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The Rise of Digital Events

By Sherrif Karamat, CEO of PCMA (SIIA Partner Post)

Recognizing a need by members for guidance about building digital events, SIIA is excited to announce a partnership with PCMA, the world’s largest platform for business events strategists and their business partners. PCMA has a wealth of intelligence and resources about planning successful events both in person and online, and we will be sharing some of this with you, like this article from PCMA CEO about the rise of digital events.  Watch for information about an SIIA exclusive Q&A webinar with a PCMA expert soon!

Our cover story for the May-June issue of Convene traces how — in record time — we’ve come to take a more strategic approach to virtual events.

My preference is to call them digital events rather than “virtual” events, because “virtual” can be defined as “almost or nearly as described, but not completely.” And as we have come to realize as an industry, a digital event is an actual event. It just takes place in a different channel. We all have had to reshape our business models in warp speed, from live in-person events to those that take place on a screen, but our value proposition is not what has changed; the way we deliver it has.

We think live events will resume in phases in a “living with” COVID-19 world — because we can’t call it a post-COVID world until we have a vaccine or at least an effective treatment for the virus. Once we are past the crisis period — meaning the rates of infection drop significantly and travel restrictions are lifted — it’s expected that the first phase will mean smaller, local and regional events. In fact, in the third of our Recovery Dashboard surveys, in which 1,388 events industry professionals participated, more than half said that small, local events best described the recovery scenario. Smaller events will have to scale by taking an omni-channel approach to reach a wider audience.

The truth is, none of us knows the timing or way in which our industry will recover. VUCA — coined by the U.S. Army in the 1990s to describe the post-Cold War world — was never more apt for the world we’re in: volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.

And while it’s an understatement to call our current situation disruptive, “disruptive innovation,” which also became part of the business lexicon during the ’90s, seems to apply to digital events. Over the decades, disruptive innovation has been misunderstood to mean breakthrough technologies that make good products better. But Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen introduced the term to describe how products and services become more widely accessible and affordable when we have three things: enabling technology, an innovative business model that targets former non-consumers, and a coherent value network which benefits suppliers, partners, distributors, and customers.

We can’t minimize the suffering and loss of life caused by COVID-19. Nor do we yet know the full impact of its economic damage. But perhaps one day it will be seen as an agent for disruptive innovation, a time when the face-to-face industry fully embraced digital events and it became a value network for all our stakeholders.

Make no mistake: I can’t wait until we meet again in person. At the same time, I’m looking forward to seeing how we get more creative about meeting — and meeting our audiences’ needs in new ways.

Seeking to help provide business events strategists with access to the most reliable sources of information during this crisis, PCMA has created a website page, What Business Events Professionals Need to Know About the COVID-19. The page provides facts, figures, and the latest news about COVID-19 and how our industry is navigating the situation.

As a global network of events professionals, PCMA knows that the ability to plan and launch a digital event has never been more important to our industry. The Digital Event Strategist (DES) course can elevate your expertise on your schedule. It also lays the groundwork for the full DES certification — a designation that will help you stand out as an authority in an increasingly crowded field. 

Do you need to create a seamless digital event as soon as possible? PCMA has developed the Digital Event Fast Track, a collection of core lessons from our DES course, to help you meet your accelerated deadline. Use code SIIA when you register, and visit the PCMA Digital Experience Institute to learn more about the DES certification, the Digital Event Fast Track and solutions like coaching and consulting.

View over businesslady shoulder seated at workplace desk look at computer screen where collage of many diverse people involved at video conference negotiations activity, modern app tech usage concept

Tips for Growing Relationships with Coworkers While Working Remotely

By Ronn Levine Originally posted May 29. 2020 on SIPA

So like everyone else, I’ve been Zooming and Google Meeting and Go-to-Webinaring, and staring at myself in those various boxes. And there has been a lot of good stuff. SIPA 2020 was incredible. All of the sessions had live Q&As, so audiences were able to get specific questions answered. In fact, that’s probably one advantage a virtual conference has over an in-person one—you can get more specific questions answered, if not right then than later on.


While the loss of networking at in-person events has been talked about plenty, there has been less talk about the advantages of the office that we’ve lost. And at least for now, how to replace them.

All collaborative work does not get done in structured meetings. Many times, I would amble over to a coworkers office and we would talk something out. There’s more ease in person. When you’re writing communication, you really have to examine every word so there’s no misinterpretation, And even then, tone is lost. I have talked by Slack phone a few times, and that’s better, so I would at least encourage that. You can hear if someone is frustrated. You can laugh together without the smiley faces.

