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  • Kristine Metter, MS, CAE

Deciding to Cancel Part 4: The Virtual Event

We have documented how three association executives navigated the difficult decision to cancel their in-person annual conference this spring. In a series of posts, we will share a number of lessons learned.

After deciding to cancel their in-person event, attention shifted to designing a virtual experience. Here are key considerations for both the educational content and a celebration of the association’s community.

Educational Content

  • Because the full program would not be offered as originally designed, staff and volunteers had to decide what to do with all the content: move to virtual this year, move to next year’s in-person meeting, offer as a future webinar, publish the abstracts, or other.

  • Virtual education will be provided through both on-demand and live sessions over a defined period of time.

  • Some staff did not want to trim down the program as they thought it would be a disservice to those not selected. The virtual offerings have been carefully curated into a sampling of the original program that seemed relevant for the current environment.

  • All the associations paid close attention to member needs for continuing education units and publication requirements.

  • They worked in advance to manage expectations for the new program and once it was locked down, they had to respond to requests for additions.

“Our annual meeting has strong, recognizable, and longstanding brand equity. The new online conference is not a replacement, but rather a new—complementary—offering.” – Chris Urena, Endocrine Society

Community and Celebration

  • Careful consideration was given to bringing forward the networking, camaraderie, celebration, and positive feel of the original meeting.

  • These associations looked for opportunities to record speeches by award winners and volunteer leaders. Presenters have been encouraged to shorten their speeches to make them more accessible online.

  • One association engaged its committees to host “Twitter Chats” that were held outside of regular work hours to recreate a sense of community and connection.

  • One association created a look back video of the 2018 and 2019 annual meetings to capture the energy of the live meetings and surface fond memories.

Many thanks to the following individuals for sharing their experiences.

  • Shawn Boynes, FASAE, CAE, executive director, American Association for Anatomy

  • Tom Menighan, BPharm, MBA, ScD(hon), executive vice president and CEO, American Pharmacists Association

  • Chris Urena, MBA, CAE, chief learning officer, Endocrine Society

For additional insights, see the full article.


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