In 2021, facing the ever-changing landscape of the COVID pandemic, the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) decided to proceed with their first Virtual Conference in the organization’s history. Hoping to stand out in a sea of virtual events, Bostrom staff worked with AASECT’s leadership, vendors, and volunteer planning committee members to build a highly interactive event that increased connection among members at a critical time in their profession.
In alignment with the organization’s mission, priority was placed on bringing high-quality virtual education and connection to our conference attendees. Additionally, in alignment with AASECT’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion-centered Strategic Plan, AASECT wanted to create a Virtual Conference experience that was affordable, inclusive and accessible to all attendees.
Virtual Networking & Connection
Affordability via Self-select Fee Scale
Focus on Accessibility & Inclusion
“Nothing fully replaces being together in-person, but it was our hope that we could create an exciting, accessible virtual event full of high-quality education that would offer our members connection and community.”
Executive Director, AASECT
Solution for Success
Several new initiatives were implemented to offer the attendees a virtual event that would meet these goals:
- Virtual Exhibit Hall: Using an interactive conference platform with a virtual exhibit hall AASECT increased revenue and connected attendees through live video chat to their vendors.
- Virtual Networking & Connection: Including a second virtual Networking platform, attendees could use avatars to engage in live conversations and networking. Like bumping into someone in the hallway of an in-person event, in the virtual networking space, attendees could join casual conversations, connect with speakers after their workshops, and find the connection that is often lost in a virtual space.
- Affordability: Given the challenges of the pandemic, and the financial strain it placed on some of AASECT’s members, keeping the conference affordable was key to drive attendance. For the first time ever, a self-select scale for registration fees was introduced which included a special rate for financial hardship.
- Accessibility: All events were closed captioned and live transcripts were available during every session.
- Inclusion: An open-ended question for special needs accommodations was included in the registration process and personal outreach by staff ensured those needs were met.
- Education On-Demand: All educational sessions were recorded and made available to attendees on-demand for the remainder of the year at no additional cost. This allowed attendees the flexibility of attending educational events and gaining valuable CE credits whenever they fit best with their schedule.
“The ability of our Bostrom team to so effortlessly pivot from an in-person conference to a virtual conference saved us. They were able to utilize the many resources at their disposal and put together a fabulous experience. The conference was better than expected and we received rave reviews from our attendees.”
Chris Fariello, PhD, MA, LMFT, CSE, CST, CSTS
Despite the challenges of the current landscape, the AASECT 2021 Virtual Conference was extremely successful – both from the attendee perspective as well as the financial perspective.
Shifting pre-conference workshops to a virtual space resulted in the highest number of attendees ever.
Attendance was nearly as high as the last in-person conference with over 800 registered attendees.
The event’s overall evaluation results were extremely positive
Accessibility was noted as the number one key driver for attendance in nearly 20% of attendees.
Because AASECT was able to keep expenses down and keep registration costs accessible to drive attendance, the conference was more financially successful than some recent in-person events.