Virtual Event Engagement – The People Behind the Screens Ask the Experts

Graphic showing people on various devices on a video call

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Molly Marsh


Challenge –
There is no shortage of tools to support association events in a digital environment and many include sophisticated networking and connection features to help build the community around a virtual event. In preparing for their 2021 Virtual Conference, the Association of Pedestrian & Bicycle Professionals selected and used an excellent virtual platform, but also knew that technology alone wouldn’t create the engaged environment they desired…

Image of people on a zoom call
Members On A Zoom Call

Action –
In addition to creative uses of gamification, chat, and online social activities, APBP wanted interaction and engagement incorporated into educational sessions – a key feature of their traditional in-person events. APBP adopted an “Ask the Experts” session type to provide a thoughtful platform for peer interaction in the educational program. Experts (active members who are also well-known in the field) were identified to lead these discussions. All registrants were asked to submit questions and examples in advance, specifically requesting industry expertise in tackling their most challenging bicycle and pedestrian development projects. Prior to the session, the experts prepared their responses, focusing on successful initiatives they had led in other locations. In addition, questions and advice were solicited during the session so even participants who had not planned in advance were able to benefit.

Results –
The session was one of the most active and engaging of the entire event – participants actually used their cameras and microphones to join in the conversation. As the experts made recommendations, analyzed the challenges, and shared ideas, questioners were on the line to expand and have back and forth dialogue. Participants also chimed in their suggestions, questions, and ideas — the community was doing active problem solving together and it was supremely beneficial for all! Participants laughed and commiserated together, a level of emotional connection that is incredibly rare in the virtual event world. One of the least structured, least technologically demanding (it was a simple zoom meeting) sessions was the one that really struck the chord of personal connection. Nothing replaces being together face-to-face, but you CAN bring meaningful interaction to your next digital event…try an Ask the Experts session!

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Molly Marsh Cropped Photo
Molly Marsh

Degrees and Credentials:
Certified Meeting Professional (CMP); Bachelor of Arts, Transylvania University

Association Management Professional Since:

What inspires you about your work?
I have a passion for the world of professional associations and the essential support, resources and connections they provide for members. I am an adult learning and meeting design nerd –I am continually inspired by the chance to design face-to-face meetings and innovate content strategy with new techniques, technologies and ideas.

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