned was the most popular session at a virtual show he recently helped to put on; they called it “a master course on mixology.”

Here are more tips from Shanfelt, who said that a survey he saw this week rated the likelihood that marketers would attend an in-person event through mid-2021 at just 3 out of 10:

  • Focus on the profitability, not the revenue. Your dollar numbers will, most likely, be lower, so better to look at your profitability. “It’s really about cash flow,” Shanfelt said.
  • Mix the content. Use keynotes, Q&A, video, panels, how-to information, market intelligence, data findings—short and long, but nothing too long. For a paid event, the bar for good content is so much higher. “While most ASCA@Home [the name of the rebranded event] sessions were 30-minute breakouts followed by live Q&A, we also offered keynote speakers, brainstorming sessions and special events,” Hickman wrote.
  • Consider a series. Shanfelt said that rather than burn people out with a long, multi-day event, one publisher pivoted to a successful series. “We’ll just do a live webcast every Friday at 1 pm Eastern. We’ll record it and put it in the members only section, and then in a podcast. Sponsors will like it because they get multiple mentions in email, the webcast, on-demand and the podcast. People can then come in when they want and view what they want.”
  • Integrate sponsors into sessions. Don’t put them off in separate areas. Even if it’s short, give them a role in your sessions.
  • Facilitate chat with specific questions. Even if you record your sessions, you should try to do live Q&A’s. 
  • Video/audio quality is critical. Require that any presenters use webcams. Test on the days before.
  • Give people post-event access. This is crucial, as not everyone registered will be able to attend your event. Make it as simple as possible for them.
  • Choose your platform carefully. Conferences are having a more successful time transferring to virtual than trade shows. One of the biggest problems is when trade shows use virtual event platforms built more for conferences.
  • Use a moderator for the entire event. Can add cohesion to your event. Do you have a podcast host who is comfortable in that role?

You must work hard at getting people not just registered but to attend. This is not a problem for in-person events. Who isn’t going to Florida or California after signing up and booking flights? But it is an issue for virtual events. “Keep focusing on the what’s in it for me [angle],” said Matthew Cibellis, formerly of Education Week. “ Remind them on what they signed up for in the first place. It’s a lot of retargeting. You want them there live. You’ve promised sponsors certain types of personas. Email and text reminders.” Make it easy for them to sign on and use testimonials: “Here’s why I’m going to the show.”

Consider having a Preview Week. Make it a week earlier than the event, and attendees can make their plans about what to see. Could be a big push.

Provide opportunities for people to meet one-on-one. Shanfelt warned not to make these too short. One “speed dating” type session he attended gave just two minutes and that was barely enough time for introductions.

Try (intentionally is okay) to put more content in your event than people can watch—and then strongly promote the on-demand. “Watch the sessions that you missed!”

This ongoing situation “will force us to keep thinking and reinventing,” Shanfelt concluded.

Business network concept. Group of businessperson. AI (Artificial Intelligence).

Hybrid Events, Remote Work and Virtual Demos Are Here to Stay

By Ronn Levine, originally published on SIPA blog. 


 

When you go on the Pro Farmer site, you see a cool ticker-tape message: “Register for free to attend this year’s nightly Crop Tour virtual meetings & watch from your own home.” Crop Tour is perhaps their biggest annual event; I’ve had great conversations with marketing director Joe May about it in the past, and I’ve promised to catch up with him after this year’s event—going on now—ends. 

One thing that I will definitely ask him is, when in-person events return to our world, will virtual participation be a part of that? In other words, will hybrid events be the new normal?

“There are people in your community who will never come to an event but would benefit greatly from it,” Brian Cuthbert, group vice president, Diversified Communications U.S., told me a couple months ago, speaking about the potential of virtual participation in the future. “Are you leaving money on the table by not giving that segment of audience an opportunity to become a customer and spend some money with you?”

