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Digital Strategies to Extend In-Person Events

At the end of a major conference, it may be tempting to close the books on the event and move on to planning the next one, but that road leads to a land of missed opportunities. Instead, from the outset of planning an in-person meeting, recognize that it can produce a trove of digital assets that you can use later to maintain connections, keep attendees engaged, and build brand awareness.

“We see digital extensions being a benefit to association events in a lot of different ways,” said Jack Macleod, president of 360 Live Media. “It frees [attendees] up while they’re there in person to not feel the pressure of having to get to every single session. Or, if there are sessions at the same time and they have to make a difficult decision, knowing that they’ll be able to go online afterwards and catch whatever they missed on demand enables the attendee to embrace all the best that comes with being there in person.”

The Consumer Technology Association has seen about 40 percent of attendees go online for post-show viewing of content delivered at its CES conference. The show was virtual in 2020, and hybrid in 2021 and 2022.

“What we found is people really love the fact that they could go back at their leisure,” said Sean Perkins, vice president of marketing at CTA. “When you’re attending an event digitally, it’s not like you’re going to grab your coffee and sit down for nine hours straight. You’re doing other things. In the hybrid environment, what we saw was that the majority of the people that came back were people that were at the show.”

CES livestreamed and recorded mainstage content as well as many of its panel sessions, so attendees didn’t have to fear missing out.

“The truth is that for an attendee at CES, they’re not able to go see all of the conference that they might want to because they’re engaged in other business,” said Marika Oliff, CTA director of event content. “We heard a lot of folks tell us how much they enjoyed being able to go back and look at those conference sessions.”

And it’s not just sessions attendees missed that they are logging on to watch, Macleod says. “Many [attendees] report that they will go back and watch a session that they saw in person as well. They want to be able to go back to it, pause, take notes, and really get more out of it,” he said. “They’re able to control the content in the environment that they’re consuming it in a little bit more than when they’re at the event.”

“Smaller, snackable-type formats get twice the audience.”— Jack Macleod, 360 Live Media

Bite-Sized Content

Recorded content also has the advantage of being editable, allowing learning teams to serve up the education in formats that differ from the live event.

“A big part of the success formula is not just showing the full session unedited,” Macleod said. “A lot of people want to go back and have smaller snippets or videos that they can browse and get a summary of, as opposed to having to watch a 45-minute speech. These smaller, snackable-type formats get twice the audience.”

And associations can draw viewers to short-form content in a variety of ways. After CES, “there is a long tail for that post-show content,” Perkins said. “After a while, we switch over and use bite-sized content that we push through social, email, and some other channels.”

Conference assets can also supplement other content. If CTA has a new article that expounds on a conference topic, staff can pair the pieces months later and get more use that feels timely and relevant.

“We’ll edit that [conference piece] back down to maybe a three-minute segment, and then we’ll have a compendium article around that piece, and we’ll push that content out through all of our channels,” Perkins said. “We’ve seen a very high engagement rate and click-through rate based on that. And we do that all year round.”

Revenue and Brand Benefits

In addition to better serving attendees, the extended reach also offers revenue opportunities.

“The benefits are there to the audience, and the benefits are there to the organization in the form of new revenue streams,” Macleod said. “For example, you can offer a maximizer-type [conference] registration level, which would give extra access to digital content before and after the show. Or you can offer a new sponsorship opportunity for the digital experience.”

Perkins adds that brand recognition and marketing touches also increase when you provide additional chances for members to engage with conference content.

“You’re going to do [outreach in] multiple channels because you know X amount of impressions over time equals conversion,” Perkins said. “The more you engage with these audiences, the more likely they will come back.”

** This blog was written by Rasheeda Childress and posted by Associations Now **

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