Not gonna lie.
Like so many other suppliers to the gaming and hospitality industry, we’re still recovering from the impacts of COVID on our business.
With that said, our “recovery” is NOT back to the same model built on 23 years in business. The crisis catapulted us to move future plans of new products and services to the forefront and develop new methods of supporting operators and suppliers. We can’t wait to tell you more about our remote training, the Raving Academy, and share our new training videos. Today, however, I want to tell you what we learned from going virtual with Raving NEXT Analytics and Marketing Conference and how it will impact future conferences.
Raving NEXT Virtual – a band-aid turns into a better model
In 2020, our industry saw the birth of virtual conferences. With our event being held annually at the end of January we had the advantage of experiencing other conferences and learning what worked and didn’t work as both a supplier (virtual exhibitor) and as an attendee. We also had the disadvantage of being last in a long line of events, several of them free, at the end of January 2021. Talk about over saturation and Zoom burnout!
We asked ourselves:
“How do we adapt our high-touch, immersive, live conference that we’ve spent years improving to this morphed Zoom experience?”
Initially, we approached this new technology as “one and done” – we were going to blow it out of the water, but probably wouldn’t use it again. However, the input and data we collected told us all of our efforts were an investment into the future.
Come try this experiment – we’re in this together
We pride ourselves on being transparent here at Raving. We told attendees – this is what we promise you and it will be different, but we need you to invest your time in this new technology. We told our sponsors, those who would traditionally work from a physical booth, “We’re not sure how many attendees we’ll have or how they’ll interact, but if you’re game and you trust us, we will give you some unique opportunities.”
The good news? We were absolutely amazed at the engagement of both the attendees and our exhibitors. And our attendee registration grew by 25%! Our sponsors want more.
When we researched different platforms and exploring the features, I don’t know how many times we asked, “Will anyone download the app? Will anyone care about a leaderboard? Will attendees visit exhibitor booths? Will they care about meet-ups?” The answer was yes; they came, and they cared.
The proof is in the data
As mentioned, we were amazed at the interaction, and apparently, our conference platform WHOVA was too! We were given an award for the Most Proficient Whova Customers Competition and our event was top-ranked in terms of attendee engagement as well as the overall ranking.
This is what happened:
What did we learn and how can this help the industry?
Although the pandemic was the catalyst to launch a virtual conference as well as for Raving to develop new tools and resources for the industry, it forced us to address a growing need in our industry. Here are a few insights:
- Many casinos would like to send many more team members to an educational event, but do not have the budget for travel and live conference fees.
- As we bring new generations into the casino gaming and hospitality world, live conferences (one-to-many presentations) may not hit the mark for how everyone learns.
- With no physical or time constraints, a virtual platform allows more classes and for different experience levels.
- Many attendees shared that they felt more comfortable interacting in a virtual space than in a live event (and it was very apparent from our data).
- We were able to provide more support material and not be constrained by printing costs or killing trees.
- Industry suppliers represent much more than an exhibit hall full of booths (which can be somewhat of a “hit and miss” in live events and an iffy proposition virtually)! They have a depth of knowledge to share. With the trust and support of all our sponsors, lead generation and interaction came from several new tools that we’d never have discovered outside of this virtual world.
So how do we utilize this data?
Raving is on to something here and we are building a new conference hybrid model that will combine both virtual tools into our live events moving forward. We ask suppliers to speak their piece by taking this survey here. Also please read our Big News #1 below.
We are in such gratitude to our attendees, our presenters, and our sponsors for making the leap of faith with us and engaging in Raving NEXT 2021, trying something new, and finding some amazing opportunities. You turned a potentially very challenging January into something worth celebrating.
And also, if there have been benefits to what we’ve gone through, it’s the collective sharing of information in our industry that we’ve witnessed like never before. We can’t thank enough the organizations that came before us that shared their hard-won lessons with us. Special kudos to SBC Gaming, NNHARA, BNP Media/Casino Journal, G2E, and TribalNet. They were willing to get on the phone with us and share their nuggets of learning from their first virtual conference.
Here’s to our amazing industry and to all of you. Let’s show the world our innovation, our passion and our resilience.