We’ve all been disrupted to different degrees during COVID-19. But when we do return to some sort of normalcy—hopefully soon—hybrid events will be a new staple. Here are other elements that might remain prevalent post-pandemic:

News hubs. Many organizations, SIPA members among them, were quick to create a coronavirus news hub with free resources and articles. Almost every publisher I’ve interviewed has said their hub has brought excellent engagement—and goodwill because most are paywall-free. Of course, we all hope that nothing takes over our lives like COVID-19 has. But the success of these news hubs could provide a blueprint for future hubs around big-ticket or charitable topics.

Virtual demos. According to a Brand United report, B2B publisher HousingWire has been hosting virtual software demo days to educate its audience of mortgage lenders and real estate professionals about technology solutions that enable business continuity during the pandemic. “We looked at the environment, we looked at what our clients were looking for, we looked at the needs of our audience, and were able to bring together a product that we’re going to repeat again and again and again that solves a lot for those needs on both sides of the equation,” says HousingWire CEO Clayton Collins.

More collaborative meetings. People are getting more comfortable with their cameras being on for meetings and making comments. In a webinar last October on managing remote employees, Dan Fink, managing director of Money-Media, said that “frequency of cameras being disabled has become an issue that we’ve tried to address. We are encouraging people to use the video component.” Added Prashara: “It’s very difficult for people to talk on top of each other because the system can’t handle it. People will give people the opportunity to finish a sentence before they talk and etiquette starts to get creative. You don’t even have to define it—it starts to happen.”

Remote working. In comments from a video call published by Associations Now, Sunil Prashara, president and CEO of the Project Management Institute, said that workers’ increasing comfort with remote work and videoconferencing will outlast COVID-19. He also believes it can increase productivity. In a survey of some members we did here last week, 38% of respondents checked, “I actually like remote working and will do it more when offices reopen.” Added Fink: “There are people here that we would’ve hated to lose if we didn’t allow them to work remotely.”

Better listening. With more people working remotely, the sense of being “left out” of meetings may dissipate. Said Prashara: “There could be 30 people watching, but I’m just seeing your face and you’re just seeing my face—therefore, it’s a bit more intense. There’s more of a likelihood that you’re going to be listening a little bit more attentively.”

Better platforms and tools. Zoom, of course, has become hugely popular, and other similar platforms will follow. Copyrightlaws.com, was having great success with their Zoom On Ins prior to the pandemic. Making these platforms part of our everyday—even in the best of times—will only improve what we offer. Money-Media was quick to order “kits for a number of staff who were having difficulty being efficient in their home work space; things like a mouse, keyboard, monitor, office chair, etc.,” Fink said. “Most of these items are pretty inexpensive on amazon.com but go a long way to helping staff be productive and letting people know how much we appreciate their hard work during this crisis.”

Little boy going to school with protective mask

Status Update on Federal Funding for Schools – stimulus and FY21 fund


On Friday August 7th, Congressional negotiators failed to reach an agreement on the next stimulus package. Discussions continue between House and Senate leadership as well as the White House. Unfortunately, no deal has been made.  

It is critical to get something passed in the short amount of time Congress will be in session in September. And nowhere is this funding more critical than in the education space.  As SIIA staff continue to push for a new stimulus bill in September, here’s a look at where funding currently stands:

CARES Act
Status: Signed into law this spring
SIIA summary on GEER funds (members only).

Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act)
Status: Passed House
Official Text
Appropriations Committee Release and Summaries

Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools Act (HEALS Act)
Status: Referred to Committees
Summary from Senate Republican Policy Committee

Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act
Status: Referred to committee
Official Text
Press Release
Summary

Executive Orders
The President announced a number of executive orders over in early August, including one concerning student loans.

FY21 Funding
The government is funded through the end of October and Congress has not yet passed appropriations for the upcoming year. The House passed a number of bills in July (summary) but the Senate has not yet passed anything.

For information on how to get more detailed analysis and stay up-to-date on the status of education funding bills, please contact SIIA’s Senior Director of Education Policy, Sara Kloek.