Wisconsin Bankers Association
increase in education event attendance YoY
increase in program net profit in 2020
increase in annual convention profit YoY
The Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA) is a not for profit trade association whose membership includes 98% of the banks with a presence in the state of Wisconsin. The WBA works to promote a healthy environment for Wisconsin banks through advocating, educating, and supporting their members. With membership dues as their main source of revenue, education events are a key driver in maintaining organizational success.
Overcoming Manual Roadblocks
As such, the WBA offers nearly 100 unique hosted education programs annually for over 8,000 attendees. These events are vital to the longevity of the organization and in providing continuing education, networking, and professional development opportunities for WBA members. Lori Kalscheuer, Director – Education at the WBA, notes that their previous manual processes were labor-intensive. “Before using Cvent, we had a very inefficient, manual registration process that took a full-time person to just manage registrations,” she explains. Adopting the Cvent Event Management solution helped the organization make “a complete 180,” she adds. The integrated platform not only improved internal workflows, but also elevated the member experience as a whole.
Using a HubSpot integration, all registration activity now automatically flows from Cvent into the CRM via the API. In the banking industry, a high number of mergers and acquisitions means contact information changes often. With the integration in place, new or updated contact data is automatically integrated into the CRM via their Cvent contact database. This means even non-admins can access this data through HubSpot, allowing the WBA team to better track member engagement and attendance.
The platform also allowed the WBA to automate email marketing through Cvent’s eMarketing tool, meaning all emails are now automated and tracked. Importantly, they were able to save the equivalent time of a full-time data staff member by automating registration and online payments via credit card or invoice. They can easily pull reports in Cvent to identify past-due invoices, ensuring the WBA can consistently collect payments within 60 days following live programs. As Lori notes, “We no longer need to spend staff time manually entering data and spending so much time with inefficient processes. There is no way that we could deliver the number of events that we do in a year if we had to spend staff time manually entering registration data and all the other manual processes that we used to do!”
Powering WBA’s Virtual Events with the Cvent Attendee Hub
At the outset of the global health crisis, the shift to virtual worried WBA leadership. As much of their in-person programming focused on in-person networking, the board feared a drop in registrations. “Our board became very concerned for the financial wellbeing of our trade association and how we would manage to cover all the expenses if one of our two main revenue sources, event registration, was significantly impacted,” says Lori. The Education team acted quickly, learning as much as possible about the changing world of virtual events and working closely with stakeholders to chart the best path forward.
WBA’s Management Conference needed to go virtual in September 2020. “We reached out to Cvent to see, what are we going to do?” explains Lori. “And it just so happened Cvent was about to announce the launch of the Cvent Attendee Hub, so we were able to learn as the product was developed and have an awesome support team to get us prepared.” Two weeks later, she says, they went live with the Attendee Hub. With an average of 250 in-person attendees, including exhibitors and sponsors, WBA wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of turnout. They decided to offer group pricing to drive registrations. This meant a single price included unlimited registrations for each of their bank members. Lori explains this pricing structure not only broadened their reach, but allowed the association to go “deeper” into the bank as they engaged with more bankers in different roles. “Typically, one or two C-level or high level attendees might be able to come in person,” she says. “Going virtual actually allowed us to get deeper into the bank, make new contacts, learn more about our members, and get more of their team to participate and expose them to WBA. So it brought us a lot of new contacts and a lot of new connections.” This meant they not only expanded their contact base, but also saw nearly double their usual attendance. While their typical conference attendance sat between 230-250, the virtual conference had over 470 attendees, nearly doubling their expected registration.
The conference included a mix of general sessions and breakout sessions, as well as on-demand content livestreamed via the Cvent Video Player. “We had about a dozen on-demand sessions that were prerecorded and uploaded,” explains Lori. Importantly, the conference included a virtual exhibit hall, with the ability for attendees to meet with exhibitors via virtual booths. It was a key differentiator for WBA’s exhibitors. “The feature that stood out to our exhibitors was the option to meet via video, as they had been working with other states and exhibiting virtually, finding it wasn’t as beneficial when they didn’t have that ‘face-to-face’ option,” says Lori. Exhibitors could also receive inbound leads via a contact functionality, as well as showcase videos, links, and content within their profile. “They were really pleased with that in the end,” says Lori. Her team was ecstatic to see 39 exhibitors join virtually, nearly on-par with their usual 42-45 exhibitors in-person.
Measuring ROI to Prove Event Value
With the Management Conference appeared to be a success, the WBA team was unsure what ROI may look like for their first virtual event. Event with lower registration fees and exhibitor pricing, the results were impressive. Lori explains, “We were still able to deliver a quality conference, with highly-rated content, including several on-demand sessions that have never been done, and increase our profit on the program by 5% over the 2019 conference's financial performance.”
Seeing the immediate value of the Attendee Hub, the WBA decided to leverage the all-in-one virtual platform for several more association events. “We continued to use the Attendee Hub for another six or seven events throughout the rest of the year, and new features kept being added. Things like the session Q&A were a great feature for us, and they were always there to tell us what the new features were,” explains Lori.
While they hoped for an in-person annual conference in February 2021, the ongoing health crisis meant Lori’s team needed to once more go virtual. With an enhanced version of Attendee Hub, they were able to execute an even more robust virtual event. “We were able to offer more educational content than ever before and engaged our sponsors by having them submit on-demand content,” says Lori. They included a mix of livestream and collaborative sessions to accommodate educational and networking opportunities. With the value of the virtual exhibit hall well-established, they had 59 exhibitors join. This was incredible given their original goal was to secure 40 exhibitors. Once again, they were able to nearly double attendance from an average of 450 in-person attendees to over 720 virtual attendees. Importantly, the association delivered a 20% increase in convention profit year-over-year.
Overall, the pivot to virtual allowed the WBA to maintain engagement with their members and drive clear ROI, even with the challenges of the pandemic. Overall, education event attendance increased by an impressive 35% year-over-year. Even with lower costs and fees, education events delivered a 15% increase in net profit in 2020.
The Power of Partnership: Cvent and WBA
Throughout the entirety of the pivot to virtual, Lori says her team’s relationship with Cvent has only grown. “Throughout this whole transition, we felt very supported with our Cvent team, our account manager, and our client support specialists,” she insists. Impressed with their experience, the WBA team saw value in sharing the capabilities and benefits of the Attendee Hub with industry peers. She says they invited fellow banking associations to attend their virtual Management Conference and prepared a behind-the-scenes webinar to showcase the features of the Attendee Hub they were using. “Everything flowed from registration system into Attendee Hub, and we showed them what the attendee experience is like. And we were happy to share that,” explains Lori. As a result, four other state bankers associations adopted the Attendee Hub for their virtual events as well.
As they now think about the future, Lori anticipates the industry will see a mix of virtual, hybrid, and in-person events moving forward. “Hybrid is not going away,” she says. “It’s brought in new opportunities and it has given people a chance to experience events who might not otherwise. It’s creating more accessible and inclusive events, and that’s something that’s really important to continue considering.” She adds that as the WBA returns to in-person, they will balance the experience with hybrid offerings to ensure a virtual audience can join as well.
In the meantime, she notes that the WBA Board of Directors has continuously recognized the team’s ability to shift successfully to virtual and looks forward to seeing their approach to hybrid. Due to WBA’s optimization of their solution suite with Cvent, they are now able to efficiently manage their total event program no matter the event format. “I love Cvent and what is has done for our association,” insists Lori. “Our members have really enjoyed the upgrade that Cvent offered…We know that we're using the best systems out there to offer the best offerings to our members and to make successful education events run.”
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