Schedule one-on-one time with colleagues. We have so many group meetings now that you don’t get to discuss things individually with someone as much. And we all know you’re not going to get the same candor in a group meeting that you would get in a one-on-one meeting. There are more people to possibly offend, less time to talk because of the numbers, and more opportunity to multi-task. It’s easy to lose touch with what is really going on without one-on-one meetings, especially boss to employees.

The proverbial water cooler conversation. Do we ever really say water cooler other than for “water cooler” conversation? At our office, we had a water fountain that people avoided like the… forget it. Anyway, it’s true that I would see Dan our incomparable IT guy or James our registration guru, and we would resolve a potential problem in the hallway. Can this be replaced? An article last year said that a recent MIT research project actually proved that the ‘water cooler effect’ increases employee productivity by 10-15%. So…

Encourage more “coffee breaks” with a colleague. That MIT research team suggested that encouraging shorter and more frequent breaks in the workday could be the key to allowing deeper, more authentic relationships between employees to be built. Now this was pre-pandemic, but it may have more validity now. Yes, everyone has a different schedule, but still designating 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. 10-15 minute one-on-one chats could be good. I would say especially the afternoon—I sense an energy drain then, where a coffee break conversation would be a good pick-me-up. Call it speed colleaguing.

Continue to reward innovation. A real risk with remote workers is that team members feel isolated and alone—especially if they live alone these days—and worse yet, that their good work goes unrecognized. Set up a formalized company program that shows appreciation and rewards workers for collaboration, engagement with the company’s mission, and interaction with fellow team members—again, even in one-on-one situations—who are working toward the same goals.

Encourage everyone to use their camera; supply them with one if they don’t have. In a SIPA webinar on managing remote work last fall, Dan Fink, managing director of Money-Media, said that “frequency of cameras being disabled has become an [engagement] issue that we’ve tried to address. We are encouraging people to use the video component. Audio is one element, but video another; it really enhances it… It really does make a significant difference.” In the two one-on-one interviews I did with the SIPA 2020 keynotes, Don Harkey and Krystle Kopacz, being able to see them did make it a different experience. I’ve done interviews by phone all my life and those are fine. But as far as making a connection, the video, as Fink said, enhanced tha


Navigating the CARES Act – How to Use the Coronavirus Stimulus Package to Benefit Your Business

An SIIA Webinar

Following passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) on March 25th, SIIA invited the experienced lawyers of Nelson Mullins to provide a deep-dive into the trillion dollar stimulus package – reviewing what’s included, who is eligible, and how to apply.  In particular, the team discussed:

  • Paycheck Protection Program – who is eligible and for how much?
  • Loan Forgiveness – does the PPP have to be paid back?
  • What are allowable uses of PPP loans?
  • Affiliation rules – Does the fact the company is controlled by a private equity firm render them ineligible?
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program – who is eligible and how much?
  • Emergency Grants – request, timing and eligible uses.
  • What are the affiliation rules for the EIDL loans?
Incandescent bulb and colorful notes on turquoise wooden table. This file is cleaned and retouched.

Sponsorship Ideas for a Virtual Conference

By Ronn Levine Originally posted May 29. 2020 on SIPA


You’ve converted one of your premier events to a virtual event. How do you keep your sponsors? Do you adjust their pricing? Change the time period? Give more guarantees?

The Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University had their Collaborative Journalism Summit set for Charlotte, N.C. on May 14–15. Then, of course, they had to go virtual. “We let our sponsors know that several of their packages would have to change since we weren’t hosting in person,” they wrote on NiemanLab. “Every confirmed sponsor stuck with us, even our North Carolina-based sponsors—a testament to their commitment to collaborative journalism and knowledge sharing. The new sponsorship package included showing on-screen sponsor slides and messaging during the conference, and sharing links in the chat.”

But in the end, they said that if they do another virtual conference, they would do some things differently. “[We would] completely recreate sponsor packages. We mostly focused on converting the in-person components of our sponsor packages into virtual components this year. Next time, we’ll focus on fundamentally reimagining what sponsorship looks like in a 100-percent-virtual setting.”

Other ideas:

Position your sponsors differently. An ASAE article said that Instead of refunding conference sponsorship fees or transferring this year’s sponsorship to next year, organizations can benefit by finding new ways to position sponsors as supporting your audience. For example, sponsors could provide information to help your audience/members with challenges identified in recent surveys, issues related to changes in the marketplace, or new pain points as a result of the coronavirus.

Continue to connect buyers and sellers. “Why does someone buy into an event?” SIPA 2020 keynote speaker Krystle Kopacz asked. “I’ve been working with a couple clients—why does someone spend a ton of money to host a booth? They want to have face-to-face conversations with possible clients. So how does the lack of live events across the industry affect us? What does that do to lead generation efforts? And how are you refilling that pipeline? Publishers still have a key role to play between buyers and sellers. There are many ways you can mimic what live events do.”

