Help Chapters Explore Options for Virtual Education

Before the coronavirus shook up our world, we detected an emerging trend in the association community: virtual chapters. Increasingly, associations are establishing virtual chapters to host online education and networking events because members can’t or won’t travel to chapter events. Little did they know how reliant every association would soon become on virtual events.

While in-person meetings have been put on hold, the member desire and need to learn and connect is as strong as ever. Members don’t want to wait a few months to see how things turn out. If they have the time now, they want chapter programs now—and virtual is the only way to provide them.

Our last post focused on how your chapters can keep their members connected to each other during the coronavirus crisis. Take advantage of this time of experimentation by helping chapters provide virtual education to members too. When things get back to normal, your chapters will have the know-how to offer more options for member engagement than just their usual in-person events.


You can help chapters kickstart a schedule of online education programs by first getting chapter leaders comfortable with the concept. Use an online platform for chapter leader training so they can experience virtual education themselves. For example, host a webinar or virtual meeting about converting in-person events into virtual events.

Create a step-by-step guidebook as well since they’ll want to refer to something as they go through the process with their team. If CE credits are a concern, explain how to meet credentialing standards. Will they have to track attendance through polling or quizzes? Check with credentialing bodies because, in some industries, CEs can’t be earned online—although these rules have been changing during this crisis.

For chapters that need programming assistance, provide a list of relevant topics along with vetted speakers. For now, chapters don’t have to worry about speaker travel expenses, so they can cast a wider net for speaker talent.

You might even consider providing program templates. For example, you could suggest a panel on a hot topic, along with the types of members or experts who would be best for that panel, an event agenda, discussion questions, and marketing copy.


We’ve already seen chapters making the switch to all kinds of virtual programs. NAIOP is offering their chapters access to their Zoom platform. They’re also highlighting chapter-produced programs on their website so chapters can see what their peers are doing—we’re sharing a few of those ideas below.



Chapters of the National Strength and Conditioning Association are turning their in-person state clinics and regional conferences into virtual events. Virtual conferences are sprouting up everywhere lately. Our friends at StarChapter recently hosted one: Pivoting to Virtual Engagement in the COVID-19 Era.

Why not have chapters pool their efforts? Instead of each holding their own virtual conference, perhaps a few of them can compare programs and partner together on regional virtual conferences or summits.

Remember also that virtual conferences don’t have to mimic the in-person schedule. Members might prefer them spread out over several days—or even weeks—so they’re not tied down to their computer for an entire day, not always possible when everyone’s at home.



The team at Matchbox Virtual Media has mastered the art of virtual summits. Check out the one they’re hosting on Fridays about creating engaging virtual experiences. Speakers are pre-recorded so they can participate in a live chat with attendees while the presentations are aired. Although these sessions are only an hour long, you may remember this same format being used for the afternoon-long Association Success SURGE events.



NAIOP’s Wisconsin chapter hosts an In the Know: CRE Conversations with the Front Lines weekly webinar series.



NAIOP’s Utah chapter produces a Weekly Market Watch video series.



In our last post on chapter social connections, we told you about a weekly noontime series hosted by the Mississippi chapter of The American Institute of Architects called In Lieu of Lunch. “Using a virtual meeting app, member firms talk about what they’re doing and post discussion questions to the group. Guests are asked to each get takeout from a local restaurant, and the component posts the logos on their social channels to let local businesses know architects are supporting them.”



NAIOP’s Pittsburgh chapter produces MIC DROP: CRE Views with NAIOP Pittsburgh Developing Leaders podcast. For more podcast inspiration, check out Mariner Management’s post on podcasts as an option for chapter events.



Encourage chapters to use a web conferencing platform to host exam study groups or group discussions about industry events, articles, or books. These informal events serve the dual purpose of socializing and learning.


In our next post, we’ll describe how to get chapters started with virtual events. If you’re yearning for your own virtual CRP learning experience, please join your peers at one of our upcoming events.

About the author

Charlotte Muylaert is the former Marketing Leader at Billhighway and greekbill. She oversaw the marketing and branding strategies for 10 years in the fraternal and association markets.