I recently contributed to the EastVirtual Event Workshop taking place on May 18, 2011 in Washington, DC. I worked with the organizers on a take home resource for attendees covering all aspects of virtual events from the perspective of trade associations. Here is an excerpt from the workbook.
Virtual events of any kind present both opportunities and challenges to an organization. Associations in the process of researching or integrating virtual events should first address a number of strategic questions:
Brand Considerations: Is a virtual event the appropriate vehicle for brand extension? Will virtual events enhance or dilute our brand? Are there other platforms that provide a better opportunity for brand extension than virtual events?
Security Issues: Do virtual events provide our association and our stakeholders (exhibitors, attendees, sponsors) with the appropriate level of privacy and security? Is there a possibility that unauthorized individuals would be able to access our confidential information via a virtual event? Do virtual events fit within the guidelines we have established for privacy and security in our organization?
Legal/Liability Issues: What are the legal obligations and liabilities of the association regarding virtual events? Have we approached our legal counsel for an opinion on integrating virtual events into the association’s event strategy? What federal and state laws govern the use of virtual events?
Organizational Objectives: Do virtual events fit within the organization’s goals and objectives? How do virtual events address the organization’s areas of greatest need? How will virtual events enhance or detract from the organization’s mission? What are the short-term and long-term expectations of virtual events as they pertain to the organization’s goals?
Marketing Objectives: Do virtual events fit well with the organization’s marketing style, message, and current marketing strategies? How will virtual events enhance or detract from the association’s marketing objectives?
Educational Objectives: Do virtual events fit within the organization’s current learning/education strategy? Can virtual events offer members opportunities for certification and continuing education? How do virtual events affect members’ abilities to access content and education?
Budget Considerations: How will virtual events affect the association’s profitability? How will virtual events impact the organization’s budget? What kinds of budget allocations are available for virtual events? Will virtual event budgets be separate from live event budgets?
Resource Commitments: What will be the human resource commitments for virtual events? What departments will be responsible for managing the virtual event program? Would a virtual event program require additional employees or outside consultants?
Suitability for Audience/Members: Are virtual events suitable for our member demographic (tech savvy, time zones, bandwidth, access to computers)? What training or preparation would be required for our members to achieve the greatest benefit from virtual events? What types of virtual events would be the best fit for our organization?
SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats): What are the association’s strengths and weaknesses regarding the integration of a virtual event strategy? What opportunities do virtual events present to our association? What threats do virtual events present to our association?
Member Value Proposition: How do virtual events enhance or detract from our member value proposition? How do virtual offerings fit with other member benefits? Would virtual offerings exclude any members? Could virtual events attract new members?
Event Portfolio Integration: Do virtual events fit into the organization’s current event strategy? Where is the best fit for virtual events in the “continuum” of current association events (preview, wrap-up, hybrid extension of live event)?
Social Media Integration: How do virtual events fit into the organization’s current social media or content marketing strategy?
Association Management Systems Integration: Can virtual events be integrated into the association’s current management (ASM) system including registration and membership databases?
Risk Tolerance: What are the risks involved with launching a virtual event? How does the risk associated with launching a virtual event correspond to the association’s overall risk tolerance?
The Takeaway: If you haven’t considered at least some of these questions in the course of developing plans for a virtual event, you may already be behind the curve. What have I missed?