By, Brittany Quinn
We know the myriad reasons why people don’t love virtual conferences. The monotony of sitting for hours watching a computer screen, no fun escape to a new city, and a lack of interpersonal interactions with your peers. HOWEVER, 2020 is the Year of Finding the Bright Side, and there are a few surprising advantages of virtual conferences (Scientific American).
Some of the benefits are pretty obvious: #1 winner? The environment. “Staggeringly, the total carbon footprint of the world’s estimated 7.8 million researchers each traveling to one conference a year is equivalent to that of some small nations. In contrast, organizers of two fully virtual conferences in the U.S. estimated that their total carbon emissions were less than 1 percent of a traditional “fly-in” event.”
And, if done done right, there are other benefits to nonprofits pivoting to virtual.
Accessibility and Diversity:
With the lack of travel costs and if registration rates are priced appropriately, nonprofits can see a spike in registration rates. At a recent event hosted by NPR client Healthcare Hospitality Network, the group saw record high registration rates. In addition, the attendees included people who had not previously been engaged with the association in the past. Like many other groups, attendees included people who are working from home or juggling teaching and childcare issues. “Removing these barriers associated with travel has instantly rendered many conferences more inclusive.”
Maximizing the opportunity:
When pivoting to virtual it’s imperative that your group finds the right online platform to host your event, the right registration rate for your attendees, and speakers and topics of most importance to your members. “An informal survey by Nature showed that 80 percent of 486 respondents believe that some meetings should continue to be held virtually, even after the COVID-19 pandemic.“
It also takes a team of able professionals to ensure that the event goes smoothly. At the aforementioned HHN event, speakers met with organizers for practice sessions to test audio and video capabilities. And internally, the Nonprofit Resources team tested, tested, and re-tested, the technology before going live.
While there are still a few elements about online events that will remain outside of our control (like a windstorm knocking off a speaker’s wifi), planning and testing are the keys to be sure you are ready for the unexpected.