Forfeit some revenue now for goodwill. “…There are brands that have done a good job of sticking up their hand to say, ‘We understand you, we’re with you, and we’re not trying to sell you anything right now, we just want to engage,'” said Steve Stoute, founder and CEO of Translation in a Fast Company article. “I think that’s the work that’s resonated the most for me. Brands with good intentions. They’re selling something at a discount that you need. They’re speaking to you in a way that seems empathetic to what you’re going through.”

Rebrand the sponsorship for a longer period. Identify the various ways to provide your conference sponsors with “replacement value” throughout the year. This could include podcast mentions, dissemination of thought leadership content, webinars, social media campaigns, outreach to a specific demographic of your members, promotion of each company’s webinars or seminars, and so forth.

Give more gravitas to the virtual event. The Center for Cooperative Media said that they were so successful in their conversion to the virtual event that they will keep an in-place component for future conferences. “We were able to include so many more people this year by hosting in place that we’re now thinking about making a live, interactive virtual conference a permanent part of the Summit for as long as the Summit exists.” They actually made their tickets free, but registration increased so much that more sponsors signed on.

Keep everything as is because these virtual events may be the future. Companies are actually starting to take advantage of the way we’re doing things now. Margaret Johnson, a partner and chief creative officer at Goodby Silverstein + Partners, said that for a Panera commercial, “We’re getting drivers to shoot themselves with their phones on their delivery routes, texting us the takes, then we’re texting back notes and direction on how to do it again differently. It all seems so foreign at first, but you quickly adapt. I believe the people who haven’t really embraced this new world will be in big trouble


27 First Place Winners Announced for the 2020 SIPAwards Competition

For Immediate Release:
SIIA Contact: Ronn Levine, (703) 338-7494

27 First Place Winners Announced for the 2020 SIPAwards Competition

WASHINGTON, DC (June 2, 2020) – In a live, virtual ceremony, the Specialized Information Publishers Association (SIPA) today named 27 first-place winners in its 41st annual SIPAwards competition, recognizing excellence among publishers in editorial, marketing and product success. The winners were announced following the virtual SIPA 2020 Annual Conference June 1-2.

“The SIPAwards showcase the top-notch journalism and valuable solutions specialized publishers provide for the niche communities they serve across the globe,” said SIIA President Jeff Joseph. “Now more than ever, we wanted to take a moment to celebrate the editorial excellence provided by this crucial marketplace. SIPA members inform news and trends in industries that are the backbone of the global economy.”

Multiple category first-place winners include BioWorld, Money-Media, Relias, Behr’s Verlag, Industry Dive and Communications Daily. The judging was conducted by 30 specially chosen industry peers. Two special awards were given: The David Swit Award for Best Investigative Reporting went to Education Week for “Schools Are Deploying Massive Digital Surveillance Systems. The Results Are Alarming.” And the Margie Weiner Award for Best New Success Story went to for their pre-pandemic Zoom On In sessions.
“We heartily congratulate all of the winners on their exceptional content, successful marketing initiatives, and impressive product success,” said Amanda McMaster, SIPA’s managing director. “The winning entries truly embody the spirit of the awards, which is to continue to exceed industry standards and set new benchmarks for performance and efficiency.”
Here are the 2020 SIPAward first-place winners. For a complete listing, please see the SIPAwards website.

