• Live, Virtual, Hybrid? Association Event Planning Now And In The Future

    Keeping members engaged, educated and informed is a top priority for associations. Conferences and events deliver on all three, so association event planning is a critical function. 

    With the rapid shift to virtual and the slow return to in-person and hybrid events, the role of association leaders and event planners has become even more complex.  

    Many CSAE members recently attended the virtual event, “Live, Virtual, Hybrid – Planning the Future of Conferences, hosted by event planners at Proof Experiences. Top Canadian and global event industry experts from Destination Toronto, SAP and Ottawa’s largest convention centre shared their insight into association event planning, both now and for the future.   

    Top 5 Takeaways for Association Event Planning

    1. Live events in Canada are coming back more slowly than in the U.S. 

    While everyone agreed that virtual events offer the benefit of a larger potential audience, many conference attendees (and planners) are keen to meet face-to-face again. However, one of the panellists noted it will take longer than predicted to get back to pre-pandemic live event attendance levels in Canada. Several speakers agreed it will be 2023 before large live events are back.   

    2. There is a need to educate key stakeholders on the pros and cons of virtual and hybrid (a mix of live and online) events.

    Levels of understanding vary when it comes to virtual and hybrid events. Technology, budget, timelines and other issues require attention, education and practice to get right. The pandemic has been a big learning curve for associations. Event planners have struggled to get the approvals and budgets they need to pivot quickly.  

    CSAE member Stephanie Spiers from the Federation of Law Societies of Canada attended the Proof Experiences virtual event and commented, “If you can, it’s important to have other members of your team and key stakeholders attend events like this to hear the insights directly. It helps get everyone aligned and decisions on how to move forward come faster. The insights around the cost of hybrid and the risk management of the return to live really resonated.”    

    3. Associations need to budget for the future incremental costs of hybrid and live events.

    Costs discussed included new security needs; added health and safety protocols; additional housekeeping; technology requirements; supply chain challenges; etc. Balancing this will be the uncertainty of employee travel budgets returning anytime soon. 

    4. Vaccinations remain a hot topic.

    Event organizers are currently deferring to local health authorities until there is consistency across provinces and municipalities. It was recommended organizers get started now by reviewing insurance policies, security protocols, staff training procedures, onsite screening and other safety precautions.  

    5. Association hosts and conference organizers will need to think differently going forward.

    It has been challenging but we have learned a lot over the last 16 months. This is a time to think differently.  

    The global event leader from SAP concluded by offering some good advice for associations: “This is a journey that is going to continue to evolve and event planners will need to get creative and evolve too.”  

    Register now to be invited to the next virtual event in Proof Experiences’ PVx Live series.

    For more educational and networking opportunities, check the CSAE Events Calendar.

    About the Author

    Our Partners

    Our partners are best in class companies that deliver quality products and/or services to the association sector – click below to see for yourself!