Meet SAE International, an engineering organization that used Hopin to revolutionize its event strategy and generate $200,000 in sponsorship revenue

Meet SAE International, an engineering organization that used Hopin to revolutionize its event strategy and generate $200,000 in sponsorship revenue
PLANNING A NEW KIND OF EVENT

A new virtual venue to discuss the future of transport

SAE International (The Society of Automotive Engineers) is a 116-year-old organization, originally established to help automobile engineers share knowledge and technical expertise. Today, SAE sets standards for engineers in the mobility industry, bringing engineers together to share ideas and create the safe, clean, and accessible transportation of the future.

SAE’s business depends on interaction and connection among members, customers, and sponsors. Events are a key part of the organization’s work. They help establish the business as a leader in mobility and ensure its services are at the forefront of customers’ minds. 

SAE’s main event goals are engagement and revenue. After switching to virtual, their challenge was ensuring SAE company events were as good, if not better, than previous in-person experiences. Attendees needed to leave each event excited about the future of autonomous and electric vehicles, and the potential for transport improvements. The events also needed to offer career support, and foster connections that would lead to future collaborations and business. 

"We want attendees to feel engaged. We want them to feel excited. We want them to feel enthusiastic, and we want them to feel that all our events are meaningful. When you can combine all of those elements together I think that's where the magic happens [...] and I think that's something that Hopin helped us achieve." –Matt Wasowski, Director of New Business Development and Events, SAE International

The SAE team chose to run more than 20 events on Hopin as part of their new sub-brand, SAE RIDE (real-time interactive digital event series). This event series explored everything from the cars and aircraft of the future, to drones and medical devices manufactured by aerospace companies. 

Hopin stood out to the SAE team for its stellar customer service and clean, intuitive interface. The platform’s best-in-class networking features allowed SAE to get the essential peer-to-peer connection they were looking to include. Hopin’s broadcast-quality streaming capabilities and reporting features were also key selling points. The platform’s analytics allowed SAE to focus marketing efforts on channels with the best engagement and return on investment.

"It's almost like [attendees] are watching a real broadcast on TV. I have no television background, I've never worked at MSNBC or CNN or the BBC, yet I feel like some of our broadcasts really are comparable."

Matt Wasowski
Director of New Business Development and Events, SAE International
IT’S SHOWTIME

Low management, easy to navigate events

SAE’s events are typically a whirlwind of activity. They often attract thousands of attendees looking to collaborate and discuss cutting-edge technologies and topics relevant to the mobility industry. The organization uses Hopin’s automated communication features to help attendees navigate events. The team sends attendees agenda and sponsor reminders 24 hours before the event and then again 60 minutes ahead of the start time. Chat and notification banners inside the event also help highlight key sessions and direct attendees to sponsor booths. 

Thanks to Hopin’s ease of use, SAE’s fully immersive events can be managed with an impressively small team. Director of New Business Development and Events, Matt Wasowski, can often handle most of the set up and management process by himself.

"With really the help of one or two people during the live events who can just monitor the backstages, I'm doing the whole thing myself. It's very manageable. It's very reasonable. And I think that should give hope to other organizations looking at Hopin that you don't need a staff of two dozen people to run an event." –Matt Wasowski, Director of New Business Development and Events, SAE International

The team has hosted dozens of mobility industry thought leaders from major automotive and aerospace brands. They’ve also used the virtual event format to connect and build relationships with up-and-coming businesses, giving attendees the inside track on future household names that will revolutionize how we navigate the world.

Two to four stages run concurrently at SAE’s events, leading into coffee meetings and breakout sessions. Informal daily recap sessions keep attendees up to date, while Q&A and polling boost engagement during presentations. 

The all-in-one nature of Hopin has helped SAE completely reimagine several previously physical events, including their annual Formula SAE event, which challenged college students to build and compete with their own race cars. In its place, SAE launched a new virtual artificial intelligence data mining competition. Colleges from across North America analyzed Detroit and Pittsburgh transportation data to design better public transport systems. 

