The top two reasons members attend association events are networking and education, according to a recent survey from Association Advisor. So, why keep all that connectedness and learning between the conference center walls? Spread the goodness by taking your conference virtual. Here are three benefits you and your members will glean:

Broader Attendance

Many association leaders worry that if they build it, too many people will come, and they’ll end up cannibalizing their live, onsite audience. That’s simply not true. Take it from Jessica Pagel, Manager of Elearning Services at American Industrial Hygiene Association, who has had tremendous success extending AIHA’s annual conference to a virtual audience. She says, “ …nobody ever says given the choice, I would much rather sit at home online. It’s not a choice between attending in-person or attending virtually. It’s a choice of attending virtually or not attending at all.”

Revenue Generation

The team at AIHA has grown its virtual conference revenue to $150,000 in just a few years, with an impressive profit margin of 66 percent. “Our revenue continues to grow each year,” says Pagel. “Every time I put my budget number out there, I think, ‘There’s no way this is going to happen,’ and it does. We even surpassed our stretch goal last year!”

But registration dollars aren’t the only non-dues revenue coming in. AIHA is making its virtual conference even more robust, by taking the conference exhibit hall to its virtual audience.

“We’re starting something we’re calling ‘Spotlight Interviews.’ During these 10-minute segments, we’ll conduct live interviews with conference exhibitors and sponsors, who are paying for the opportunity to get in front of our virtual audience,” explains Pagel.

Deeper Participation

At a live conference, the learning is typically a one-way street. Your presenters stand in front of a (hopefully) large audience and share their knowledge. But, as Pagel has discovered, “Online, there’s this whole conversation going on via our chat feature. We’re able to have running commentary during the sessions, which we can’t do onsite. Everybody is sharing and communicating with each other in a way that doesn’t naturally happen face to face. So, attendees are not only learning from the presenter, they’re also learning from each other.”

Download the AIHA Success Story to learn more about how this association is leveraging its learning management system to “wow” its virtual conference audience. And join me, along with AIHA’s Jessica Pagel, for a lively discussion during tomorrow’s webinar, “Go Virtual, Go Viral: Take Your Conference to the Next Level.”