Last Thursday, we sat down with Michelle Juehring from Quad Cities Times Bix 7 and Stephanie O’Brien with The Banff Marathon, to hear about their experience working with a Virtual Event Bag. The Banff Marathon was a first-year customer utilizing our professional plan while Quad Cities is a second year returning customer with our standard plan. If you missed the webinar, you can watch the video, or check out the breakdown of what we talked about below.
Highlights of this post
- Video: Hear it for yourself
- The Panel Summary
- Attendee Q & A
The Panel Summary
1. Tell us about your events. 0:01
Michelle: Quad Cities Times Bix is a 7 is one of the largest non-marathon races in the Midwest. We just completed our 41st year and had around 15,000 – 20,000 runners.
Stephanie: The Banff Marathon is the world’s greenest marathon. We are on our second year, which sold out and had 1,500 runners participate.
2. Why did you choose a Virtual Event Bag? 1:53 – 3:17
Stephanie: Our goal is to achieve the greenest marathon in the world, while increasing sponsor and participant interaction .
Michelle: We came back to the product again because we love it, how easy it is to use, and the support we had from the VEB team. As the expo director, it also allowed me to invite and include vendors or sponsors that couldn’t be on-site due to staffing or time constraints.
3. How did you position the bag with your sponsors/vendors? 3:40 – 6:41
Michelle: Our vendors had never heard of this opportunity before, but we wanted to do something different for our 40th-anniversary event. We knew this was something that bigger races were doing, and that it made sense to do it. We priced the bag, so it was very affordable for vendors, they didn’t have to think twice about doing it, and we had great first-year participation.
Stephanie: With it being our inaugural year with the bag, we included it for more sponsors than we normally would’ve done. We added a sustainability feature as well as a national park stewardship feature by adding a transit bus pass in the bag along with a pass to the park museum. We also offered the regular smattering of discount coupons from our sponsors, but tried to make it appealing and different for everyone.
4. How did the platform make executing the bag easy? 7:15 – 9:49
Stephanie: The fact that the platform was automated was fantastic. I was able to schedule all of my notices and invites way in advance, and I was able just to keep an eye on it if I needed to tweak it. I didn’t have to think about it, and I knew they would go out without me having to do anything.
Michelle: What I like is that you don’t need any extra software to create content. As a small business owner, I could go online upload a jpeg, type in my information, and I was good to go. If an edit were needed, they could easily reach out to me directly, do it themselves, or have access to the VEB support team. The automation was another big factor for us; we could do it as far in advance as we wanted, and it was even easy to include late registrants in our second participant invitation.
5. What changes will you make for next year? 9:53 – 11:50
Stephanie: My number one change for next year will be in communication. It won’t be new anymore, and we want to make sure that they fully understand the value they are getting out of it. People are so busy these days, and it needs to be as simple and as clear as possible for them. The second will be the promotion of using the tool, and the third will be to have someone on my team be a point person for the content going in the bag and the sponsors.
Michelle: I would like to have more attention-grabbing examples to show the small businesses that we work with the potential of what they can do with their bag content.
6. Words of Wisdom? 11:53
Stephanie: For people thinking about using it for the first year, it really is a time saver. You’re not spending the nights prior to the event stuffing 1,000 + bags; you don’t have to store the bags anywhere, or run around collecting coupons . Second, I would also suggest that if you don’t already have a logo warehouse or a place where you are storing logos for your sponsors to do that. They aren’t always the best about knowing where that information is. The third piece of advice I would give is to have someone sponsor the bag. There is a lot of value in that title placement, and you can brand the background image however you want. Getting a sponsor to cover the cost of the bag is of real value to everyone else as well.
Michelle: Pricing it so that it’s a no-brainer was crucial and helpful for us and is something I would pass on. To our current exhibitors we priced it at $25, our sponsors were automatically included. If they were an exhibitor wanting to come into the expo, we priced it much higher so they could fully grasp the value.
Attendee Q & A
1.What were the price points you had for local vendors/sponsors in the bag? 16:00
Michelle: Current exhibitors were $25, if they were not it was $300. This year, we had two companies come in at that level, and it showed us the value of the bag.
Stephanie: If the sponsor or exhibitor was donating anything to offset our budget by $200 then we included the bag for them. However, I think we will be tweaking that strategy as we continue. We were trying to include as many of our key sponsors as we could.
2.What kinds of concerns have the sponsors expressed when you presented the virtual bag vs. a physical bag? 19:57
Stephanie: We forced the hand with this, we follow a purchase and procurement guide pretty steadily and with that it guides a lot of our decisions. We worked with our exhibitors in our expo to help educate them to make smart choices. We did not allow any paper print outs, handouts, or coupons, and we policed that as heavily as we could. They were hesitant with the bag at first, but once they saw it in action, they liked not having to spend money on printing those things out.
Michelle: Overall we found the bag well received by those who didn’t have the opportunity to be part of the expo in the prior years. They were still a little hesitant as Stephanie mentioned, but once they did it, the bag proved itself to them with the success.
3.What were some other ways you promoted the bag to your participants? 24:00
Michelle: We didn’t want to do too much too soon, and we used only the tools that the platform gave us and it worked just fine!
Stephanie: We promoted it heavily via social and digital media. (Banff Marathon had a participation rate of almost 85% of their audience in the bag!)
It never ceases to amaze us at VEB all the ingenious ways race directors use their bags. In our conversation with Stephanie and Michelle, one can see that no matter the size of your event, or the plan you choose, a virtual event bag can benefit you in a variety of ways. It can create a greener event, add extra value for your vendors and sponsors, allow you to have more time to focus on other important race day items, and provide you with an additional revenue opportunity. We are lucky to work with events like these on a day to day basis and we hope to share their successful ideas with you. So don’t be shy, reach out to us and learn about including a Virtual Event Bag into your next event!