As the recession kicked into high gear in 2009, business leaders started pulling marketing dollars from organizing and attending industry events. The economic pendulum seems to have swung to the positive side, and now tradeshows and virtual events have bounced back. What has changed in the past three years is that these events are no longer two- to three-day, stationary meeting places—they are now ongoing communities for organizers to network with their customers.
Perhaps the answer lies in how the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) is approaching its outreach. HBA is focused on leadership development for women in the healthcare field. With 15 chapters in the U.S. and Europe, today the HBA serves the needs of a 20,000 plus strong community of members and event attendees across a broad spectrum of the healthcare field worldwide.
While HBA was able to conduct high-level meetings within its chapters, it struggled to find a solution to reach the members that were neither near a chapter or even had an existing chapter close by.
The solution: Leadership Online, a customized platform where they could offer education, chat rooms, coaching, teleconferences, and even virtual rooms to house reference materials and other resources.
While some of these components may sound familiar, the key to their success is how they are using this platform. “We approached it differently than most organizations that create a virtual environment,” says Laurie Cooke, CEO of HBA. “Rather than thinking in terms of a one-day event, we wanted to build a community and encourage engagement over time. We were really looking for something that would feel like our local and global meetings to those who couldn’t attend them, and give them access to peers and leaders they might otherwise never have the chance to meet.”
Cooke worked with InterCall, to develop a three-month program called Leadership in Practice, which was an extension of HBA’s annual leadership conference in 2010. The program was created to allow participants to dig deeper into the content that was delivered at the conference. HBA also used the new platform to: offer live webcast training sessions, host text chats for participants, encourage speakers to develop blog posts on their content, and provide a 24/7 online community for participants to network and collaborate.
Comparing to its annual conference, Laurie Cooke, CEO of HBA, says: “Leadership in Practice was much more interactive…We have only scratched the surface of what Leadership can do. When we started, we had a target of adding 10 new members as a result of the program. Instead, we added 26. Of the roughly 300 participants, 75 percent were senior level or above.”
Members were also more likely to participate in the virtual environment. The benefits seem endless, there are new opportunities for learning and building upon that learning by the availability of the educational events offered. There is great personal value to the members who have access to peers from other prominent medical corporations, they’re able to seek professional advice, discover mentors, and find support from one another.