How to pivot in a time of change. Webconnex shows how to enable virtual events.
Businesses everywhere have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Event management platforms and organizers were one of the earliest and hardest hit industries.
We spoke with Ashley Mellott, Chief Operating Officer and Chief of Staff at Webconnex, who shared how the company has moved quickly to help its team and customers.
Can you give us a quick overview of Webconnex, what the company does and who your customers are?
Webconnex is the maker of the world’s most flexible fundraising and event management software. We process over $2M transactions per day for our customers; serving over 40,000 organizations world-wide with a team of only 40 people.
By design, we make sure our customers’ brand is front and center, not ours. We’ve worked with some of the world’s most well known brands like Google, Southwest Airlines, and Spotify – and our belief is that we know we’ve done our job well when people experience our registration, donation, or ticketing platform without knowing we exist.
How has the current COVID-19 crisis affected your business?
Our business largely depends on people signing up for live events hosted by our customers. In the face of this crisis, our primary goals have been two fold: One, keep our team intact. Two, be flexible and support our customers in new and creative ways.
In an effort to keep our team intact, we have gone to great lengths to cut every possible expense in order to preserve paychecks. We have also been working hard and burning the midnight oil to build new technology to meet the needs of our customers.
Our customers put their heart and soul into hosting amazing events and running impactful nonprofits. They have been hit hard and, because of financial insecurity, donations are beginning to see a drop.
What technology changes has Webconnex made to support your customers?
Our team worked around the clock to make sure our customers didn’t need to cancel their in-person event by getting our new virtual events functionality built and released quickly. The new solution allows any type of organization to accept payments and registrations, while having a path for monetizing digital content.
Even events planned for summer and early fall are impacted. We have found that event promoters are hesitant to promote events they are uncertain will take place. Likewise, many attendees are unwilling to buy tickets for fear they won’t receive a refund if the event is cancelled. We developed a new feature to address these anxieties and provide a worry-free registration experience. The new feature, due out next week, is called Pre-Registration. It allows attendees to register and put a card on file to be charged in the future once the event is confirmed. If the event is cancelled, they simply won’t be charged. It seems to be a great win-win for both the event promoter and attendee.
Another tool we developed for our church customers is the ability to embed their livestream directly into their donation page. Churches are now virtually hosting their services, so we developed a way for those tuning in from home to give back while they are watching the service. It is a fantastic pairing, as the viewer/donor doesn’t have to leave the livestream to find the donation page.
Event organizers, fitness trainers, teachers, doctors alike can use this functionality to livestream, or give immediate access to pre-recorded videos and downloadable content. Our software allows them to limit access to only those who sign up and/or pay to view it.
Here are a few great use cases on our platform and sister platforms – regfox.com and ticketspice.com – that we have found with virtual events:
- Conferences, workshops and any broad array of event types: They can custom brand their pages, set specific dates content is available or have it listed as on-demand.
- Fitness Classes: Now trainers don’t have to lose touch with their customer base. They can schedule and host livestream workouts or even sell workout plans.
- Live-Stream : So many musicians, magicians and other entertainers can bring their talent online.
- Telemedicine: This gives a path for doctors to easily pivot to online scheduling and conduct video appointments.
What advice would you give a business that handles events and ticketing to survive in the current climate and how might payments factor into that?
Our main strategy has been to be transparent and communicate often, think long-term but make short-term decisions and move quickly.
Moving quickly has been key. It doesn’t necessarily mean cancelling – there are ways to keep business flowing. For event organizers this could be charting into new and sometimes uncomfortable territories such as taking your event online, learning about livestreaming, hosting a webinar, sending transparent communications, etc.
We’ve seen a number of events ask if any of their registrants wish to donate their registration fees to help the event survive and registrants have been incredibly gracious.
How should event and ticketing businesses think about their operations going forward?
We believe difficult times can also provide incredible opportunities. For event promoters, there are very interesting aspects of hosting a virtual event. They no longer have to pay for venue or rental fees. There is far less coordinating as far as volunteers, parking, food/beverages, entrances/exits, bathrooms, etc. There are creative ways to demonstrate value in featuring sponsors, vendors, etc.
For organizations like gyms, yoga studios, and boxing venues they can still maintain a fun and close connection with their community through livestreams and online competitions. We’re all thinking outside the box to answer questions like: What are my customer’s current challenges? How can I be relevant during this time? Who do I want my organization to be on the other side of this pandemic?
Are there specific customers that come to mind who quickly adapted to virtual events? Any success stories?
We’ve had a bunch of customers take advantage of the new virtual events technology. Here are just a few who have been successful at taking their event online:
- Digital Drive-In: http://digitaldriveinaz.com/
- Q Ideas: https://qideas.org/events/
- Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council: https://www.sustainablepurchasing.org/summit20/
- Praxis: https://summit.praxislabs.org/
What are some things that have helped you cope? Or things you’ve heard your colleagues done?
As a company we have been committed to communicating often and communicating transparently with our team. We’ve hosted company-wide weekly, sometimes daily, Town Halls via Zoom, to talk openly and honestly with one another on any topic.
We have a Slack channel called “goodnews” to post customer praise, fun new signups, something great that has happened with kids or family, etc. It has been really energizing as a way for us to maintain focus but be thankful for the good things that are going on in midst of the current state of the country.
Additional resources for running virtual and online events