Academy of International Business
Learn how AIB created a valuable virtual conference for its members to overcome travel restrictions and lockdowns
The Academy of International Business (AIB) is an association of international business scholars who research issues affecting international business. It is a truly global association with 3500 members in 90 countries. One of its most important undertakings is the Annual AIB Conference, a physical event that brings people together from across the world.
With the implementation of global travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it became critical for AIB to find a way to provide its members with a virtual event that, while perhaps not being able to completely replace the physical conference, would still offer value to members.
The conference plays a crucial role in the professional development of AIB members, and the challenge was to provide an online experience that would allow attendees to reap the benefits of the physical conference – with the event just two months away. The OnAIR virtual and hybrid event solution by EventsAir made this possible.
“Our biggest challenge was to replicate the high-touch nature of the physical conference in the virtual setting,” said Dr Tunga Kiyak, Executive Director of AIB. “For many attendees, paper presentations at the annual conference open the door to promotion or tenure. For others, networking with fellow academics leads to new ideas for further research and the forging of future collaborations. Many students attend the developmental workshops on offer.”
The AIB leadership put together a taskforce that identified the priorities and the type of features they were looking for in the virtual event. They researched what was available to discover what their options were and how they could deliver the content.
“It became very clear to us early on that we needed a single, integrated platform that everything could be served from so that our attendees felt that they were all together in one place,” said Tunga.
After road-testing several different platforms, they came across OnAIR.
“The ease of use, intuitive interface, timeline, and variety of other features that OnAIR offered made it the perfect fit,” said Tunga.
With only two months to go before the conference, they contacted EventsAir to find out whether it would be possible to use the OnAIR platform in such a short time span. EventsAir took up the challenge.
"OnAIR offers a smorgasbord of features and we tried to take advantage of as many of them as possible,” said Tunga. “At the end of the day, we used the majority of the features.”
The conference offered more than 50 sessions through the OnAIR platform, including ePoster interactive presentations. AIB used the social networking groups feature to host a happy hour and introduction sessions, and the Meeting Hub for individual one-on-one connections.
Helping delegates feel truly connected
“The Meeting Hub turned out to be the biggest hit,” said Tunga. “The feedback we received time and again was that the Meeting Hub made the delegates feel connected to each other. They could find the people they wanted to connect with, set up meetings, talk to each other and have one-on-one video conferencing, while still at the conference, which made them feel that they were at a physical conference.”
Overcoming skepticism; overwhelmingly positive feedback
The AIB Conference hosted a total of 1255 attendees, the second highest attendance in AIB’s history. Attendees were overwhelmingly positive about the experience. A lot of them had come into the conference skeptical about what a virtual conference could offer and whether it could replicate the physical event in the virtual setting, but through the OnAIR platform they realized that it is possible to achieve a high level of engagement and they derived a lot of value from the experience.
The “can-do” attitude made the difference
“With all the other suppliers it was a case of ‘this is what we provide, find a way to fit your conference into our platform’,” said Tunga. “EventsAir had a different attitude. What they said was: ‘We want you to be successful, tell us what you need to do. Let us figure out together how we can actually make this work’.”
The EventsAir team found solutions
A couple of features were required that weren’t quite available yet and, despite being on a tight schedule, the EventsAir team were able to fast-track production. Through commitment to finding solutions, EventsAir were able to provide the new features in time for the conference.
“The fact that they were willing to make changes and accommodate us was the key,” said Tunga. “They were very helpful and friendly.”