Virtual event hesitation: showcase addresses concerns head-on

Transitioning from physical to fully virtual event, advice on retaining sponsors, virtual program planning and the benefits and challenges of virtual platforms were all canvassed in Arinex’ first virtual event showcase, ‘Behind the Screens’.

The showcase took place as part of Australasian Exploration Geoscience Conference (AEGC 2021), inviting guests behind the scenes and offering a chance to learn event management tips from a panel of experts.

The audience revealed in a poll the key hesitations when it comes to virtual event formats: “limited networking opportunities” (45%), followed by “designing an engaging and interactive program” (18%) “attendance numbers” (14%) and “sponsor and exhibitor return on investment” (9%).

These concerns were addressed in a Q&A by panellists Sue Slater, Director of Ray Slater & Associates and Committee Member of AEGC; Bronwyn Green, President of the Qld Branch of the Australian Association of Teachers of the Deaf and Co-chair of International Congress on Education of the Deaf and Kylie Leong, Event Manager at Arinex and Project Manager for AEGC, who spoke about their experiences and answered questions from the online audience.

Ms Slater revealed some of the tactics used to retain sponsors and exhibitors once the decision was made to convert AEGC 2021 from face-to-face to a fully virtual event. She said: “Once we decided to go fully virtual, we went to sponsors and exhibitors and gave them a number of options. They could pull out and receive a refund, or roll their sponsorship/exhibition over to the 2023 conference. In exchange for that, we gave them “free” virtual exhibitions and advertising on the digital platform. Given that we were looking at a projected loss for the conference at that point, especially if everyone wanted their money back – it was especially pleasing that the majority stayed on board.”

At the conclusion of the showcase, a second poll found 100% of attendees felt more confident in facilitating a virtual format.