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3 Takeaways From a Summer of Virtual Events

Instead of traveling to any conferences or events this year, I found myself attending them at home in front of a computer screen. I presented for AFP Genesee Valley and YNPN National, as well as attended INBOUND20 and other various virtual webinars and conferences.

It was interesting to see how each organization handled their online events, and while I’m sure I could present an all-day conference of my own just on what I learned from other organizations, I was able to narrow things down to a couple points per conference.

Here are 3 takeaways from a summer of virtual events:

AFP – Genesee Valley

The topic that we presented during this event was “Annual Campaign: Best Practices for a Successful Fundraising Campaign” which was targeted to small nonprofit organizations and their fundraising campaigns.

We put together a list of things that help improve response to fundraising appeals, and the one thing that stood out the most was importance of personalization in your outreach and being thankful in your follow up.

After the event, we mailed a thank you note and copy of our “Direct Mail Best Practices” booklet that was published this year.

This event was our first official foray into virtual events for the year. We had presented several online presentations in the past via webinars and lunch and learns, but had moved many of them to “on demand” until things picked up again on Zoom and other presentation platforms.

The event was presented on Zoom and offered the opportunity for audience interaction with audience members having the ability to turn audio and video on.


The goal of this conference was to “Inspire What’s Next” – and as usual, INBOUND20 was packed with exciting speakers and great content. While I would normally break down some of that content, I will leave the agenda for your review.

Instead, I want to focus on the advertising for this conference. The shift to an online platform gave greater flexibility in offering cost-effective ticket registrations, allowing more people to access the platform and be included in the discussions.

I also received an event packet a few days before with a letter, door hanger, “event ticket,” and a free sample of coffee.


This was a nice touch to bring something physical to an otherwise all-virtual event, and gave people a tangible way to interact with the brand.

HubSpot had their own online event portal for this event, that you could log into and access the live content as well as on demand sessions and other previously recorded content.

YNPN National

A key theme to the YNPN National virtual conference was inclusion, and I co-presented “Strategies for Embracing Technology and Making it More Accessible” with another Chapter leader from the San Francisco Bay area.

When there was a mass-shift to remote work and virtual events, accessibility and inclusion was often overlooked in the move to just get online. This presentation covered tips on how to be more mindful and practice self-care in meetings, how to overcome Zoom fatigue, and how to make online content like presentations work for people with visual impairments, people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, or other disabilities and help them stay part of the conversation.

There was not a direct mail component to this event, but there could have been an opportunity to collect home addresses for the attendees and mail them the agenda and supplemental materials from the speakers and sponsors.

The event was also presented on Zoom, and audio and video were discouraged during the presentation to help everyone focus on the content, but audience participation in the chat was highly encouraged, and used.

The Bottom Line

There are many opportunities for event organizers to use direct mail to engage people offline and encourage engagement. And with any online events, there are challenges to making sure all attendees feel comfortable and included, but these event organizers were able to achieve that.