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Meeting Management: Online By Barbara Palmer


Digitizing Your Skill Set


The Virtual Edge Institute’s new Digital Events Strategist certification offers meeting professionals a systematic approach to mastering virtual and hybrid programs.


In 2008,whenMichael Doyle began organizing the firstannualVirtualEdgeSummit—which edu- cates event producers,meeting planners, andmar- keting professionals on planning, producing, and managing virtualandhybrid events—thedemand for suchserviceswasgrowing annually by40to50 percent, Doyle said. It’s hasn’t slowed down since then:The adoption of virtual and hybrid event ele- ments by associations was predicted to triple in 2011, according toresearchcompiled byTagoras, a research and consulting firm. “I thinkmost peoplewouldbecomfortable say-


ing that the digitalside of events has emerged as one of the most dynamic and important areas in the meetings industry,” said Doyle, founder and direc- tor of the VirtualEdge Institute (VEI). But, aside from a core group of professionals who are very active in hybrid and virtual events, “most meeting planners have yet to begin to acquire digitalmeet- ing skills.Manyare just at the point of seeing that digital extensions not only won’t take away from their face-to-facemeetings, but, if done right, canbe extremely beneficial and lucrative, and can drive business andmarketing objectives.” But no one has taken a systematic approach to


helping organizations and planners understand how to plan and execute digital meeting compo- nents that meet their business objectives. Until now. Recently VEI announced the launch of a DigitalEvents Strategist(DES)certification program,


“Digital is here to stay. To be able to understand it now, rather than later, is vital to my career.”


32 pcma convene March 2012


which will offerastructured curriculum designed to help meeting professionals develop the skills they need to deliver comprehensive digital events and effectively engage online audiences. Classes can becompleted onlineandat industry events,andcan- didates can earn a DES certification by passing a written exam on the content.


Class Picture The initialDEScurriculumfocuses on the strategic aspects of virtualandhybrid events,Doyle said,and will give participants an“overview ofwhere things stand today in this fast-changing field.” Curriculum is divided 16 modules, which will cover topics includingknowingwhyandwhentoadddigital ele- ments toameeting,howtoassess the technologyand humanresources required,andtechniques formeas- uringandsustaining success. (SeeTakeAway, p.33.) Doyle said that about 50 people have indicated


they will enroll in the programwhen it gets under wayin June; there isnolimittohowmanypeoplecan worktoward earningaDESatonetime.Themeet- ing professionalswhohave alreadyexpressed inter- est in participating in the programhaveavariety of jobfunctions.Manyare eventmanagerswhowant to “get their arms arounddigitalevents andunder- standwhattheymean,”Doyle said,“howthey will impact their business, what it will cost, and what resources are required.” Others are what he called “event technologists”—peoplewhoworkinmar- keting or IT andwhoare focused primarilyondig- italmedia. And another group is service providers themselves—vendorswhoprovide digital services andtechnologistswhowant to learnmoreaboutthe logistics and operation of the events space. TheDESprogram, which was created and will


beadministeredbyVEI, is intendedto serve not only individualprofessionalsbut also themeetings indus- tryasawhole,Doylesaid, because it’ssimply toobig to have a small pool of people with digital-events skills.Andwhile the digital-events sector has yet to establish a consensus around what constitutes best


www.pcma.org


NO-RISK TRIAL: The DES certification is getting a jump-start from two industry organizations that have pledged a combined $150,000 in support of the program, including scholarship money for meeting professionals interested in pursuing the certification. The donations—$100,000 from bxb Online, a mar- keting agency specializ- ing in hybrid and online event strategies, and $50,000 from Freeman, the meetings and events services provider—were announced during the 2012 Virtual Edge Summit, which was co- located with PCMA 2012 Convening Leaders in San Diego in January. (PCMA has also made an investment in the Virtual Edge Institute.)


FOR MORE INFORMATION: To learn more about applying for scholarship funds, visit http://bit.ly Convene-DES.


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