For MSC’s AMESA division, organising in-person events was always rife with challenges as it involved bringing in stakeholders from across a vast and culturally diverse geography. This meant navigating through problems associated with travel, accommodation and other logistical arrangements.
Due to the unprecedented onset of the global health crisis, the MSC team had to pivot their three-day summit to virtual at short notice. While the team knew this move would bring new challenges, they also acknowledged that going virtual would help ease out some of their logistical challenges. As Louanne Mostert, MSC’s Communications Manager (AMESA region), explains, “We wanted to offer a sparkling event to our funders. We wanted a virtual solution that would not only overcome the challenges of bandwidth and accessibility for small and remote communities, but also still deliver a high-value product to the sponsors who invested a significant amount of money in this outreach event.”
They immediately began their search for a platform that could support their virtual events and ensure an engaging experience for their attendees.
Virtual Event That’s A Class Apart
Prior to going virtual, MSC was heavily dependent on manual processes for carrying out their registration and other event tasks. So, when the time came for them to pick an event technology, they decided they did not just want a platform to host their virtual event but wanted a fully automated, end-to-end solution that could also manage their entire event lifecycle. After considering several options for their tech provider, including a YouTube-based conferencing solutions firm and a VR company, they finally went with Cvent.
MSC was extremely impressed with the virtual interface. “Cvent provided a virtual auditorium-style event experience that complemented the tastes of our academic audience. The experience was not just another online meeting – we got the feel of the event as well, with the registration and attendee participation. They made the concept of a virtual event look really classy,” remarks Louanne, adding, “Once our attendees received their formal invitation for the event and logged on to the Virtual Attendee Hub, it gave them the sense of attending a 3-day conference, where you would go into different rooms to discuss different topics and then collaborate with the speakers later on.”
The Cvent platform had all the necessary features in place to provide support for MSC’s complex, three-day multi sessions summit. MSC was able to automate many of the tasks they previously did manually, such as registration, emails and website build, attendee tracking, reporting and gathering post-event feedback.
Louanne particularly had good things to say about the event website builder tool. “With your tool, we developed an event site that could really act as a third-party project overview, which was quite a key objective of this event. We wanted to not make it look just about MSC – we really wanted it to be inclusive of all the organisations involved. Having a third-party event site acting as a go-to site as well as a promotional platform and a one-stop registration platform – that really made it super easy for us to manage everything.”
With Virtual Attendee Hub® (VAH), MSC offered an interactive virtual experience that ensured their attendees were always engaged through relevant content, collaborative sessions and Q&As. The hub also allowed them to share the event content as on-demand recordings to their attendees after the event was over. “Because some of the presenters may have had bad bandwidth, so we only recorded with them when they really had good bandwidth. And some of the attendees joining the event also had, at times, poor bandwidth so it was good to have this feature. Here we’re talking about those really remote African communities – some of them had to travel from one town to the next just to participate in the Q&A session. So it was really beneficial for us to have the actual presentation pre-recorded and available on video on demand,” says Louanne. She further adds, “Academics and scientists don’t really always have time to attend 3 full days of a virtual event. So having the resources and sessions available for 2-3 months after the event allows them to access and get familiar with the event content on their time.”
The VAH also helped them provide value to one of their major sponsors, World Wide Fund for Nature (Sweden), through the sponsorship tab on the event console. “The fact that sponsors have their own reserved space in the Virtual Attendee Hub was quite appealing. When you work in the NGO space, as an attendee, you get quite numb to the communications – it’s always about the sponsorship and funding and much less about the project itself. The fact that you have a special space reserved on the VAH gave the necessary airtime for the sponsor but wasn’t as in your face for the attendee.”
The event attracted a greater attendance than expected. “We managed to get 85 participants to the event — 3 to 4 per organisation or community. In person, we might have only seen 25 participants come to the event,” exclaims Louanne.
For collecting post-event feedback, the MSC team found the survey tool’s integration with the platform very convenient. They were able to gauge their audience’s reaction to their first ever virtual event, which helped them assess whether they wanted to continue with this new format. The team was also able to track all engagement that took place at the virtual event via the Attendee Engagement Score feature. “We had video-on-demand recordings available in the morning and in the afternoons, at 2:30, we had collaborative sessions that the attendees accessed via the VAH. We saw half of the morning’s participation would join in the afternoon. Having your live Q&A function for attendees to submit questions in the morning allowed us to then address those questions in the afternoon. And if attendees couldn’t join the live Q&A session, we made those recordings available as video-on-demand as well after the event.”
MSC hopes to continue their association with Cvent for their future events. “We turned to Cvent quite last minute for this event, so we haven’t really dived deep into what the Cvent platform has to offer. I think there’s a lot that we still can do," says Louanne.
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