Virtual conferences are becoming more commonplace and have multiple advantages over in-person. Hosting a virtual conference can expand your potential audience. Instead of traveling to your conference, guests can simply log on from their computer. Without the cost of renting an event space, companies can invest in an effective virtual conference platform and quality content. Here are ten tips for hosting a compelling virtual conference:
1.) Get the word out
Good attendance is key to a successful event. Maximizing attendance requires understanding your industry and event. If this is an event where participants are being sent by their employer, make sure to emphasize the skills and knowledge that the employee will receive when advertising the event. Employers are more likely to send multiple employees to an event where they will gain hard skills that can improve their job performance and expertise.
2.) Focus on content
High quality content is the backbone of a virtual conference. Focus on providing quality information in an engaging way. If there will be an important speaker or a big announcement at the conference, ensure that participants are aware beforehand. Virtual conferences typically have fewer, higher quality events than an in-person conference.
3.) Organize beforehand to prevent technical hiccups
Don’t be afraid to hire technical experts to ensure high quality audio and video. Consider the scale and content of your event—if you expect limited interaction from the crowd, set up the event so that participants are always muted. Consult with a professional to identify which virtual event technology is right for your event.
4.) Ask what participants are gaining
Are participants attending the event for information, networking, or career advice? A networking event will look very different from a learning event. If guests feel that they gained something from the experience, they will be more likely to return to future events and even recommend similar events to their colleagues. Make it clear in communicating the event what guests will get from the experience.
5.) Consider accessibility
When hosting a virtual conference, you won’t know everyone in the audience which can make it difficult to anticipate their needs. Virtual event platforms offer multiple tools that can ensure accessibility, including adding captions to live streams and recording the meetings.
6.) Keep it interactive
Virtual meeting hosting services have dozens of features to increase interactivity. Breakout rooms are used to divide participants into smaller groups, which can be a great way to facilitate brainstorming and focused conversation. Since participants are often more comfortable speaking and engaging with a few colleagues than an intimidatingly large group, this is a great way to increase interactivity. Breakout rooms are particularly effective during low-energy times like right after lunch.
7.) Consider on-demand content
Depending on the event, pre-recorded content might allow participants more flexibility and lead to increased engagement. If the event is learning-focused, participants might learn more if they are able to pause and take breaks at their own pace. For a networking event, a live session is essential to provide a sense of community.
8.) Be strategic about sponsorships
Sponsorships are an important way of keeping a conference profitable and ensuring industry relevance, but participants don’t want to feel like sponsorships are interfering with the objectivity of the information they’re receiving. Sponsorships at a virtual event can include video ads, placement on the event website, or even a virtual trade show. Be creative when planning event sponsorships to ensure that participants are engaged with sponsors.
9.) Capture data from the event
Each virtual conference should be considered a valuable opportunity to learn about your unique audience. Keep an eye on when attendees register and attend sessions and how they engage in live Q&A and polling. If something isn’t working for your event, cut it for the next one. Ask your guests for feedback when the event is over so that you can learn from their experience.
10.) Learn from the event once it’s over
Once all the planning and preparation is finally over, it’s natural for conference planners to want to take a break. But immediately after the event is over, take time to review what went well and what didn’t. This will be key to improving future events.