When Miranda Connon, CMP, DES Meetings Manager at Montréal-based Société Internationale d’Urologie, first started thinking about digital events in 2014, she had an obvious concern: wouldn’t online offerings trample on the organization’s efforts to attract attendees to its annual congress? “We were afraid of poaching our face-to-face attendees,” Connon said after Susie Petrusa, Director, Philanthropy and Special Projects at SIU, first spoke to the meetings team about the digital landscape in 2014.
Nevertheless, Connon and SIU knew they couldn’t ignore the rapid advancements in online and mobile technologies. With the help of Petrusa and Merveille de Souza, the organization has paved the way to one of the strongest success stories in the events industry: the SIU Academy, a cloud-based eLearning portal that offers surgical videos, congress webcasts, teaching modules, live-streamed surgeries and much more. In addition to SIU’s own educational resources, the organization collaborates with other associations to widen the reach of their content, too. de Souza is the manager of the SIU Academy, and she highlights how important it has been in delivering advanced education to an audience who truly benefits from these resources. “It has allowed us to engage with urologists from regions of the world who would not otherwise have such easy access to cutting-edge learning,” de Souza said. “It is not always feasible to bring a face-to-face meeting to developing countries. With digital events and e-learning, access to world leaders in the field of urology are just a click away.”
Those clicks are coming from an increasingly large number of places. When SIU Academy first launched, there were users from 143 countries. As of December 2016, SIU Academy counts urologists from 175 countries among its truly global audience.
Securing More Sponsors and More Members
Connon, Petrusa and de Souza have tapped into the formula that drives the most successful sponsorship programs: happy attendees equal happy sponsors. “Sponsors really value the opportunity to reach a wider audience,” Connon said. “It’s one thing to say that we will have 3,000 participants at our face-to-face events, but adding up to another 1,000 digital participants is a huge selling point.”
Connon forecasts that SIU@U — the digital component that accompanies the organization’s face-to-face annual congress — will continue to expand in size, reach and revenue. It’s clear that the organization’s approach to engagement is working since attendees are coming back for more; in 2016, SIU@U enjoyed a registration retention rate of 94 percent. Whether attendees log on for SIU@U or another digital program, many of them wind up looking for much more. After one year of taking advantage of offerings in the SIU Academy, approximately ten percent of users become full-fledged SIU members. And they’re not just staying behind their screens, either. Ten percent of online attendees have turned into face-to-face attendees the following year.
Looking for More Education
After tracking engagement and seeing the organization’s investment in digital pay off, Connon decided to elevate her digital expertise by enrolling in the Digital Event Strategist program.
“It was because of this huge impact on our society and our annual congress that I decided to get the Digital Experience Institute's DES certification,” Connon said. “I wanted to learn more about not only the planning and producing of digital events, but also about measuring the results and the impact that these digital events have on the well-being of our society.”
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