Why Going Virtual Makes Sense For Your Next Conference

By Lance A. Simon, CGMP, GVEP

Sitting on my desk is my company’s RFI response to a government agency for converting their upcoming 1,500 attendee annual meeting into a 100% online/virtual format. Meanwhile, in the Washington Post, there are more high-level resignations for conference over-expenditures, and reports that “now-looming spending reductions [are] set to hit the Pentagon as well as most domestic programs.” Are these things connected? What does all this mean to YOU? How can you get prepared to take advantage of the sea change moving government meetings online? Here are 5 questions & answers to get you started.

1. What is a virtual conference?
A virtual conference is an internet-based event, usually several days long, that implements a conference-like experience (presentations, networking, discussions) for online participants using a secure, cloud-hosted web site. Virtual conferences commonly include live, interactive, and facilitated online plenary & breakout sessions; social media networking tools; online discussions; and a virtual tradeshow with sponsors and advertisements.

2. What is the difference between a webinar and a virtual conference?

Both formats are valuable, it all depends on your objectives. Think of webinars as conference sessions. Is a conference just a set of sessions? Of course not, a conference includes publications, a tradeshow, places to mingle with peers, and opportunities to meet new colleagues. It’s the same with a virtual conference – it creates online settings for professional learning in which attendee experience interactive presentations, socialize, and share insights.

3. What is the difference between a “hybrid” and “100% virtual” conferences?

A hybrid conference extends a physical conference for access to online participants over the Internet (or a secure network if required). A 100% virtual conference has no physical meeting location.

4. What are the costs involved with a virtual conference?

My recent analysis that compared a 3-day, 250-person physical conference to a 1-week virtual conference shows that “direct” meeting expenses are equivalent; but when one bundles in room charges, per-diem expenses, and air travel virtual alternatives cost 57% less than physical meetings — $295 per participant for virtual attendees versus $680 for those attending the physical meeting.

5. Why consider a virtual conference?

The first reason is to save on costs, especially travel. Simply put, a 100% virtual conference, or smaller meeting extended virtually, has a better chance of approval. Second, if you find yourself struggling to pull your physical meeting together, you can quickly and efficiently switch to a virtual format while still meeting your objectives.

Questions? Comments? Contact [email protected]

Lance A. Simon, CGMP, GVEP
Course Creator & Instructor
Gov Meetings Go Virtual
Spring semester begins March 7 — early bird rates apply through Feb. 22 only.
[email protected]
(202) 870-6146

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