July 8, 2021 | By Warwick Merry

Do you really need a three-day conference?

This is what I asked a client of mine recently when they were getting excited about running a virtual summit for their 2,000 members.

Don’t get me wrong, it turned out to be a great event. The speakers were great, the delegates enjoyed it, and the reviews from the stakeholders have been excellent.

Except.

Numbers were less than we hoped or limited to different sessions.

So here’s the thing, do you really need a three-day conference?

It is so hard to get people to give up their time for a prolonged period. Particularly for a virtual event because they haven’t left home or the office so all the usual distractions are there. They are sitting at their desk so people come and ask them the usual work questions.

Why not have a conference all year round?

Break your three days into one day every three months, half a day every two months, or some other combination that allows you to get better engagement and attendance, so you are getting better value for money. I love the concept of a Month of Mondays – every Monday for a month you run a two-hour session for everyone. It is far easier to get a two-hour commitment from people than three full days, particularly for senior managers.

The series of events can still be themed as one bigger event but you now have different price points for the whole series or parts thereof. Different price points can mean better registration numbers, better income and better opportunities for session sponsors. This all leads to a better return for all concerned.

Let’s face it, ROI counts big time in the events industry, so we have to make it work.

As we are learning, the biggest lie in the events industry is, “I’ll watch the recording.” So selling a big package with the hope that those who are not there will watch the recording is kidding ourselves. Yes it is great to have it but engagement in real time counts for more.

Technology allows us to create something new, something accessible, something suitable – so let’s do that. Let’s not do the same old thing but on a computer. Let’s take advantage of the flexibility and remote approach and allow people to focus on self development as well as their other responsibilities.

What will it take to have people focus on the virtual event?Could you recommend they stay at home for the event, send them catering party packs or a food delivery service voucher, run it early morning or late afternoon when they are ready for a distraction or send them to a co-working space?

Let’s not be “driven by the technology”. Let’s drive the technology.  Let’s create the kind of events that work for us and not try to recreate what we used to have. The ideas is to move forward with the future of events, not backwards.

How are you moving your events forward?

Warwick Merry CSP, CVP is a Certified Speaking Professional, Dual Certified Virtual Presenter and Past National President of Professional Speakers Australia. He hosts and produces online events. Discover more at WarwickMerry.com.