Hopin has also helped SAE demonstrate the value of virtual and hybrid events to long-time sponsors and empowered them to capture the energy and spontaneity of real-life engagement via video networking with attendees. Sponsors can easily customize their own booths, using Hopin to upload materials, host demos, and create unique, branded experiences with detailed reporting on the attendees that interacted with them. SAE has successfully offered sponsorship packages that include opportunities to present, share exclusive deals, and take part in post-event webinars.

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Hopin’s features helped SAE find a more global and engaged audience

Here are some of the Hopin features that help make SAE’s events successful:

  • Stages: Prime event content like keynotes is hosted on Hopin’s stages to ensure maximum visibility.
  • Sessions: SAE uses breakout sessions to drive attendee interaction and speaker-audience connection around specific topics.
  • Audience engagement: Knowledge sharing and community discussion are important parts of SAE’s mission. Hopin’s Q&A, chat, and polling features encourage attendees to engage directly with the subjects at hand instead of consuming content passively.
  • Notifications: Attendees receive reminders of upcoming events and speaker times to help them navigate the day’s schedule with ease. The ability to send event-wide notifications to attendees also helps SAE point its audience to the most important content. 
  • Networking: Attendees enjoy randomized one-on-one video networking sessions at all of SAE’s events.
  • Expo: Sponsorship is a core component of SAE’s events. Offering customizable booths sponsors can easily set up themselves has helped SAE land more than $200,000 in sponsorship revenue in 2021. 
  • Live streaming: SAE used StreamYard — Hopin’s broadcast studio — to produce a TV-quality livestream for event content. Customizing the livestream on the fly has been a hallmark of SAE’s events. The team encourages engagement by bringing poll results and chat contributions up on the screen for attendees to see. 
  • Reporting: SAE is constantly adapting its content and marketing efforts based on the insights they’re able to gather from Hopin’s analytics. They use these metrics to do things like optimize session length and determine their best-performing marketing channels.

"When it comes to creating and actually managing the events themselves, I'm pretty much a team of one, which I think speaks a lot to the ease of use and the richness of the functionality of Hopin."

Matt Wasowski
Director of New Business Development and Events, SAE International
HOW IT TURNED OUT

Accelerating into new markets, new relationships, and a new hybrid approach with Hopin

Prior to using Hopin, SAE hosted the majority of its events in person in the United States and China. Thanks to the improved reach of virtual and hybrid event formats, SAE has now been able to establish strong connections with a global audience. This new worldwide network has opened up a wealth of new business opportunities for SAE and helped them build a reputation in previously untapped markets.

Feedback from attendees has been overwhelmingly positive. SAE had its busiest year of events in 2021, and the team has received hundreds of unsolicited compliments from attendees, speakers, and sponsors. The average Net Promoter Score (NPS) for the SAE Ride event series is an incredible 8.5 out of 10.

Metrics from the Hopin platform have helped the SAE team establish new best practices for engagement and interaction at their events. In fact, Hopin’s reports have proven so useful for refining SAE’s event strategy that the organization hired a full-time employee whose sole focus is to analyze post-event data.

With the success of SAE Ride, the organization is planning to ramp up its events calendar in 2022 and 2023. In addition to virtual events, SAE is using Hopin to go hybrid for many events that previously took place in person. And the team has planned out their virtual event series for the next two years, doubling their total number of events and increasing the seats in their Hopin plan fivefold to cope with the new demand.

"My favorite memory was getting an unsolicited email from our CEO after the very first event that we did. He was skeptical about the whole idea but after our first event wrapped [...] he just said, ‘I saw the event, it was incredible and this validates our decision to go into this new market and create a whole new business segment based on it.’ What more do you need than that?" –Matt Wasowski, Director of New Business Development and Events, SAE International

In addition to building new relationships with established companies via its events, SAE is growing into new markets like urban ground mobility (electric scooter and bike rentals) and urban air mobility (drone package delivery). The organization credits their successful events on Hopin with creating new strategic directions for their business and genuinely shaping future growth.

8.5

Average NPS

4,500

Registrations in 2021

$200,000+

Sponsorship revenue in 2021

2,500

Networking connections

"From an engagement standpoint, we really want to make sure that having this live online experience was comparable or even better than the face-to-face experience [...] We really did accomplish the engagement piece with flying colors."

Matt Wasowski
Director of New Business Development and Events, SAE International

Lots of virtual audience buzz

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