Dealing with Uncertainty
Berry Street’s Professional Learning & Development Team hosts conferences, training workshops, courses and webinars to provide learning opportunities for practitioners working with vulnerable children, young people and families across Australia. However, an unprecedented global health crisis put a wrench into their plans. With restrictions on travel and public gatherings, the team was forced to cancel all face-to-face learning. “We realised we had to pivot quickly to virtual so that we could continue to support the broader sector to improve outcomes for vulnerable children, young people and families. The chronic uncertainty of the pandemic made this more important now more than ever,” says Kelly McLeod, Senior Events Manager of Berry Street’s Professional Learning & Development Team.
The Berry Street team was a little daunted by the prospect of shifting their professional learning sessions to a new medium. They decided not to replicate their in-person trainings as is, but instead, offer a suitable digital alternative with revised duration and content that still provided practical outcomes for their audience.
Switching to Virtual
Berry Street has been using Cvent for 10 years to manage all their in-person events. In moving to virtual events, the team knew that it was important to continue to use the Cvent tools to ensure continuity of communications with its audience and to protect the integrity of its data. All they had to do was add a video conferencing tool to their tech stack. “We were already using Cvent for all our live events, and we’ve started using it for all our virtual events too. Cvent is now the single platform we use for all our events,” says McLeod.
The team used Cvent’s event management solution to manage the event registration, website creation and marketing of their new virtual sessions. They also took advantage of the post-event survey feature in the event management module, to keep track of how attendees were responding to their new virtual sessions.
The team took help from Cvent’s professional services team to build a mobile app for their virtual event. The app was mainly leveraged for keeping their virtual attendees informed and engaged. They also built a calendar of events in the app to notify attendees of all upcoming sessions.
To ensure their transition to virtual went smoothly, Berry Street also conducted strategy calls with Cvent’s Customer Success team and Account Managers to figure out the best go-forward plan and gain access to relevant resources. Says McLeod, “Berry Street has been working with Cvent for over 10 years. There has always been a genuine interest from Cvent to understand our business and our needs. This has been highlighted over the past few months as we have transitioned to the virtual world – the Cvent team has listened, supported and gone above and beyond to provide us with options to achieve our goals within our very limited budget!”
A Stunning Success
By having the right tools and support at their disposal, Berry Street was able to make a quick and seamless shift to virtual and offer their first virtual learning opportunities from the first week of June.
The team delivered seventeen webinars during their first three months of going virtual, which in total brought them a 60% year on year increase in attendance. The webinars turned out to be a stupendous success, with the team receiving extremely positive feedback from their participants. In fact, 97.5% of attendees said they found the sessions “engaging and interesting”.
Going virtual also reduced Berry Street’s expenses by close to 40%, thereby increasing their profit margin and ROI from their event program. Adds McLeod, “The move to virtual has allowed us to continue to support our audience, and build an additional revenue stream for us moving forward. So, whilst the move has been challenging, it has brought with it positive results.”
By making a virtual pivot, Berry Street was also able to achieve one of its primary goals — to provide practitioners from remote and regional areas access to their subject matter experts. In fact, they found that 60% of the attendees in their webinars came from outside of Victoria (the organisations home state). Notably, one of the attendees exclaimed, “Offering the sessions online has meant that this was the first time that I’ve been able to participate, and I would love it if you could provide future opportunities in this way.”
Seeing as it will be some time before the team can get back to delivering 100% face-to-face training events, Berry Street is now looking at evolving their larger event strategy so that they can keep meeting the needs of their clients. With the success they have seen so far, the team is now open to the possibility of running full workshops online in the long-term, and even developing a hybrid model for their conferences, symposiums and other larger events.
“All our events for this year are planned to be virtual. In the longer term, we will assess what we can continue to offer as online opportunities and what is best served in a classroom (or face-to-face) setting, or what would work well as a blended learning opportunity,” says McLeod. One thing is for sure: Berry Street has no plans to stop exploring virtual opportunities and will continue to navigate how technology fits into their new event strategy.