Meeting and Events Australia
Meeting and Events Australia (MEA) is the largest and oldest association for event professionals in Australia. Representing the events sector which employs more than 229,000 professionals, MEA offers diverse programs centered around education, professional development, mentorship, and networking events throughout Australia.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic posed substantial challenges to the events industry, resulting in colossal job losses and a staggering 96% reduction in events. For those who continued to work in the space, this made MEA’s annual member conference more important than ever; however, the original Hunter Valley location was no longer viable. Recognizing the need to adapt in the face of the pandemic, MEA transitioned the event into a virtual environment using EventsAir’s OnAir virtual event platform.
The OnAir platform’s powerful functionality and flexibility proved instrumental in executing an ambitious program and facilitating effective communication between all stakeholders. MEA CEO, Roybn Johnson, said that the virtual event platform successfully replicated the facets of a traditional conference, through features like:
- Concurrent live sessions
- Virtual emcee
- Networking sessions
- Exhibition hall
- Wellness sessions (?)
- E-poster sessions
- Mainstream plenary sessions
- Virtual networking
- Meeting hub for 1-on-1 meetings
Johnson was able to attend the conference as a delegate, which she said gave her a unique opportunity to objectively experience and evaluate the event, commenting that she felt “extremely connected” and was “blown away by the flexibility of what the [OnAir] platform offered”. She also highlighted the ease of navigation around the conference and the important role the virtual emcee played in guiding people through the day.
“EventsAir has always been ahead of the game as far as IT goes in the event sector”Robyn Johnson, MEA CEO
MEA Board Member Kirsty Forbes – who also attended the event as a delegate – emphasized the importance of first impressions for an event, noting that mingling in the OnAir “foyer” before entering into the speaker sessions made it feel like a live event. Forbes also pointed to the diverse and multiple opportunities for interaction (including event networking, meeting hub, and virtual exhibitions), as integral to creating a “live” event atmosphere. “Using OnAir really brought it to life. It made you feel like you were attending a conference, not just another webinar, which I found incredibly valuable.” Forbes said.
As an event partner, event sponsorship functions such as the virtual exhibition and e-poster sessions were “invaluable for sponsors to be able to deliver their messages”, Forbes said. “As a platinum partner, I couldn’t have asked for a better [customer] support network and team around me. Our go-live team was amazing, no question was ever too hard.”
The end result
With over 550 attendees (surpassing the 500 target), the event received very positive feedback, with enjoying the experience, the momentum of the day, testing out the variety of different functions,, Forbes said.
“It was a learning for what [our members] can take away and utilize in their business, how they can pitch this to their clients, and take it to a new level in their own way.”
While acknowledging that virtual events can’t replace face-to-face interactions, the success of the OnAir platform for MEA conference demonstrated the potential for hybrid experiences, fostering connections in both virtual and physical spaces.
Robyn Johnson, MEA CEO
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend event organizers using virtual platforms for their events.