Five best online conferences UK associations hosted in 2020

Association news
Published on 22 December 2020

When the first lockdown started in March 2020, associations had to decide whether to cancel, postpone or move their in-person events, online. This is how five associations responded to the challenge imposed by the pandemic and their results; all five online events were Finalists at the Association Awards UK 2020, in the Best Online Conference category. 

Association of Accounting Technicians ran their "AAT Future Finance 2020” online, after running the conference in-person for over a decade, and made it available free of charge for the first time. AAT wanted to deliver an exceptional event by providing outstanding CPD, easy registration process and seamless online experience and reach a great number of possible registrants. The two day conference was watched live and on demand afterwards; AAT produced simu-live videos, 14 pre-recorded webinars, 3 live Q&As and monitored all live chats and forums. 2545 people registered for the conference, 13 sponsors and partners joined and they had a 200% revenue increase compared to last year’s event. 

Insurance Tax Convention was the Association of British Insurers' largest and most popular event, aiming to bring industry experts together and to help them understand the key tax issues facing the insurance industry whilst demonstrating what the ABI is doing to address them. In 2020, ABI transformed it into an online five day event, where they provided delegates the flexibility to build their own agenda, starting with a 90 minute virtual networking social event where delegates spent on average 75 minutes on the platform, followed by four days of plenary and technical sessions, with 42 speakers and 12 hours of content. The event received great feedback from delegates and ABI exceeded their revenue targets. 

British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy’s BACP Research Conference had been running for 25 years when the lockdown was announced, six weeks ahead of the event. BACP decided to move the event online and to ensure a good experience for their virtual delegates, some of their solutions included pre-recorded sessions, film production staff, an online studio with hosts, live online forum, electronic handouts and resources, ad breaks with animations, dedicated technical help and transcripts for the on-demand service. "Keeping clients at the centre of research” had 2505 registrations, with 931 delegates attending live and the rest accessing the on demand service. 

Coaching in the Workplace, the online event organised by the Association for Coaching and the Institute of Coaching, aimed to increase the global awareness of the two organisations, grow their membership and to bringing the benefits of coaching in the workplace. A podcast series was launched ahead of the conference, with speaker interviews. They three-day conference had three streams with the programme varying from pre-recorded speaker sessions, facilitated live coaching and online networking and live discussions. To accommodate different time zones, the programme ran twice daily with hosts, speakers, and facilitators available for the live sessions twice a day. The conference was attended by 1,265 delegates from 72 countries. 

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development had their annual CIPD Festival of Work event scheduled for the beginning of January. When the lockdown started in March, they partnered with a technology supplier and pivoted from a physical to an online event in just eight weeks. CIPD created a three-stream conference, hosting 30 live sessions with audience engagement and different forms and a virtual exhibition with 46 stands, a wellbeing hub and a variety of other features, mimicking their in person event. The CIPD Festival of Work had double than the expected number of visitors, surpassed its revenue targets and the event hashtag, #vFoW, trended #2 on Twitter. 


Anca Urdea
Anca Urdea

Association of Association Executives