In January 2020, our budgets and plans had been finalized. We were looking at a strong year with a healthy forecast. VTM’s client retention rate was solid, new business inquiries frequent, and our team members were happy and productive.
In March 2020, we experienced COVID-19. Within a few weeks everything was different for our company, our clients, and the world. What did we do? We got to work. We pivoted. We relied on our team. We got creative.
Shifts in the industry are nothing new to VTM. Throughout our 25-year history we’ve adjusted to changes in the industry and multiple economic downturns. Although these instances initially presented us with unexpected challenges, we’ve been able to turn them into unexpected opportunities. COVID-19 was yet another challenge which shifted our business in an unforeseen, but constructive way.
With more than 60+ technology consortia clients, our team travels the globe year-round in support of client events. Our 2020 schedule included client events in international locations such as Brussels, Shanghai, Taipei, Tokyo, Paris, and a lengthy list of US cities. As the COVID-19 pandemic continued to progress, we recognized the importance of quickly helping our clients make adjustments to their planned events, along with the need to provide alternative options to ensure member value and continuation of work. VTMers collaborated with clients to understand their desired objectives and then took action. In partnership with our Event Management team we surveyed members, engaged our Boards, and began shifting to a virtual event model that would deliver value to our members and organizations. Within weeks we had researched, tested, recommended, and executed unique virtual meeting options for a variety of clients.
One of our long-standing clients, the Trusted Computing Group (TCG), regularly hosts 3-4 in person members meetings per year. Their members value the ability to work face to face, as well as the social and networking interaction among members. Going virtual was a big change after 20 years. The VTM team worked closely with TCG to craft a virtual meeting format that kept the integrity of these objectives, while adapting to an online format. The weeklong virtual meeting included a mix of working sessions, as well as a general member session. Members even received their choice of swag (beverage glasses that provided a nod to the original meeting location in Brussels) following the event. The success of the virtual meeting has prompted TCG to confidently continue use of the virtual meeting format in place of their in-person events for at least the next 6 months.
“With the onset of COVID-19, TCG had to cancel in person events pivotal to our organization’s work. VTM was able to organize and drive a weeklong virtual Members Meeting in a short period of time. They did a great job creating an engaging event and executed it on a virtual platform where our members could interact and get our work done. I look forward to our next virtual Members Meeting this fall.”
- Joerg Borchert, TCG Chairman
Another client, Infrastructure Masons (iMasons), had planned an in-person event to coincide with Earth Day on April 20, 2020. With COVID peaking a month prior to this event, iMasons had a short runway to transition their event to a virtual meeting. As with TCG, the VTM team partnered with iMasons to help achieve their objectives, the primary goal being attendee engagement. VTM identified different virtual meeting platforms and features that would provide the best attendee engagement and meet the iMasons agenda needs. Since the iMasons virtual meeting included many speaker transitions, live graphic artist sketches, an industry panel, attendee input/Q&A, and the need to record all content, the VTM team facilitated repeated practice sessions, developed a ‘Run of Show’ and pre-determined script to be used by all speakers, and thoroughly tested all aspects of the virtual meeting platform. The outcome was a 3 hour virtual event that was executed flawlessly, allowed for member engagement, and allowed the community to work together on a common cause (sustainability). iMasons received many emails and social media postings from members claiming the event was ‘one of the best virtual events I have participated in’.
“Infrastructure Masons recently hosted our first virtual meeting, which was more successful than I could have imagined! The VTM team partnered with us from start to finish to research and test the virtual meeting capabilities needed, facilitate hours of practice sessions, develop internal event planning materials, and manage all production aspects during the event. Our attendees and speakers raved about the professionalism of the event and it raised the bar for what to expect for virtual events. The VTM team are some of our ‘unsung heroes’ in bringing this event to fruition!”
- Dean Nelson, iMasons Chairman and Founder
Fireside Chat with Noelle Walsh, Microsoft Corporate VP
One of many sketches generated live by a graphic sketch artist during the webinar
Due to the successful virtual meeting format, iMasons hosted follow-on regional sessions in EMEA and APAC a month following the original Americas event. Interested in seeing the outcome of these sessions? I’d recommend checking out iMasons’ video and blog web pages.
As our clients and members find their ‘new normal’, we recognize that virtual meetings and events will continue to play a large role. VTM has been able to help our clients make smart decisions in the best interests of their members, while continuing to provide valuable membership benefits, and reduce costs. We understand the importance of keeping membership benefits alive and well during this time and are excited to bring new and creative solutions to the table to help achieve their objectives. Our ability to pivot and use our staff in multiple capacities has allowed VTM to be creative and re-allocate our skills into new opportunities, such as facilitating upcoming virtual plugfests/compliance workshops for several VTM clients.
While our 2020 plans may look different than they did in January, we’re still strong, we’re still healthy, and our team members are energized and challenged with these new opportunities. COVID-19 may have changed what our client events look like, but it didn’t change our commitment and dedication to providing the best results for our clients. VTM has been doing this for years and will continue to do so, pandemic or not.
Interested in learning how we can help you with your virtual event needs? I’d love to hear from you!