Virtual events are the “new normal” right now, and many publishers are learning more about online event platforms than they ever planned upon.
And while virtual events seem to improve and have more options daily, using them to replace all your in-person event revenue can be challenging (and they seem to take more time!). You need to diversify!
We chatted recently with Shane Greer, Co-Owner of Campaigns & Elections, a B2B publishing and events business that serves the political campaign industry. The team at C&E continued to push virtual events this year, but tied in a membership angle to diversify and increase revenue. Check it out!
What was the C&E event model before March 2020?
A pretty traditional B2B conference model.
How did COVID-19 and the subsequent business challenges impact your event plans?
We took the view very quickly that physical events wouldn’t be possible for at least a year, and we can see it being significantly longer than that.
Like a lot of similar companies, we canceled all in-person events and shifted the ones we already had scheduled for 2020 to a virtual format. But the key thing was that we launched a new Member Community, with an annual fee to join. We had planned to do that in 2021 but accelerated it since ‘no events’ meant we had the bandwidth to prioritize it. We then made attendance at our virtual events conditional upon being a Community Member. Truth be told it was a bit of a gamble since we hadn’t done anything similar before. But it took off.
What results have you seen — engagement and revenue wise?
I can’t give specifics here, but we’ve adopted a very simple strategy that’s really paid off: focus on developing recurring revenue streams that will stay with the business whenever physical events return. In short, taking action now that will mean a larger business overall when the world returns to something approaching normal. The net result has been that we haven’t had to consider layoffs. In fact, we’re hiring.
How are you managing sponsor expectations in this model?
We take a pretty firm position here. Meeting people in person isn’t an option, but you still need to get in front of buyers. What matters is the audience and opportunity to engage that audience, not the format in which you do it. Plus, one big positive with virtual events is that you can bring many more people to them because nobody’s having to pay for a flight/hotel. That’s a key point we drive home.
What is the long-term strategy for this model?
Build more and more value into the membership such that joining is a no-brainer. An oversimplification, but you get the drift.
Will you roll out in-person events again if restrictions lift in 2021??
Absolutely, but if anyone tells you physical conferences will definitely be back in 2021, they’re mad. They might be, make no mistake, but they might not. This is all just a reminder that you should never put too many eggs in one basket. Events were always a key part of our business, but they were only ever a part of it. Would we like to be hosting events in-person? Of course. But we don’t need to be for the business to be successful.
What platforms are you using to execute your virtual events?
Whova. But that was a stop-gap. Right now we’re looking at a number of options.
About Shane: Shane is a media entrepreneur and investor. He is the co-owner of Campaigns & Elections, a B2B publishing and events business that serves the political campaign industry. Shane co-founded Total Politics magazine in the UK in 2008, which he built into a broader media group through organic growth and numerous acquisitions. The group was sold in 2012. Square Mile magazine recognized him as one of the Top 30 people under the age of 30 in London in 2011. In 2016 the Irish Echo recognized him as one of the 40 Under 40 Irish and Irish Americans in the United States, and that same year he received Freedom of the City of London.
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