We love sharing client success stories, and this is one of our favorites thus far.
A long-time client of Cowtown Creative, O’Brien Engineering trusts our team to handle the company’s overall marketing strategy. We periodically add new tasks as the need arises. In February of 2021, the client came to us for help organizing a virtual, 1-day conference for the Society of American Military Engineers Fort Worth Post. Historically, the small business and government networking and information sharing conference was an in-person event, but 2020 threw the client a COVID curveball. Having organized and managed a smaller version of the event virtually in 2020, the client called in Cowtown for some much-needed backup for the 2021 event.
“This is a critical event for the Post’s members and government agencies as it brings the two groups together and helps both execute on their respective jobs better,” explained Sarah O’Brien, who spearheaded the event for the SAME Fort Worth Post as a representative of its host, O’Brien Engineering. “Proceeds for the event go to the Post’s Scholarship Fund, allocated for incoming STEM undergraduate and graduate students.”
The 2019 in-person event generated $30,000 in scholarship funds, O’Brien reported. The 2020 COVID pivot had a crippling impact on sponsorship fundraising, and Cowtown was called in to produce and manage the 2021 online conference.
Virtual Event Management: Getting Started
One of our first tasks after learning more from the client about event history and strategy was to research and identify an online conference platform that offered some unique functionality for this well-attended event. One of the highlights of the conference is an afternoon of networking break-out sessions where small business owners meet face-to-face with private business and government agency representatives to discuss upcoming contract opportunities and respective bid processes.
We managed to find a platform that didn’t exactly offer that functionality, but did offer an integration with WebEx meeting rooms. In just 30 days, we set up a conference website through the event hosting platform and launched pre-conference ticket and sponsorship sales and networking forums. That’s when the real work began.
Stakeholder Communications Strategy
The key to successful event management is promotions and consistent communication. That requires an integrated communications strategy and a day-by-day breakdown of stakeholder communications and touchpoints that nurture target audiences on their journey through the conversion funnel. Through the event platform and other, already established channels, we communicated with conference speakers, potential sponsors, and prospective attendees to ensure the conference was informative and offered valuable contract and peer networking opportunities.
Event Coordination and Management
While building the community of ticket-holders and sponsors well before the event through the conference site, we worked to plan the conference itself. We developed and shared documents and how-to videos for attendees, speakers, and breakout session leaders to guide them through successful use of the online platform. Our team collected speaker presentations and put them into a branded conference template, held practice sessions, and recorded backup presentations as a contingency for speaker technical difficulties. We fielded questions from attendees and speakers, and implemented a multi-layered communications strategy to build engagement and excitement around the event.
Conference Onsite Management
Managing a virtual event is, in many ways, similar to managing an in-person event. The SAME event had special considerations that required a unique approach.
“Cowtown had to deliver a very individualized solution for our event, in part because of the restrictions we had with our government representatives’ participation,” O’Brien explained. “We also wanted to deliver effective individualized networking amongst participants.”
While running speaker presentations, coordinating with the event emcee, and managing transitions between speakers (in separate virtual conference rooms), our team also fielded questions and comments in chat rooms. The result of over-planning and developing contingencies and redundancies for remote event management was an online event that ran smoothly and was well-received throughout the speaker, sponsor, and attendee community. The networking platform and all speaker videos and presentation files remained accessible for three months after the conference, while the mobile app was live and adding value for all stakeholders a full six months after the 42 breakout rooms signed off for the day.
“Solely because we had Cowtown on our team were we able to provide an outstanding service to the participants,” O’Brien added. “The feedback has been tremendous, and we are so grateful for Cowtown Creative and their team of consummate, resourceful, and knowledgeable professionals.”
Potentially Life-Changing Event Success
The client and our team were pleased with the success of the event and all the positive feedback we received through post-event surveys, yet our biggest win will benefit future scholarship recipients.
“Thanks to Cowtown Creative’s experience, industry knowledge, and expertise in virtual event management, we were able to offer our members and government participants significant value for our 2021 conference,” O’Brien reported. “This value resulted in a more than 10-fold increase in the contributions we were able to contribute to our scholarship fund over 2020’s revenue and a healthy increase over our best in-person year as well!”
If you’re planning an in-person, virtual, or blended conference or event and don’t know where to start, contact Cowtown Creative for a free 30-minute consultation to start a conversation about the support you need to meet and exceed your event goals. Our team has the experience and dedication to coordinate any event planning need, from strategy to after-action surveys and reporting.