With the rise of the Covid-19 pandemic creating a need to social distance and forcing a limit on large gatherings, many planned conferences and events were left scrambling to figure out what to do next. Rather than cancel altogether, many chose to shift to a virtual model. This has created the unique opportunity to reach more people in a new way.
Include Software was amongst those that had to make a shift. With the iCollaborate User Conference already announced and planned, we had to decide whether we were going to pivot or cancel. We chose to pivot to a virtual model—and frankly, are so glad that we did. Just like so many lawn and landscape businesses have found ways to survive and thrive in this new climate, we were excited by the success of this virtual event.
One thing that made iCollaborate successful as a virtual model is that it was packed with valuable content. From past events, we already knew that strong speakers and interesting topics have always been what made the best impression on people. But in a virtual model, content was more important than ever. What people wanted most out of the event was solid content about using Asset to the fullest.
We ultimately organized the content into four sessions and highlighted what we knew attendees were looking to learn about. One of the most successful succession was a rapid-fire session on all the different things Asset users might not realize Asset can do for them. With this virtual model, we were able to pack in a ton of useful information that left attendees feeling as though they learned a lot.
Scott DeNardin president of Hittle Landscape in Indiana was among those who attended iCollaborate in person and also attended virtually this year. He says that now that everyone is used to “Zoom life,” the event went seamlessly. By now, lawn and landscape business owners are already accustomed to doing business virtually, so this was no different.
“One thing that I really enjoyed about this format was that we were able to cover topics in more depth,” DeNardin shares. “We weren’t sitting in a crowded room, struggling to hear, or distracted. We were really able to dive into these topics. I also liked the fact that while the session was taking place, people were throwing questions out there. We were able to get a lot of different perspectives and get even more insightful content out of the topics.”
Having people in the background available to answer those questions was something that we had organized upfront in order to really help maximize what attendees could get out of this event. We also recorded everything so that it was available for those who couldn’t attend the sessions at their scheduled times.
We had a high attendance, and everything went smoothly. As said as we were not to have the social aspects that we do believe people appreciate about iCollaborate, we also think that eliminating the burdens associated with travel was a welcomed change.
“I really liked that I was able to have more of my leadership team participate as a result of having this event virtual,” DeNardin says. “When it was in-person, you have to factor in the travel time and the expense. But being able to join together in a conference room and have my leadership team participate in the event with me, helped accelerate what we got out of it.”
Tips for Attending Virtual Events
With no immediate end in sight to the limit on large gatherings—coupled with peoples’ uncertainty around traveling—many believe virtual events will be here to stay, at least for the immediate future. That’s why we’re offering a few tips that might help you get the most out of your attendance of virtual events.
Be on Time and in a Quiet Space: Being on time and in a space where you can pay attention to what’s going on is important. If you are sitting at your regular desk and trying to simultaneously do your job, you’re just not going to get the most out of the virtual event. Block out the time so that you can truly embrace the event and everything that it has to offer.
Take Notes: Having some type of note-taking methodology will also help you use the insight that you’ve learned at a later date.
Consider a Group Setting: Many of the iCollaborate attendees watched as a group—like DeNardin and his team did.
DeNardin shares: “I think being in a room together, as a team, and then taking the time to debrief afterwards is one of the best ways to get the most out of virtual events. People often have different takeaways and different insights and perspectives even after watching the same content. That really helps you to maximize what you get out of it. Then, use that energy for practical application.”
Poised for the Future
Overall, our biggest takeaway from this event as a whole was that virtual events can be a powerful medium. We received a lot of positive feedback and even had some attendees tell us that they hope we’ll continue virtual events into the future.
If you’re considering a virtual event for your own business, one of our best pieces of advice is to invest in it. We know that many people are working from their homes and they have their kitchens and their living rooms in the background. In order to make everything a little bit more professional and synced, we sent all of our panelists green screens and made sure that they had the right equipment.
For our event, keeping everything looking consistent and organized added a level of production value that really helped take it to another level. If this is something that you’re thinking about doing for a meeting or even a bigger scale event, make sure that you’re thinking about it from a visual perspective, too. There are absolutely some great ways to use these opportunities to grow your business and move things into the future.