Columbia, MD – CommPartners, a leading provider of online education and event solutions to associations, is pleased to announce the next generation of Elevate Conference Platform features. CommPartners developed these updates in consultation with clients after producing several hundred virtual conferences in 2020. Organizations recognized that they could increase attendance and reach new markets with compelling online experiences by providing these events to their communities. This coming year, it will be important to continue the trends towards greater attendee engagement and positive learning outcomes.
New features for 2021 include:
- Trade Show Improvements: With the new Exhibitor Module, plus new engagement features and advanced analytics, virtual trade show participants will have greater independence and return on their investment.
- Reporting Tools: Use new tools like the Web Content Attendance Report to produce trackable data for more actionable analytics.
- Networking Tools: Enhancements to the Connect Module and the addition of the Discussion Widget will provide peer engagement opportunities through topical conversations and direct networking.
- Attendee Engagement: Interactive attendee maps, conference directories, and a schedule planner are just a few of the enhancements that will be available for attendees.
- Visual Enhancements: New app-like designs will provide an attractive presentation of your event and allow attendees a simple way to navigate to program content.
The new features will be available for current users of CommPartners’ Elevate LMS or as a standalone site.
In a summary of this past year, Richard Finstein, CommPartners CEO, shared,
“It has been a year of growth as we were able to respond to our clients’ needs in 2020. It’s upon us now to continue to meet those needs for virtual and hybrid events as we begin this next year. We are excited to bring these new features to our client community.”
Some features are available now, and CommPartners will release the rest of the features throughout the first half of 2021. To learn more about the features and CommPartners Virtual Conference services, please contact Meghan Gowen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CommPartners provides online education and event services to the association community. Our mission is to provide a well-planned and intelligent approach to sharing knowledge, with a core focus on creating positive user experiences. Over 1,300 associations have selected CommPartners to manage their eLearning programs. The CommPartners team is diverse, and together they share a common passion: to be strategic thinkers, dedicated to advancing a client’s mission through exceptional education programs.
Whether COVID-19 restrictions have eased in your area or you’re planning for the future, hybrid events are a great way to blend in-person and virtual events.
What is a hybrid event?
A hybrid event is a conference, tradeshow, webinar, meeting, etc., that brings together on-site and virtual elements into one event.
How to choose a virtual event platform:
For a hybrid event to be successful, identifying a user-friendly platform that parallels the in-person event for the online audience is just as important. Here are some features to consider when looking into a platform:
- Engagement Tools: Engagement and networking tools for your virtual audience are critical, be sure to find a platform that meets your interaction goals.
- Event Management: Determine if you need assistance from an event production team. A hybrid event has many moving parts, and it’s sometimes helpful to have a team apart from your own who knows the ins and outs to manage this kind of event.
- Customization Options: To present a clean and professional look, you’ll want to make sure your platform can be customized to your organization’s branding.
- Broadcast Capabilities: Decide how you plan to broadcast your event. Are you streaming live? On-demand? Streaming to social media? Will it be a single session or a multi-room conference? Be sure your platform and multimedia team can handle it.
- Registration and Analytics: Find a platform that can process registration and track key analytics all in one place.
How to create impact with a hybrid event:
Once you’ve chosen your platform, it’s time to plan an impactful hybrid event. Hybrid events are unique because you can reach larger audiences, increase engagement and ROI, and allow flexibility and creativity. As the event host, you can create an engaging event for your attendees with these tips:
- Blend your audiences: Find ways to combine your in-person and virtual audiences. If your in-person audience engages directly with the presenters, be sure your virtual audience can respond virtually through chat, social media, or any other tools your platform offers. You may need special moderators to ensure your online audience is seen and heard. Consider a live and/or virtual emcee to create personal connections with both audiences
- Present Creatively: Use a myriad of presentation options from live presenters to videos, demos, PowerPoints, and screen sharing. Switching up your presentation style will keep your audiences engaged in your content, whether on-site or enjoying the event from their own home.
- Sponsors, Sponsors, Everywhere: Your hybrid event opens the doors for lots of sponsorship opportunities. Offer both in-person and virtual expo halls, ad spaces before livestream and pre-recorded content, and create visibility packages that put your sponsor’s logo throughout the place-based event as well as your virtual site.
- Turn your event into on-demand content: Turn your event evergreen by recording sessions and repurposing them later. If you have an LMS or Learning Management System, you can store event content within the LMS as a non-dues revenue source.
- Don’t forget to market your event: Understanding your audience and marketing your event is an essential step to creating an impactful hybrid event. Don’t stop at email and social media campaigns before the event. Livestream the most exciting parts of the event to your social channels to encourage engagement. Try providing your virtual attendees a newsletter directly to their inbox so they know what to expect each day of the event. There is a lot of opportunities to market your event, so get creative!
- Ensure your in-person audience is safe: Every state has different guidelines for in-person gatherings. If you decide to have an in-person audience, be sure you follow all the health and safety guidelines for your area to keep your audience safe. If your organization isn’t ready for a hybrid event just yet, there are entirely virtual options.
To plan, execute, and deliver an impactful hybrid event, it’s important to find the right solution that meets your organization and event’s goals. Learn more about CommPartners’ hybrid solutions and contact email@example.com for more information.
This year, PEAK took the shape of a Virtual Bootcamp, an afternoon of rewarding sessions featuring the expertise of the CommPartners team and covering a topic that is top of mind: Virtual Conferencing.
While we specialize in eLearning and managed online events, we do enjoy meeting our community face-to-face at our User Group Conference, so we were disappointed we couldn’t be at Nationals Stadium this year to do just that. However, we were excited to adapt to a virtual event so we could demonstrate what’s possible.
