As virtual and hybrid events continue to grow in size and frequency, Arinex CEO Nicole Walker sheds some insight on the expert teams who deliver these events: digital conference organisers (DCOs) and answers some common questions...
What is a digital conference organiser?
A digital conference organiser is a specialised event professional or event team that not only plans but enhances the conference experience through the use of emerging digital technologies. DCOs were born about 18 months ago, in response to the changing requirements for events worldwide and the subsequent rise in virtual or hybrid events. A DCO is now seen as an important component of a Professional Conference Organiser (PCO).
Does every PCO have a DCO team?
In a nutshell, no.
A full-service DCO incorporates a skilled technical team to drive the virtual elements of the event and most PCOs need to partner with another provider to facilitate this. There are many advantages to keeping everything in-house; with one team managing the entire event comes better security, less chance of human error and more efficient and effective communications.
These DCO event managers understand event technology – as well as what it takes to run a successful online event – better than anyone else in the industry.
What are the benefits of a DCO?
A DCO is like a one-stop-shop for virtual and hybrid events. With expert online event managers and tried-and-tested in-house technology solutions and support throughout the entire event journey, a DCO team will take the fear of the unknown – and the risk – out of transitioning from physical events to virtual or hybrid.
An experienced DCO team will help you increase membership and attendance, manage financial risks and drive engagement. Whatever your objectives, a DCO will partner with you to ensure a successful return on investment.
How can virtual and hybrid events match the attendance and profitability of in-person events?
The industry has had to adapt to view virtual attendees as not just an ‘add-on’ but a very different demographic. We need to ensure we are providing the same level of value for both physical and virtual attendees.
If networking is a key objective, particularly with regards to sponsors and exhibitors, there are platforms that allow for better engagement and then the DCO can derive sponsorship packages to ensure ROI is being achieved.
In terms of attendance, we are now seeing an increase in overall delegate numbers; a decrease in physical but an increase in overall reach. Sponsors may not be having 1:1 contact but are gaining access to a much larger audience and the data and analytics available to sponsors within a virtual platform are much more informative.
How does the live Q&A work across different time zones for international speakers?
Speakers are becoming more flexible and open to presenting at odd hours of the day. The conference program can be designed to cover a 10-hour time zone period to allow reasonable hours for much of the world.
Another option is to pre-record presentations (which also eliminates the risk of technical or latency problems) and then have speakers available to attend a live Q&A. It is not uncommon to encounter challenges with international speakers though irrespective of digital functionality. In 2019 an international speaker fell asleep at the airport in the US and missed their connecting flight. With less than 24 hours to find a replacement speaker, the team worked long into the night and with help from long-standing industry connections a replacement was found.
What about speakers who are reluctant to record their talks for on-demand viewing, for intellectual property reasons?
Speakers have learnt to adapt to the changing needs of virtual and hybrid events. An experienced DCO will help ease fears for speakers and demonstrate the value in making presentations available post-event.
For example, speakers may choose to provide an abridged version of their PowerPoint presentation for on-demand viewing. Permission should be obtained from speakers to record their presentation, as part of their contractual agreement, to deliver on event objectives.
For in-person events that switch to virtual, what extra costs are involved?
Our recommendation for events in the next couple of years is to plan for a hybrid event; that way funds are already allocated for the virtual component while planning for the physical component can begin. This way you can transition between the options effortlessly.
There is a nominal additional cost because you already have two platforms (virtual and physical) established. Another benefit of planning hybrid events is that sponsorship packages can be designed from the start of the event journey, allowing you to maximise revenue and demonstrate ROI from the outset.
There are many options for brand awareness and exposure for sponsors on a virtual platform so the possibilities are endless. In terms of overall cost comparison, due to reduced variable costs for virtual attendees (such as catering), the additional investment for hybrid is offset by the increased revenue opportunities available.
A collaborative discussion between the DCO and client should take place to develop the conference strategy and assess all elements to achieve the financial objectives of the event.
A desire to travel led Holly Patrick to the business meetings and events world and she’s never looked back. Holly takes a particular interest in event sustainability and creating a diverse and inclusive industry. When she’s not working, she can be found rolling skating along Brighton seafront listening to an eclectic playlist, featuring the likes of Patti Smith, Sean Paul, and Arooj Aftab.