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Virtual Events Lessons Learned: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Community Brands hosted a recent forum for association leaders to discuss the successes and failures of their 2020 virtual events. We are still learning the potential to generate member engagement and revenue with virtual events. Some of the top benefits customers cited for virtual events were flexibility, engagement, data tracking, cost savings, and environmental impact; none of which are specific to the inability to host in-person events.

During the webinar, speakers Simone Ryland, of YM Careers, and Jesse Snipper, of Community Brands, guided association leaders through the four key areas of a virtual event:

  • Attendee Experience
  • Content & Learning
  • Revenue Generation
  • Technology

The discussion highlighted best practices, and lessons learned. Insights shared were invaluable for the 33% of participants looking to implement a virtual event in the coming months.


Jesse and Simone suggested association leaders work with the technology provider in advance, to build an advertisement prospectus for sponsors. Personalize event messaging by sending sponsorship and advertisement opportunities to trade and expo customers and highlight learning and thought leadership sessions for members and member leads.

Sneak peeks are also a great way for potential attendees to visualize themselves at your event. Showcase a diverse panel of speakers, seminars, and keynotes that provide a sense of inclusivity and representation for your attendees.

And don’t forget to give your audience a voice. Ask attendees what they are most looking forward to and allow them to pose questions for the keynote speaker on social media leading up to the event. This Q&A messaging on social media is a great tactic to grow event awareness, increase anticipation, and advertise to other industry professionals.

Learn more marketing tips – The Association’s Guide to Marketing in 2020.

Attendee Experience

Since attendees are not traveling to a specific location, there is more pressure planning for different time zones. One popular solution is to have one large event segmented with live engagement opportunities built-in by time zone. Offering live and pre-recorded content is a perfect way for attendees to fill empty time in their schedules with interesting content. Another expert tip is to plan frequent breaks throughout your event.

Simone Ryland encouraged leaders to be aware of virtual event fatigue. People are spending all their time online working, learning, and meeting. This is catching up with virtual events. While planning ways to keep virtual guests engaged in session content, consider learning from attempts that didn’t quite hit the mark for other associations.

In the words of Dale Turner, “Some of the best lessons we ever learn are learned from past mistakes. The error of the past is the wisdom and success of the future.”

Some of those learned lessons were to ensure attendees have access to information leading up to scheduled sessions. Provide instructions for how sessions will flow and what materials will be available afterward to help attendees get the most out of their time at your event. And break up heavy content with built-in breaks for physical movement or for attendees to engage socially.


Lastly, the foundation of a seamless event is the technology you choose to host it. Jesse Snipper says, “Choosing your technology software is like choosing your venue.” In today’s virtual events space, there are options for every budget. Whatever features you prefer, be sure to build extra time into your event roadmap to review event platforms and select the software with those “must have” features.

You will be judged on the connection to your event; the event platform is core to that remembered experience. Find more information about event technology offered by Community Brands.

Virtual Events Lessons Learned Webinar

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