At this point in the news cycle, you have undoubtedly heard about, and may have even felt the effects of, Executive Order 13769 (or as it’s widely called, the “travel ban”). For meetings and events held in the United States, many of which depend on international presenters and attendees for their success, the ramifications of the ban could be huge. The second version – Executive Order 13780 – was proposed on March 6th and is currently under a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction prohibiting its enforcement. Although the executive order is not yet being enforced, it is causing a lot of anxiety for U.S. bound travelers. Many professional associations are already feeling the effects through decreased international meeting registrations and international presenters who are declining/backing out of participation.
While there is likely more uncertainty in the weeks and months ahead, there are a few things meeting and event professionals can do now to protect both their constituency and the reach of their meetings.
- Offer remote presenting
The ability to present to an audience through Skype, GoToMeeting or similar software is nothing new, but doing it seamlessly on a large scale can be complicated. If presenters can’t or don’t want to come to United States, there is no reason attendees should be denied access to those presentations, Q&A, and resulting discussions. The equipment needed to pull off remote presenting can be minimal; the largest cost is often the dedicated bandwidth from the meeting facility for a strong internet connection. Offering remote presentations in multiple rooms on a large scale requires organization and a carefully laid out plan for rehearsals, timings, troubleshooting and execution.
- Offer a virtual component
Now is the perfect time to develop a hybrid strategy for your event. Whether you’ve already offered some form of virtual experience or are still looking for the perfect opportunity to get started, there is no denying that being prepared with some sort of virtual solution could save your event.
With the recent onset of anxiety over the travel ban, you are likely going to be asked by someone soon if you can offer (at least some of) your conference on-line. Now, you are likely aware this is not as easy as pushing a button and there is some serious cost involved. However, solutions can be completely scalable based on your event’s needs and budget. Here are a few options to consider:
- On-demand Content – Select key sessions to record during the event and make them available after the event through an on-demand portal.
- Live Content – Streaming key sessions to an on-line audience using an event portal or webpage that allows viewers to interact with each other as well as participate in Q&A and discussion.
- Curated Live Content – Create a multi-channel viewing experience by picking and choosing sessions that will be streamed, including content that is specifically curated for, and only made available to, the on-line audience. Exclusive content could include interviews with presenters, messages from sponsors or even presentations that are only available on-line.
For a deeper dive into “content strategy,” see Michael Doane’s article “4 Ways Savvy Event Planners Share Conference Content.” There are pros and cons to each option above, as well as huge variances in cost. It’s important to remember that one of the main reasons people attend events is to connect with others, and this is no different on-line. When trying to accommodate those who could not come to your event, make sure that you not only share content but give the on-line viewer a voice and the ability to connect.
- Engage Them from Afar
Give remote attendees a voice. When sharing event content via a live stream, utilize the various engagement tools on the market to give your on-line participants the ability to ask questions, vote on important topics, and provide feedback. Social Q&A, Conferences i/o and Poll Everywhere are just a few inexpensive tools you can use for this purpose. Creating interaction between your on-line audience and physical presenters, as well as creating interaction between attendees and remote presenters, can really breathe life into any virtual format. For example, including a live chat or messenger feature moderated by someone on your team is a fantastic way to get on-line viewers engaged and create conversation and community around the content being shared.
The travel ban presents some real challenges to U.S. based events. Revenue, membership and overall attendee experience could be greatly impacted. While the challenges and obstacles are obvious, the opportunity to hybridize your meetings and align with your growing and global audience is significant. It’s a great time to start asking:
- What is your business model going to be?
- Are you going to charge for virtual content or offer it for free?
- Could you get someone to sponsor a live stream or a remote presentation setup? (Your key sponsors might enjoy being called out for sponsoring a live stream.)
As you answer these questions, you will likely find your solution. In times of great adversity there is often great opportunity and innovation; this travel ban might be just what you needed to take your meetings to the next level.
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