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Cadence Recap Series: Show me the money

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

Virtual events have taken over the industry since the start of the pandemic. When event organizers started shifting their live events to a virtual setting, hosts and marketers quickly found tremendous value in providing unique digital experiences.

With all the revenue generated by virtual events, it’s astounding that the majority of event planners are still not monetizing their online events. In our inaugural episode of Cadence, we invited experts who gave their best advice on how event hosts can make the most out of their virtual events.

Cadence is a monthly program created by Ace Virtual Events and beedance for professionals in the events, communication, and marketing industries. Each episode aims to tackle a different topic around cadence in business. For our very first Cadence program, our invited speakers were Christy Burcham, Deborah Greif, Mary Beth Micucci, and Barry Upbin. The program was hosted by our amazing moderator, Steve Boyce.

Speakers at the first Cadence episode

Christy Burcham is the Director of Education and Training at Bernina of America. She has spent her career training and teaching sewing, quilting, and embroidery to sewing enthusiasts and independent retailers around the world. Starting as an educator, then project manager, and now executive, Christy has been on all sides of the training equation, and understands the value of translating training and education into measurable sales results.

Deborah Greif is the Director of Corporate Relations and Business Development at American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). Deborah joined the ASA in November 2016, bringing more than fifteen years of business development, marketing, and event strategy experience. Her responsibilities include partner relations, business development, and product development – with an emphasis on attendee and exhibitor engagement for ASA’s conferences and meetings portfolio. Prior to joining the ASA, Deborah worked in different capacities, where she was responsible for strategic operations, marketing, event growth strategies, and growing audience engagement through digital event platforms.

Mary Beth Micucci is the President of MBM Strategic Consulting. For over 15years, Mary Beth has been helping companies future-proof their events. She prepares Event organizers to lead the design, delivery, monetization, and measurement of effective and highly interactive online gatherings that outperform expectations for participant engagement and ROI. An industry veteran, Mary Beth teaches monetization strategy for The Digital Event Strategist certification offered by the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA).

Finally, Barry Upbin is a Partner at Achieve Engagement. A community builder, Barry Upbin has been bringing people together via events (online and in-person) for the past 15 years. As a Partner and Head of Community, he spearheads Achieve Engagement’s program design, partner outreach, and event operations. Prior to Achieve Engagement, Barry was with the Human Capital Institute for 11 years, most of which was spent on the Executive Team building out their community, program design, and managing sponsor sales. Deeply passionate about the future of work and employee experience, he has a skill for spreading best practices and insights to impact the way organizations reap success through their people.

Our panelists exchanged practical advice on how to increase revenue through virtual and hybrid events by figuring out the best strategy through research and communication with stakeholders, creating a package that offers real value and measurable success, and offering unique engagement opportunities and personalized experiences for guests and sponsors.

The best strategy for virtual transformation

When the pandemic started, stringent lockdowns were enforced and movement was restricted, which meant that many companies were obligated to shift their major events to a virtual venue. This was the case with the ASA; they made a decision to switch their annual fall meeting to a completely virtual experience for the first time. Deborah Greif spoke on the challenges they faced and the effect it had on their sponsorship revenue opportunities.

She mentioned that, at that time, several companies and organizations were approaching virtual events similarly as they would face-to-face meetings. As a result, the ASA opted to use the same terminology exhibits, and tried to replicate the same experiences and revenue generated. Although they had really good support from their vendors, they quickly realized that a pause was needed to rethink their strategy. Since they were in a different environment, they needed to have a different purpose.

After revisiting their end goal, they understood that the only way to recreate the experience was by researching and using the right virtual event tools. One of the platforms that offered them creative and interesting tools to achieve the goals for their virtual meeting was Remo. Ultimately, Deborah emphasized that the most important and most difficult part of planning a virtual event is to learn the best tactics and to stay focused on a planned strategy.

Mary Beth Micucci echoed a similar statement, recognizing that many individuals and companies who launched into virtual wanted to get something out to their members as quickly as possible, but they had a difficult time defining their success metrics because they didn’t know their strategy. She highlighted that having a strategic plan in place “can be a huge win in order to continue to move your project and your success metrics”.

How to get your sponsors on board

Once you have a strategy in place, it’s important to communicate it with all stakeholders and sponsors to bring them on board so they’re not hesitant to make investments. Deborah mentioned that the ASA had to educate their sponsors on the new tools they were using and they had to revise their sponsors’ expectations. Different verbiage and metrics were used, which resulted in different dollar values for sponsors.

Eventually, they were able to come up with packages that included different tools and created substantial value. However, Deborah recalled that it involved a lot of re-educating on ASA’s end to work with their sponsors and corporate partners so that they knew beforehand what to expect.

Christy Burcham’s company, Bernina, experienced a similar challenge as they had to swiftly change their annual training convention, Bernina University, to an online setting for the first time. She explained that their convention is held yearly for their dealers and partners to come in and learn how to use the new products so they can distribute them effectively.

The challenge came when they had to figure out a way to teach their dealers how to use and sell the products without them actually sitting in front of the product and using it themselves. This made both the dealers and the Bernina team hesitant to hold a virtual convention, since their products are very hands-on. Nevertheless, once they accepted that they couldn’t recreate the same experience and they decided to rethink their tactics and metrics, their virtual convention was a complete success.

The benefits of turning to virtual