It was launched at a face-to-face meeting, but built its momentum through a two-day online rally that attracted a small wave of attention from across North America and beyond.
With a clever mix of communication and outreach tools, the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation’s Stem Cell Charter is a learning opportunity for meeting professionals. It’s a Web-based, interactive document that affirms stem-cell research and invites viewers to pledge their support for responsible stem-cell science. While our industry debates the trade-offs between live and virtual events, the Canadian foundation is promoting the Charter with astrategy that combines both.
Because stem-cell research offers hope for those with muscular dystrophy, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, spinal-cord injuries, and many other illnesses, many readers will have a personal interest in this charter, but from a professional perspective alone, it’s interesting to see the mix of tools, live and virtual, used to deliver the message.
“There was a time when the reflex would have been, ‘we’d better have a conference,’” said Trefor Munn-Venn, the CSCF’s vice president, operations and development. “Now, we’re saying there are a lot of ways to reach people and communicate and interact with them.” With a menu of options that includes face-to-face, the online rally, e-mail, and, “we’re weighing the right combination of all these things in a long-term program, moving back and forth between different distribution channels to either reach new people or reinforce messages” with existing audiences.
Onsite, “we’re seeing a blurring between hosting a conference, speaking at a conference, or sponsoring a conference with a booth,” Munn-Venn said. “At the last event we attended, we were asked to speak, so we did. We had a booth with computer stations and used that physical space to drive people online, so we could interact with them afterwards.”
Meanwhile, the Web site is generating the same kind of dynamic dialogue that creates the buzz at a live event. “It’s in that process of interaction and discovery that you suddenly make these unexpected connections,” he said. “All of those things happen at a conference, but they’re happening much more often now online.”
The other message for meeting professionals is that the client of the future—and some of the niftiest, most interesting clients out there—will expect vendors to understand what they’re trying to achieve, onsite and online. “The ones who want to know how many square feet or bedrooms we need aren’t exactly a partner in achieving our organization’s objectives,” Munn-Venn said. “When they ask who we’re trying to reach, what we’re trying to get across, what we’re trying to accomplish, those first 60 seconds of conversation give us incredible clues as to how effective the experience is likely to be.”
(The online rally has ended, but you can still sign up to show your support for stem cell research.)
Mitchell Beer, CMM, is president and CEO of The Conference Publishers Inc., one of the world’s leading specialists in capturing and repurposing conference content. Beer blogs at theconferencepublishers.com/blog. Send comments, facts, arguments, or column ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.