Author Lance A. Simon, CGMP, CVEP
Vice President, Client & Government Solutions at iCohere
Sitting on my desk is my company’s RFI response to a government agency for converting their upcoming 1500 attendee annual meeting into a 100 percent online/virtual format. It’s not an unusual request for information, because limited budgets and the need to expand services have many government departments and agencies turning to virtual solutions.
So, how can you get prepared to take advantage of moving government meetings online? Here are five 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 website. 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, and which will work best for you depends on your objectives. Think of webinars as conference sessions. However, a conference is far more than just the sessions. 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 offers online settings for professional learning in which attendees experience interactive presentations, and opportunities to socialize and share insights.
3. What is the difference between a “hybrid” and “100% virtual” conference?
A hybrid conference takes a physical conference and shares it online, so that those who wish can access the conference over the Internet (or a secure network if required). A 100 percent virtual conference has no physical meeting location. The entire conference is offered completely online.
4. What are the costs involved with a virtual conference?
My recent analysis compared a 3-day, 250-person physical conference to a 1-week virtual conference and showed that “direct” meeting expenses are equivalent. However, when one bundles in room charges, per-diem expenses, and air travel, virtual alternatives cost 57 percent less than physical meetings — and average $295.00 per participant for virtual attendees versus $680.00 for those attending the physical meeting. Learn more about measuring the ROI of a Virtual Conference here.
5. Why consider a virtual conference?
The most important reason for considering a virtual conference is whether it can meet the organization’s objectives. A virtual conference is appealing to the audience and the organization for many reasons, primarily saving on costs, especially travel. When presenting the idea of a virtual conference to the department’s leadership, there is often a better chance of approval. If you find yourself struggling when pulling a physical meeting together, you can quickly and efficiently switch to a virtual format while still meeting your objectives.
If you would like a look behind-the-scenes of government departments using virtual solutions, join one of our upcoming complimentary 30-minute webinars.
A version of this post was published in the SGMP-NATCAP newsletter. iCohere, Inc., has served government agencies, nonprofits and associations since 1995. GSA Contract No. GS-35F-0490U. (202) 870-6146. Learn more about the iCohere 11 Unified Learning System at http://gov.iCohere.com and sign up for our innovative online training course at http://GovMeetingsGoVirtual.com.
The views expressed in this article do not represent any official views or positions the U.S. Government.