Innovatis Group, an association management company that creates, manages and engages communities were tasked with taking the VMware User Group’s (VMUG) 40 global events virtual. On top of that, engagement and content delivery were top issues that needed to be addressed with this virtual option.
While VMUG has been utilizing the virtual events platform vFairs for several years, the execution was on a small and less frequent timeline. When COVID-19 hit, VMUG was able to quickly pivot and pilot a few engaging initiatives through platforms like Zoom while the Event team took a crash course on virtual event execution with vFairs.
In a matter of two weeks, a plan was developed to execute all planned in-person events virtually – keeping the events’ communities, volunteers and partners happy. The UserCons are deeply rooted in each communities’ unique demographic, interests and traditions. To engage members and provide value in a “local” setting, the organization was able to customize the vFairs platform and worked closely with local volunteers to add personalized elements to each event.
For starters, each virtual environment was customized to include local elements – skylines, sports team logos, etc. – to ensure that attendees felt like they were as close to being in person as possible. To bring in the local faces and volunteers, local leaders were encouraged to record a video introduction to open the event, as they would have in person.
For food and beverage, instead of the in-person community hours, a partnership was made with UberEats to offer a voucher code for attendees to order lunch from a local business on VMUG. In Seattle, coffee was offered on the organization through Starbucks.
To entice members’ competitive sides, elements of gamification were implemented throughout the virtual platform and event. Attendees could get points for attending sessions, taking surveys, engaging with partners and more – a win-win for all! Overall, the goal has been to create interesting events with relevant, unique content and experiences to wow members and provide much needed engagement, education and camaraderie in such an unprecedented time.
Although, initially, there were concerns over virtual event fatigue, there has been great success with the events both in terms of attendance and sponsorship dollars. Every event, thus far, has exceeded attendance and sales goals while showcasing unique opportunities for learning and engagement. The feedback from members and partners has been positive and showed gratitude for the ability to pivot quickly and efficiently to prevent major disruptions in the communities.
The first event that was pivoted was a product-specific event that ended up far exceeding all goals. The event achieved 370% of the registration goal and 383% of the attendance goal. Plus, 31% of attendees were net-new to our community and 46% were new to our virtual event experience.
The next five years for VMUG and our Virtual Events program look exciting. Members have a much larger appetite for virtual events that can be built off of in the next five years. Virtual events reach more members in more remote communities than ever before and bring personalized content to each member that is relevant to their interests and career.