Alternatives to Virtual Onboarding Events

I am a huge fan of virtual onboarding events. It is not a welcome webinar with a set script and slides but a truly responsive event that connects the people attending with the solutions they need.

Because I’m a big fan, I had to think for a second when Susan asked this great question during the Member Engagement Labs.

“I’m hearing live orientations aren’t well attended; thoughts compared to on-demand?”


I love the Member Engagement Labs (MEL for short) because each participant can dive right in and answer each other’s questions. Here are some of the great responses.

Jeff said, “On-demand is a great alternative.” Then Robin added a bit of context, “On-demand works for a certain section of our members because they work in healthcare and can’t do them during regular business hours.”

Yep! Virtual onboarding events may not work for every association, or doing them weekly or monthly might not make sense. Global associations might have time zone issues. Small associations might have person-power issues. Jeannie said, “Quarterly fits with our staff bandwidth.” It might be hard to find the right time for everyone if your members work all sorts of hours, like in healthcare, or are on the road like electricians.

Now, I totally don’t want to talk you out of virtual onboarding events because we found in the New Member Engagement Study that this tactic was one of the most effective tactics of the 15 tactics we measured. So, if you haven’t tried it and want to, go ahead and see if it’s right for your members; you can always return to this post later on… I’ll wait.😉

You’ve tried a virtual onboarding event—now what?

Let’s say you’ve put on a virtual onboarding event, and the showing was lackluster. Check your marketing and try again. People often need three reminders before they really “see” things. If there are still too few attendees on your second or third try, maybe it is time to try some other tactics.

[Sidenote: What are too few attendees? What if only 10% of your new members attend the virtual onboarding event, but those 10% become SUPER-engaged members? It still might be worth it, right?! You might work really hard to try to attract more and more new members to these events.]

But let’s say virtual onboarding events will just not work with your unique membership. No worries! There are still lots of ideas! Let’s pull back and think about the overall goal. How might you connect new members with the solutions they need?

Connecting new members with the solutions they need is critical to the member journey. I’d say there are two goals every membership organization should have for new members. The first is connecting new members with the solutions they need. And second is to plant the seeds of belonging. Today, we’re going to focus on the first goal.

Many associations have A LOT of benefits, oodles of content, piles of research, and heaps of events. If virtual onboarding events won’t work, how do you ensure each new member gets precisely what they need in that massive pile of goodness? Here are a few tactics that fit the bill:

  • on-demand 20-minute orientation overview

  • on-demand micro orientations (think YouTube—ask a question, and a short video tutorial pops up.)

  • onboard at in-person events. Beth offered, “We do our in-person orientation events in conjunction with a networking event that we hold in our office.”

  • website chat function (even AI-assisted website chat)

  • onboarding phone calls

  • responsive emails


Small associations might need to find the one or two tactics that work best for the most members. Medium to large associations might employ a handful of these tactics to ensure almost all new members take advantage of an onboarding opportunity.

So, if virtual orientation events will be a bust for your association, don’t worry; you still have many options!

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