Editorial Categories

  • Best Blog or Commentary
    Magna Publications
    For Those Who Teach
    Maryellen Weimer
  • Best Daily Publication
    BioWorld – The Daily Biopharmaceutical News Source
    Lynn Yoffee, Jennifer Boggs, Michael Fitzhugh, Karen Carey, Peter Winter, Anette Breindl, Randy Osborne, Lee Landenberger, Mari
  • Best Editorial Video Work
    FundFire – Money-Media
    What Are Opportunity Zones? FundFire Explainer
    Tom Stabile, TJ Fabian, Deepti Agnew
  • Best Instructional, Scientific or Technical Reporting
    Relias Media
    “Code Melancholia: A Review of Depression for Emergency Physicians,” Emergency Medicine Reports
    Frank J. Edwards, MD; Sandra M. Schneider, MD; J. Stephan Stapczynski, MD; and Shelly Morrow Mark
  • Best Interpretive or Analytical Reporting: Business/Marketing/Other (tie)
    SHRM Online
    All the Lonely People
    Agenda – Money-Media
    A Window Into One Board’s Executive Comp Overhaul
    Amanda Gerut
  • Best Interpretive or Analytical Reporting: Financial/Investing
    Bitter Harvest
    Maura Webber Sadovi, Maria Chutchian, Farhin Lilywala and Paula Seligson
  • Best Interpretive or Analytical Reporting: Health Care/Regulatory/Education
    Industry Dive – BioPharma Dive
    Jacob Bell, Ned Pagliarulo, Kim Dixon
  • Best Interview or Profile of Someone in Your Industry
    Industry Dive – Food Dive
    With the Dairy Industry in a Sour State, Borden CEO Plots Comeback for One-Time Milk Giant
    Christopher Doering and Megan Poinski
  • Best Newsletter or Ezine (non-daily): Business/Marketing/Other
    The Habitat Group
    Commercial Lease Law Insider
    Glenn S. Demby
  • Best Newsletter or Ezine (non-daily): Financial/Investing
    Irving Levin Associates
    Health Care M&A News
    Lisa E. Phillips, Dylan Sammut
  • Best Newsletter or Ezine (non-daily): Health Care/Regulatory/Education
    Relias Media
    Hospital Infection Control & Prevention
    Gary Evans; Patrick Joseph, MD; and Jason Schneider
  • Best Podcast
    Behr’s Akademie
    Report for the Food Industry: Best Podcast on iTunes After 5 Days
    Arno Langbehn, Deniz Dag and Jette Heinsohn
  • Best Series of Articles on One Topic –Business/Marketing/OtheR
    Energy Intelligence Group
    Flaring in the Permian
    Deon Daugherty
  • Best Series of Articles on One Topic – Financial/Investing
    Life Annuity Specialist – Money-Media
    Clashing Over Claims
    Richard Bedard, Rachael Zisk, Daphne Zhang
  • Best Series of Articles on One Topic – Health Care/Regulatory/Education
    Transforming Drug, Med-Tech R&D With AI
    Karen Carey, Mark McCarty, Mari Serebrov, Elise Mak, Jihyun Kim, Tamra Sami, T.V. Padma, Anette Breindl, Stacy Lawrence, Peter
  • Best Single Feature Article
    Agenda – Money-Media
    How Directors Are Dealing With Gun Violence
    Stephanie Forshee and Jennifer Williams-Alvarez
  • Best Single-Topic Special Publication
    Communications Daily
    Special Report on Emergency Communications
    Adam Bender, Howard Buskirk, Matt Daneman, Jonathan Make, Jimm Phillips and Monty Tayloe
  • Best Spot News or Single News Article
    Communications Daily
    Spot Coverage of Net Neutrality
    Adam Bender, Howard Buskirk, Matt Daneman and Jimm Phillips
  • Best Use of Data
    FundFire – Money-Media
    Just Nine Foundations Control Over 30% of the Market
    Alana Pipe
  • The David Swit Award for Best Investigative Reporting
    Education Week
    Schools Are Deploying Massive Digital Surveillance Systems. The Results Are Alarming
    Benjamin Herold, Maya Riser-Kositsky, Emma Patti Harris, Lesli Maxwell

Marketing Categories

  • Best Awards Program
    Government Executive Media Group
    Government Hall of Fame
  • Best Infographic
    Biopharma Stocks Up 26% on Average Since Debut with Karuna
    Karen Carey
  • Best New or Relaunched Website
    Hello Future, Goodbye pdf: BioWorld Delivers News of Medical Innovation on New Modern Platform
    Lynn Yoffee, John Borgman, Cean Howman, Andrea Applegate, Ann Marie Griffith, Amanda Lanier, Holland Johnson, Jennifer Boggs,
  • Best Use of Social Media
    Behr’s Publishing House
    Musical Birthday Greetings to Xing Contacts
    Arno Langbeh, Jette Heinsohn and Deniz Dag
  • Best Use of Video in Marketing
    Behr’s GmbH
    Strange New World: Today the Company Applies to the Applicant
    Arno Langbehn, Jette Heinsohn and Deniz Dag
  • Best Webinar, eLearning or Online Training Program
    Informa Pharma Intelligence
    Delighting the Customer: Pharma Intelligence Journalists’ Coverage of Real-World Evidence
    Bridget Silverman, Mary-Jo Laffler, Raj Bahra
  • Margie Weiner Award for Best New Success Story?
    Zoom On In Copyright
    Lesley Ellen Harris
  • About Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA)
    SIIA is an umbrella association representing 800+ technology, data and media companies globally. Industry leaders work through SIIA’s divisions to address issues and challenges that impact their industry segments with the goal of driving innovation and growth for the industry and each member company.  This is accomplished through in-person and online business development opportunities, peer networking, corporate education, intellectual property protection and government relations. For more information, visit