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| Written by Sara O'Neil

Shifting to a Virtual Meeting Strategy

Shifting to a Virtual Meeting Strategy

With a lot of attention on hosting a virtual meeting, M&IW has been leading the way and consulting clients on how best to shift from a live event strategy to a virtual approach. There are many questions to be answered including:  

  • What types of events are a good fit for a virtual setting? 
  • What technology is the best fit for the objectives of the meeting? 
  • Should we hire a professional meeting management company to support similar to our live events? 

The Virtual Meeting Model

To answer these questions and more, I caught up with our Sr. Director of Global Operations, Missy Peterson, to discover the ins-and-outs of professionally producing virtual meetings and events. Here are the highlights of what we discussed: 

When a situation arises where we are unable to meet face-to-face, when should we postpone my event and when should we move to a virtual or hybrid strategy? 

Deciding whether or not to host a virtual or hybrid event, in any circumstance, has to do with the goals and objectives of the meeting or event. While face-to-face is typically preferred, in extraordinary circumstances virtual meetings may become a necessity to continue to drive the business forward. While exploring the option of virtual, conduct a deep discovery of the goals and objectives of the meeting on how that can translate to a virtual setting. Rely on meeting management partners as well as technology providers to discuss a variety of unique and creative options. 

Should you hire a meeting management company? 

When producing a live event, a meeting manager helps with a variety of tasks such as sourcing best-fit partners, registration and attendee management, budgeting and reconciliation, project management, marketing communications and creative services, and much more. In a virtual setting, many of the planning activities that are needed for a live event are still required. If you typically outsource live event meeting management, it is a good idea to leverage your partners’ expertise for virtual meetings as well.  

How does a virtual meeting management team vary form a live event planning and on-site team? 

Similar to the role a project manager plays with live events, virtual meeting project managers will provide the client with strategic recommendations and guide the stakeholders to determine needs; manage third party suppliers, event logistics, registration, marketing and communication needs, budget and reconciliation; and assist with executing the event on behalf of the client. The supporting roles will vary slightly from a live event on-site team. Several other roles to consider include a virtual meeting producer who is often part of the production/technology company and a marketing and content manager. A program coordinator to manage registration, reporting, and attendee questions or requests; a web designer to build registration websites, landing pages or HTML email templates. Additionally, a video producer may also be part of your virtual team depending on the content.  

How do I keep my attendees engaged during a virtual event? 

Attendee engagement is at the top of mind with every event, live or virtual. It becomes even more imperative in a virtual environment. With the technologies and tools on the marketplace today there are many unique and creative ways to engage your virtual audience. Taking a virtual attendee from an observer role to an active participant takes planning and strategy. Understanding your goals and working with the right technology provider who can support a variety of engagement options becomes critical to the success of the virtual meeting. Additionally, creatively shifting your agenda from live presentation-style education and delivery to a creative workshop, online activity, experiential engagement, or virtual breakout sessions enhances the attendee engagement in a virtual setting.  

How do I budget for my virtual meeting? 

Establishing a budget for your virtual meeting is just as important as establishing your budget for your live event. Several key budget line items may include virtual meeting or conferencing technology, audiovisual production equipment, technical requirements and labor, marketing and creative services, registration website or HTML design fees, speaker support, and meeting management service fees.  

Our live meeting typically has sponsors, can I secure sponsors for my virtual meeting? 

Yes! There are many creative ways to engage and promote virtual meeting sponsors. Providing them with the opportunity to air commercials or have “live” air time during the meeting as well as many of the typical sponsorship marketing and promotion benefits.  

We understand that there are many more questions to be discussed when considering pivoting from a live event strategy to a virtual strategy. Our M&IW team is available to support you with any changes to your upcoming meetings.  

Want to learn more? Join the M&IW team for a special Industry Insights Webinar, Driving Business Forward with Virtual Meetingson Thursday, March 26 at 1 pm CST.