Moving to Virtual Blog

Leveraging Online Conferences for Long-Term Success

January 20, 2016 | Posted in Conferences, eLearning Best Practices by icohere

Online conferences and hybrid meetings are some of the most dynamic programs an organization can offer. The unique format of these online events brings together true learning and collaboration for the audience while also providing a strong revenue stream for the organization. At the same time, the event creates valuable professional development content that can be repurposed for long-term use. The long-term value of online conferences can be shown by answering two of the most common questions from our market.

What is the difference between an online or virtual conference and a webinar series?

A virtual conference includes all of the assets found from attending a live, in-person conference. Attendees enjoy a branded conference web experience with plenary sessions and concurrent tracks, networking, discussion boards, breakout sessions and trainings, an exhibit hall or tradeshow, poster sessions, and if applicable, continuing education testing and certificates. A webinar series is simply two or more webinar events that run one after the other, and are then made available as recordings. With a webinar series, there is no conference experience. Imagine an annual meeting that has sessions but nothing else – no meeting spaces, no tradeshow, no informal dinners out with colleagues. That gives you a sense of the difference between webinars and a multi-day virtual conference!

Pros and Cons of a Virtual Conference:

A “all-virtual conference” is most often a brand new event and is not tied to any already successful in-person event. The conference can span a longer period of time, provides low set up costs and a fast return on the investment. Because these types of events are new, they are highly dependent on marketing since your audience may not be familiar with the format or program. (If event planners do not include a strong marketing push, the event is at risk of failing, so market early & often.)

For more information on the benefits of a virtual conference read: How A Virtual Conference Adds Value for Association Members and Sponsors

What is a Hybrid Conference?

A “hybrid conference” is a live broadcast of a physical-based event such as an annual meeting. Remote attendees experience the live broadcasting of the event but not just as passive viewers – they can chat/discuss questions and comments with other online attendees, and even ask questions that are piped into the live session room. Other virtual aspects (tradeshow, discussion boards, handouts, social media connections) of a hybrid conference mirror that of an all-virtual conference described above.

Pros and Cons of a Hybrid Conference:

Hybrid conferences are some of the easiest events to create because the content has been already been created and is running successfully as a live event. The hybrid aspect opens the event to new audiences who truly would never attend the physical conference – think international audiences, affiliated organizations, tiers of staff with limited travel budgets. All the sessions are recorded and repurposed into online courses. For the greatest return on the investment, an audience of 200 remote attendees is a good benchmark in addition to those who attend the in-person event.

Both virtual and hybrid conferences deliver Reusable Learning Assets – The high quality content delivered during the online portion of the conference can quickly be converted into courses, webinars and online community content that generates incremental revenues for years to come!

Learn more about the member value and return on investment of hybrid conferences — go behind the scenes in this short video with EMDRIA as leaders share about their first-ever hybrid annual meeting:

This post first appeared on LinkedIn by Lance Simon.  Lance is VP Client and Government Solutions for iCohere, the Unified Learning System. iCohere is celebrating its 15-year anniversary of successfully serving organizations, nonprofits and government clients.

Written with Jo Lynn Deal.


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