If you’re experiencing some FOMO (fear of missing out) right now, fear not – we have a cure! Here is a run-down of some key takeaways from each session!
Session 1: Adapting with CommPartners + Virtual Conferencing Basics
- Secure “Buy-In”: Before going virtual, show members of your organization what others in your industry are doing. “The trend is your friend,” as Maricela Arias-Cantu, Director of Professional Development, SOPHE said in the Client Panel.
- Avengers Assemble! Create an event team with clearly defined roles.
Session 2: Session 2: Sponsorship, Exhibit Halls, Discussion Boards, Oh My!
- What’s on the Menu? Create an exhibitor prospectus to ensure sponsor visibility.
- Get Creative! Connect with speakers, sponsors, and attendees through discussion boards, photo or social media walls, Virtual Happy Hours, games, musical or comedy acts, entertainers, or celebrity appearances – the possibilities are endless!
Session 3: How to Make Your Virtual Conference Website “Pop!”
- It’s All About UX: The goal of the conference website is to encourage engagement before, during, and after the event.
- Redundancy in Navigation: Make sure your attendees know where to find essential information like sessions, FAQs, exhibit halls, resources, etc.
Session 4: Client Success Panel and Q&A
- Be Flexible When Pivoting to a Virtual Event: GFOA narrowed their sessions down from 80 to 47 and spread them out over four weeks.
- Find Harmony: Establish a balanced relationship between your event team and the Conference Producer.
- Know Your Industry! AAWA was the first organization to go virtual in their industry and offered a discount to anyone who previously registered for a canceled conference.
- Explore the Benefits of Pairing Your Virtual Conference with an LMS: Bundle your on-demand content or make launching your conference site a breeze with an LMS!
Thank you to everyone who attended PEAK 2020 Virtual Bootcamp, we hope you feel empowered and prepared to take on your next virtual event with confidence.
Keeping your learners attention during a Virtual Conference or a Webinar can be a challenge. You had an awesome, 3-day conference planned with all these great activities to make your event interactive, but now you’re forced to go virtual. Attendees who were once going to be bright, shining faces right in front of you, are now faceless figures behind a screen. Are they paying attention to the presenters, or are they scrolling through Instagram? Or are they taking a Buzzfeed quiz to find out which Mamma Mia song fits their personality?
Tracy King, CEO and Chief Learning Strategist of InspirEd, has tips to ensure you’re getting eyes and ears during your virtual eLearning event and not daydreamers.
Session Lengths and Breaks
Even if your learners typically work from home, a Virtual Conference can be a very different learning experience, “consuming content through a screen is fatiguing, and it’s a space we are not used to attending and focusing [on],” says Tracy. Design your sessions with your learners in mind, so your event doesn’t feel like an endurance marathon. When determining session length, consider learning outcomes and the medium, but generally, Virtual Conference sessions should be short about 30-45 minutes. If you plan to go longer, make sure you include interaction (more on that later) and breaks.
Breaks are essential. Presenters and learners need time to stretch, check email, grab a snack/drink, and the ever-necessary bio break. They won’t want to miss a single second of the stellar programming you lined up. To make sure you are giving your learners enough breaks, follow Tracy’s lead:
- 90 minute session = 5 minute break
- Half-day sessions = 15 minute breaks every 90 minutes
Let your learners know when to expect breaks and when exactly they start and stop. Stick to those times. Do not let stragglers derail your conference agenda. If the break is 10 minutes, begin promptly after those 10 minutes are up.
If you’re still unsure of how to design your session, Tracy suggests following the 10×10 Rule: 10 minutes of content and 10 minutes of interaction. The idea is not to be regimented and constantly alternating but for equal parts presentation to equal parts interaction. Speaking of interaction…
Make it Interactive
Don’t shy away from interactivity just because your conference is virtual. Depending on the platform you chose to use for your conference, there may be a host of tools for you to make session hands-on. CommPartners integrates with Zoom, which features tools like a chatbox, whiteboard, Q&A, and polling. These tools can be used as ice breakers, but they should be used to advance learning as well, says Tracy:
- Use the whiteboard in small groups for collaborative projects.
- Poll learners to gauge opinions.
- Facilitate discussion and reflection in the chatbox.
Within CommPartners’ Elevate LMS, or Learning Management System, there are opportunities to make the website interactive for learners:
- Include discussion boards to facilitate conversation, include industry experts as discussion moderators.
- Embed a welcome video introducing your learners to the conference. Make it interactive by giving them a fun task to complete, like asking them to comment where they are joining from on the discussion board.
- If your conference has an Exhibit Hall, utilize chat features so exhibitors and attendees can converse at a booth.
- Create a site scavenger hunt to encourage your learners to explore the whole website, directing them to important features. The winners can receive a prize!
Put the Net in Networking
One aspect of conferences that attendees look forward to the most is the opportunity to network and socialize with other industry professionals. Just because your conference has switched to a virtual platform doesn’t mean the opportunity has to go away. Take advantage of the popular Virtual Happy Hours. Try focusing each Happy Hour around a specific topic, profession, or a previous session so they don’t become overwhelming with too many participants.
Another way to keep the conversation going is to add specific discussion boards or chat rooms to your website specifically dedicated to networking and socializing. Direct your learners to those areas of your website during downtime in the schedule or after learning has taken place. Learners are welcome to take their conversations offline, away from the conference as well.
Going virtual doesn’t mean you need to throw everything you have planned out the window. It is an opportunity to get creative with the tools and the platform you’ve selected. Your learners registered for your conference, ready to consume your quality content, which has not changed. Following these tips will make your learners comfortable, keeping them engaged for the length of the conference.
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For more information about how to engage your learners, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about education strategy and learning design as well as find Tracy King at inspired-ed.com.