Increase Interactivity at Events with Customized Agendas
Wednesday, June 23, 2021
Vacation Rental Management Association (VRMA) – an association that advances the professionally-managed vacation and holiday rental industry by providing education, information, and networking opportunities – virtually hosted a new event in April with notable success. VRMA’s Property Management Software Solutions conference – the first of its kind for the industry – helps vacation rental managers (VRMs) successfully navigate property management software (PMS) with a personalized selection of education and networking sessions focused on their individual software needs. In order to tailor the conference to a virtual audience, VRMA worked with SmithBucklin to implement changes that made the event more interactive, dynamic, and collaborative for both attendees and vendors.
When it comes to property management software, VRMs have a variety of options to choose from, and the systems themselves often are complex. In addition, COVID-19 caused PMS prices to increase, leaving some VRMs with the challenging task of finding the best system at the lowest price. Due to this new challenge, VRMA designed a virtual event that was a truly customized experience and would allow PMS providers to do much more than just demo their products to VRMs.
When attendees registered for the event, they answered a series of questions that allowed a custom agenda to be designed for them. They were then paired with vendors and other VRMs based on specific software and topics they were interested in learning more about. Certain aspects of the event were sent to attendees in advance, including pre-recorded, 20-minute software demonstrations for PMS companies to present their systems and highlight any new features to attendees. Other advance communications included overviews of discussion topics, a preview of speakers, and testimonials from VRMs who already registered for and were excited about attending the event.
Noting that attendees may be experiencing “virtual fatigue” from the onset of virtual events caused by COVID-19, VRMA emphasized creating an event that was as interactive for attendees as an in-person event would be. After the pre-recorded software demonstrations, attendees were split into interactive user groups and had the opportunity to ask vendors follow-up questions from the demonstrations. Due to the Q&A format, attendees asked questions to learn how to maximize their current system and learned new information about systems that could be a better fit.
Attendees were able to further explore PMS options by participating in peer-led special interest group discussions. VRMs who used major software providers discussed tips, little-known facts, secrets to managing their software, and features they can't live without. The focus of the sessions covered the feedback gathered from attendees during the registration process, ensuring that the sessions would be valuable and relevant to each attendee.
Networking was deemed just as important virtually as it was in-person. The event featured peer-to-peer roundtable discussions – VRMs led dedicated networking sessions that were broken down by topic. The discussions were collaborative and constructive in nature with a focus on exchanging ideas, sharing best practices, and troubleshooting common issues. Networking also was highlighted in attendee “matchmaking” sessions – attendees who use the same PMS systems were split into small groups of two to four to share ideas and challenges with one another. These informal discussions allowed VRMs to improve their use of their PMS systems with the added benefit of networking with one another.
The efforts of VRMA and SmithBucklin were a success – nearly half (46%) of VRMs found software providers that they would consider doing business with in the future. In addition, 80% of VRMs would recommend the event to a colleague – an impressive percentage for a virtual event. In a post-event survey, VRMs noted that comparing software, networking, and customization were the most valuable aspects of the experience – showing that it is achievable for dynamic virtual events to mimic the success of in-person events.
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