For more than 20 years, Advance Solutions International (ASI) has hosted their annual iNNOVATIONS conference for partners, clients and staff. The conference is a chance to strengthen their community, participate in training on new and evolving technologies and solutions, and recognize and celebrate the innovation and collaboration in the community through their global partner awards and coveted Great Things Awards for clients. It’s a fun conference with high energy and a full agenda.
Less than two weeks out, ASI made the tough (albeit right) call to quickly pivot and turn their traditionally structured in-person conference into iNNOVATIONS LIVE – their first ever 100% virtual conference.
Many associations rely on in-person meetings, training, and conventions to engage with members and, often, the crown jewel of their year’s work is their annual conference. As many organizations face cancelled meetings and events, they are wondering not only how to handle the logistics of shifting to virtual but also how to execute the event to keep morale high and foster an energetic dynamic among attendees.
Edward Wendling, ASI’s Global Vice President of Marketing, is proud to tell you that it CAN be done! He credits his marketing team and industry partners for rising to the occasion and collaborating on the logistics. He also believes their mobile app was a big factor in the success of the process and execution of this uncharted territory for his team and their community.
“From the minute we pivoted and rebranded the conference as iNNOVATIONS LIVE, our mobile app, ASI Connect, was a key element to our success from several standpoints. We used it for marketing, engagement, communication, logistics, and creating a social environment. It was really invaluable throughout and we all felt grateful to have it as a tool in our arsenal. It definitely made things easier from a management standpoint,” said Wendling.
How to Pivot with so Many Moving Parts?
Planning and Focusing on Content
Before even communicating with members, they put a plan in place. The team took a hard look at the agenda and decided what made sense to include in the virtual version. Agendas often are built to seize the opportunity of in-person communications, but since the scenario shifted, some things fell off the agenda as either not effective or not feasible. Although it was an aggressive timeline, they decided to hold the virtual event on the exact same days as the originally planned live conference. They cleverly changed the branding of the conference from iNNOVATIONS 2020 to iNNOVATIONS LIVE, using graphics for LIVE in the same way new stations like CNN do.
Communicate and Promote via Mobile
ASI released a video explaining how the event would work and explained that ALL communication about it would occur in ASI Connect. As they busily prepared to execute the event, streamlining the communication was a big relief, and no one complained about not getting emails! Attendees received all updates and notifications about the event and sponsors were given real estate in the app. Additionally, all presentations—including those that could not be included in the LIVE virtual event—are available in an on-demand library and in the app. If attendees hadn’t been using the app before, they are now.
Determine the Value for Attendees
Wendling stresses, “We never used the word ‘cancel’; instead we used the word ‘shift’. I feel like this distinction was important because we wanted people to understand that we were working really hard to deliver the same value, just in a new format.”
After reducing the registration fee from $850 to $150, they reached out again to their community and actually increased registration by 60 percent to bring the total of attendees to 450!
Determine the Value to Sponsors and Exhibitors
ASI reduced sponsorship fees by 50%. It’s a testament to the vision and support of iMIS’s partner community that not only did they all agree to continue with their sponsorships, but many lent their expertise as ASI planned the shift to virtual. Sponsors were given facetime and visibility before and during the event in the app and in presentations.
Execute the Plan
All components of iNNOVATIONS LIVE were completed and compiled a few days prior to the event. Having Edward Wendling act as an MC to introduce segments and host the real-time Q&A with the presenters is what made the event “LIVE.” He cued up all the sessions, launched the presentations, and facilitated the Q&A’s to provide a more personal interaction, as well as to troubleshoot any technology issues. Each of the two days had a plenary session and five education sessions.
Connect and Encourage Camaraderie
The forums and chat of ASI Connect were a major reason the event felt personal. Attendees could see who else was registered and chat directly with them. Each session had an in-app forum and attendees posted questions and comments. The Q&A discussions often continued into the forums. Additionally, all the session ratings were all done within the app for instant feedback. The days ended with Zoom happy hours where over 100 people from around the world gathered together to unwind and connect.
The pivot to a virtual conference was new territory. ASI was able to successfully pull it off and received great accolades from attendees, sponsors, and partners. As you prepare to turn more of your events virtual, be sure to consider all of the benefits a mobile app can offer in helping to ease the transition and bring together your community.
Check out ASI's new virtual event guide for more on their process!