The Australian Property Institute is the leading membership organisation for property professionals, providing professional development and support to members in a range of roles across the industry, offering training courses and certification, and advocating for members with a variety of stakeholders including Government.
More than 90 years old, the Australian Property Institute (API) has associations in all Australian states and thousands of members across the industry.
Each year, API runs a wide range of educational and networking events around the country, including workshops, seminars, conferences, and webinars with a range of online options also available.
However, in its long history, few years have been as challenging for API’s members as 2020, with the ferocious bushfire season followed by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In late March, API declared a state of emergency for the property industry, triggering the operation of a set of protocols that enable valuers to continue performing property valuations, even though they may no longer be able to conduct full physical or personal inspections of properties as a result of COVID-19.
Other issues of concern include the impact of the pandemic on the real estate and rental markets including the effect on tenants, landlords and property investors — which has necessitated a comprehensive program of events developed quickly to inform property professionals on how to deal with challenges facing the industry, and to keep members as well-informed as possible during the crisis.
As with every industry, the property and professional development sectors are operating under social distancing requirements that ban physical events of more than 2 people, requiring every event to be conducted online. API uses Redback Connect to run its online education and event program.
We spoke with API Head of Events Mia Yip about API’s experience with digital events and webinars and how it’s adapting its physical events program for the current climate.
Hi Mia. Thanks for chatting with Redback! Can you tell me how long API has been running digital events?
API began running digital events in 2014 as a professional development resource for members — particularly for those who live in remote or regional areas around Australia.
From 2017 virtual or online events became a regular part of the events program.
What kind of digital events does API run?
Most of our online events are webinars, but we are introducing new virtual conferences this year due to social distancing requirements introduced to help contain COVID-19. We expect the ratio to be about 90% webinars and 10% virtual conferences — which will have a larger program, more speakers and more interactive features.
We also deliver online certifications as a blended learning program, which include an online introduction, a physical workshop, and an online assessment. The workshop component is tailored with local content reflecting each state or territory’s legislative requirements.
As a national organisation, we also run a lot of digital meetings in the form of teleconferences to bring together staff and national committee members located in different states.
What are the objectives of API’s digital event program?
We’re looking to provide high-quality continuing professional development for members to assist them in their career development, strengthen member engagement and raise brand awareness of API.
We also need to provide a diverse range of education services that can be accessed by members in remote and regional areas, reflecting our broadly dispersed membership base.
How many events do you run a year on average?
In a typical year, API runs between 150-200 events across Australia. These range from small seminars with 10 attendees to major conferences with 800 attendees. Attendance for our webinars can range from 20 up to 1100, but average about 100 attendees.
How has your events program been impacted by COVID-19?
Due to COVID-19, we have had to either cancel, postpone or transform our planned physical events for 2020. These included seminars, site tours, regional and state conferences and networking events.
We are looking at each event on a case-by-case basis to see whether we can transform it into a virtual event, so that we can continue to deliver the educational content members need to perform their job.
How has API’s approach to its event program been adapted to account for social isolation, remote work and shutdown requirements?
Like many other organisations, we have had to become very fluid and flexible in adapting to this rapidly changing situation. We are fortunate to have a supportive membership attending and contributing to our events, and a very hardworking team of staff driving these initiatives.
What kind of demand have you seen for your digital events during the COVID-19 crisis?
Two recent webinars on business-critical topics such as the bushfires of summer 2019-20 and COVID-19 generated very high attendance, with more than 1000 members viewing each one. We offered them free to members, reflecting the topical nature of the events.
The bushfire webinar was held on February 12, with 1087 members attending, and the COVID-19 webinar was held on April 1, with 1108 attendees.
Both were one-hour webinars delivered remotely through Redback Connect.
How does the success of your event program this year compare with last year?
As a not-for-profit organisation, we focus on keeping costs low for members, and our profit margins are modest.
Many of our physical events were postponed this year, and we did not run any paid webinars in March, but year-to-date, our online event registrations are tracking higher than for 2019 and we have begun promoting a new program of online events for 2020.
Will API be increasing its digital event schedule in 2020?
We are planning to run significantly more digital events in 2020 as we adapt to cope with a COVID-19-impacted business environment.
We have at least 30 webinars and 2 virtual conferences already planned for the year, with more to come. Some of these are paid webinars, on topics such as the impact of COVID-19 on residential tenancies, and how to use technology for remote working.
The API will also hold a virtual AGM by webinar, with registration online, on May 27.
As a customer since 2014, we appreciate Redback’s support in accommodating and supporting our rapid increase in digital events.