For part three of our Events Going Virtual series, we caught up with Megan Ramirez, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses SocietyTM (WOCN®). “It’s WOCN for short,” she says with a chuckle.
Megan leads marketing and strategy for the organization of 5,000+ members, along with the help of two full-time marketers and an outside firm. As many organizations did, Megan and the WOCN team had big plans for 2020. One of those plans included hosting their annual education event, WOCNext; a time-honored tradition since 1968.
Since many WOCN members belong to multiple professional organizations, the WOCN team kept a close watch on what other industry events were doing in light of the pandemic. Unfortunately, many canceled. For WOCN, canceling was not an option.
With their conference slated for June in Cleveland, the WOCN Board of Directors, National Conference Planning Committee and staff made the difficult decision to transition to an entirely virtual event sometime in April. Looking back, making the transition to a fully virtual event “was definitely the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my career,” she said, “but ultimately we were doing it for our members.”
As healthcare workers, WOCN members are on the frontlines; so Megan and her team pushed on to deliver an event that not only supported their professional growth but encouraged their personal wellbeing.“We really wanted to give them this event to help take their minds off of everything, to give them that time to breathe and focus on themselves... A big theme of our event was wellness, and it wasn't only wellness for their patients, it was wellness for themselves as caregivers. It was really important to pull this off and pivot in a timely fashion," she said.
With two months to take their event virtual, they faced a host of new challenges: learning new technologies, effectively communicating changes to members and partners, shifting marketing strategies, whittling down the number of sessions, all while trying to reach a bigger audience than ever before.
In hopes of casting the widest net and supporting as many wound, ostomy, and continence (WOC) care specialists as possible, WOCN made their conference free for members to attend and simultaneously lowered their annual membership fees. As a result, they grew by ~900 new members and are still seeing an increase in membership growth long after the event.
Despite all the unknowns and constantly shifting plans, Megan and her team appreciated the flexibility and ease of managing all of their campaigns all in one place.
"Feathr really helped us pause things rather quickly and restart new campaigns as changes were being made to our event so that was really helpful; and we actually saw a lot of really great results... I was really happy with what we were able to get out of the campaigns that we were actually able to pull off this year,” she said.
Original ad for WOCNext 2020
Revised ad for fully virtual event
Since the 2020 event was free for members to attend, their ROI from advertising naturally wasn't as high as it was in previous years. “For our events last year, I was just completely blown away with the ROI for our campaigns. It was a little different this year, but we were still getting our messaging, and our brand, out there; and I think that's equally as important," she noted.
As for making the event entirely virtual, WOCN certainly had a leg up. For the last 10 years or so, they’ve included virtual components for their events in some way or another through the livestreaming of education sessions and some virtual engagement. According to Megan, “We've done live streaming for specific sessions from our event every year, so pivoting to fully virtual wasn't as scary.” The real challenge was scale. In the end, they managed to run 40 sessions with over 50 speakers from the safety of their own homes.
For WOCNext 2021, the organization is planning a hybrid event in Orlando, Florida that includes a healthy mix of virtual and in-person sessions. Between not knowing what the future holds in regard to the pandemic and understanding that, “not everyone can come to a physical event every year…," Megan believes, “it's important to consider virtual event options for all events moving forward.”
The Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses Society™ (WOCN®) is a professional community dedicated to advancing the practice and delivery of expert healthcare to individuals with wound, ostomy, and continence care needs. To learn more, visit wocn.org.