“We found the OnAIR experience really valuable because it created that live conference experience for attendees, right from the moment they logged in. Straight away they got that feeling that they were not just jumping onto another webinar; they were in a conference foyer, mingling with people before going into the sessions. Through OnAIR, attendees were able to really interact and network, just as they would at a face-to-face event.”Kirsty Forbes, MEA Board Member
Meetings and Events Australia (MEA) is the peak industry body for the events sector in Australia. It is the only association that represents all the companies and individuals that stage, produce, manage, support, and supply thousands of events across Australia each year. MEA offers programs around mentoring, education, and professional development and holds networking events, including conferences, meetings, exhibitions, product launches, seminars, and special events, that run throughout the year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on MEA and its members, with over 92,000 jobs lost in the events sector as a result of the outbreak in March 2020.
“About 96% of all 2020 events were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including our own annual conference (Evolve) – a key physical event scheduled to take place in May 2020 in the Hunter Valley,” said Robyn Johnson, CEO of MEA.
The challenge that MEA faced was taking the physical Evolve conference into the virtual environment and onto a virtual platform to create Evolve:Renovated – a virtual conference that would keep the industry feeling engaged and connected in these difficult times.
They researched the different platforms available and soon became convinced that OnAIR by EventsAIR was ideal for their needs.
“We have a longstanding existing relationship with EventsAIR, and they are always ahead of the game when it comes to event software solutions,” said Robyn. “So, we were delighted to hear that EventsAIR had launched the OnAIR virtual and hybrid event solution.”
“We were impressed by what the OnAIR platform could do and its flexibility,” said Kirsty Forbes, MEA Board Member. “We put together quite an ambitious program with three concurrent live streams running simultaneously and were pleased to find that OnAIR could accommodate our requirements.”
As one of the platinum partners, EventsAIR was heavily involved in setting up and delivering the Evolve:Renovated virtual conference.
“The EventsAIR team members who were part of our taskforce and our go live team were absolutely amazing!” said Kirsty. “I had never used OnAIR before, so I had a lot of questions. No question was ever too hard, and they were always prepared to find a way to accommodate the features we wanted to include. They made it easy for us to deliver the best outcomes possible for both our delegates and our sponsors. I could not have asked for a better support network and team around me.”
Evolve:Renovated incorporated a host of OnAIR features including running many concurrent sessions, mainstream plenary sessions, ePoster sessions, wellness sessions, an exhibition marketplace, and a virtual networking session at the end of the conference that allowed attendees to connect with people whom they may never have met before.
“It was great to see people really engage with the sponsors and with each other during the virtual event, just as they would at a face-to-face conference,” said Kirsty.
“One of the features we liked the most was the live host. That really made the conference come to life. The emcee facilitated discussions in-between sessions, stirred up some banter and made the conference a little more fun and exciting,” said Kirsty.
MEA was the first industry association to bring a national conference to a virtual platform.
“We wanted to show people in the sector what was possible with virtual events and give them confidence to take that positive step and hold their own virtual events,” said Kirsty.
“Most of the industry (70-80%) had not experienced an online conference on a virtual platform before, and they were all curious to see what it would be like,” said Kirsty. “It was great that people were open to all the different features and willing to experiment with them. The event helped attendees to see how they could use the virtual space for their own businesses and pitch the idea to their clients. I’m sure that they will be holding their own virtual and hybrid events through the OnAIR platform in future.”
Over 550 event professionals registered for Evolve:Renovated and many more colleagues from across Australia and New Zealand also attended.
“It was an outstanding event and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Robyn. “Delegates really enjoyed the momentum of the day within the platform and felt that the content was really informative and relevant. The live support team also got plenty of comments thanking them for being so responsive and effective, and for helping attendees out so promptly.”
“The key to putting an event like this together is communication,” said Robyn, “and the EventsAIR team willingly listened to our requests and questions. They forged great relationships with our team and worked closely with the other stakeholders during the delivery of the event, which was extremely important in ensuring that everything went smoothly.”