“Our experience with OnAIR has opened up many opportunities for us. When we started down this path, we were not sure how many people would actually be interested in a virtual conference, but what we found was that most of our members were actually looking for that contact and that interaction.”Dr Tunga Kiyak, Ph.D., Executive Director, Academy of International Business
The Academy of International Business (AIB) is an association of international business scholars that research issues affecting international business. It is a truly global association with 3500 members in 90 countries. One of its most important undertakings is the Annual AIB Conference, a physical event that brings people together from across the world.
With the implementation of global travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it became critical for AIB to find a way to provide its members with a virtual event that, while perhaps not being able to completely replace the physical conference, would still offer value to its members.
The conference plays a crucial role in the professional development of AIB members, and the challenge was to provide an online experience that would allow AIB members to reap the benefits of the physical conference – in just two months. The OnAIR virtual and hybrid event solution by EventsAIR made this possible.
“Our biggest challenge was to replicate the high-touch nature of the physical conference in the virtual setting,” said Dr Tunga Kiyak, Executive Director of AIB. “For many attendees, paper presentations at the annual conference open the door to promotion or tenure. For others, networking with fellow academics leads to new ideas for further research and the forging of future collaborations. Many students attend the developmental workshops on offer.”
The AIB leadership put together a taskforce that identified the priorities and the type of features they were looking for in the virtual event. They researched what was available to discover what their options were and how they could deliver the content.
“It became very clear to us early on that we needed a single, integrated platform that everything could be served from so that our attendees felt that they were all together in one place,” said Tunga.
After road-testing several different platforms, they came across OnAIR.
“The ease of use, intuitive interface, timeline, and variety of other features that OnAIR offered made it the perfect fit,” said Tunga.
With only two months to go before the conference, they contacted EventsAIR to find out whether it would be possible to use the OnAIR platform in such a short time span. EventsAIR took up the challenge.
“OnAIR offers a smorgasbord of features and we tried to take advantage of as many of them as possible,” said Tunga. “At the end of the day, we used the majority of the features.”
The conference offered over 50 sessions through the OnAIR platform and included ePoster interactive presentations. AIB used the social networking groups feature to host a happy hour and introduction sessions, and the Meeting Hub for individual one-on-one connections.
“The Meeting Hub turned out to be the biggest hit,” said Tunga. “The feedback we received time and again was that the Meeting Hub made the delegates feel connected to each other. They could find the people they wanted to connect with, set up meetings, talk to each other and have one-on-one video conferencing, while still at the conference, which made them feel that they were at a physical conference.”
The AIB Conference hosted a total of 1255 attendees, the second highest attendance in AIB’s history. Attendees were overwhelmingly positive about the experience. A lot of them had come into the conference sceptical about what a virtual conference could offer and whether it could replicate the physical event in the virtual setting, but through the OnAIR platform they realised that it is possible to achieve a high level of engagement and they derived a lot of value from the experience.
“With all the other suppliers it was a case of ‘this is what we provide, find a way to fit your conference into our platform’,” said Tunga. “EventsAIR had a different attitude. What they said was: ‘We want you to be successful, tell us what you need to do. Let us figure out together how we can actually make this work’.”
A couple of features were required that weren’t quite available yet and, despite being on a tight schedule, the team was willing to fast track their production schedule. Through their commitment to finding solutions, they were able to provide the new features in time for the conference.
“The fact that they were willing to make changes and accommodate us was the key,” said Tunga. “They were very helpful and friendly.”