Virtual conferences have been around for a long time, but they’ve become even more popular in recent times, driven, of course, by the coronavirus pandemic. Today, more companies than ever before are beginning to understand the benefits of hosting a conference online, in large part because it’s their only option. However, it’s true that hosting a virtual conference is different from hosting an in-person event. In this blog, we’re going to look at some tried and tested tips for helping to ensure that your conference is engaging — and an out and out success.
The content of a conference is always important, but it becomes additionally important when it’s online. People will naturally get into the spirit of things when they’re attending an event in person and will excuse a couple of less than stellar talks because of all the other advantages that the conference brings. But when it’s online, there’s nowhere to hide — your content has to be engaging from beginning to end. After all, you’re asking people to take time out of their schedule to essentially sit in their home or office to attend. Make sure that it’s worth their time!
Upgrade Your Tools
The key difference between a real-world and virtual event is that the latter depends on technology to work. If you don’t have the right tech tools by your side, then you’re going to find it difficult to ensure that things run smoothly. The first step is to look into all the various virtual conference platforms available to you and select the right one for your needs. In the run up to the event, you’ll want to check that everything exactly as it should. Do not wait until the event has started to test your mics — you’ll be setting yourself up for failure if that’s the case.
You’ll know from your experience of attending low-quality meetings how boring things can get when it seems like all you’re doing is receiving information. Even if all the content you’re hosting is excellent, there’s an upper limit to how much time people can spend being a passive observer. As such, it’s recommended to find ways to make your conference more interactive for your attendees. A virtual photo booth is a fun and simple way to engage your guests, while you can also look at hosting a Q&A forum. If the event is of the right size, then giving a shout out to people in the audience can also be a great way to make people feel involved.
Bring the Attendees Together
People attend conferences for many reasons, and one of those reasons is the ability to network with people in their industry. Alas, this can become a little more difficult when people aren’t there in person. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible — it’s just what you need to get a little creative to make it happen. One excellent way to do this is to host a virtual happy hour, during which you can put together small groups of people (make sure they’re small, since it’s hard to connect when the group is too large).
Keep Things Snappy
One of the key differences between a regular conference and an online conference is that the length of the talks should be different. When you’re in person, a meeting could be one or more hours, because the general ambiance makes things easy to digest. There’ll be a speaker that’s utilizing visual tools, the people in the audience will be excited and thus giving off energy, there could be lights, music, etc. In an online event, these things will be reduced, if used at all. And that means that people’s attention spans will be more reduced. So don’t give your guests a reason to click away: keep the meeting length to a minimum.
Virtually all industries are beginning to look at the advantages of wellness principles. It’s true that some industries are focusing on it more than others, but it has a place in most. So could you look at incorporating some wellness activities and seminars into your conference? It’s something that people value. While the core of your talks will be related to your industry, adding a few related to helping people to live their best lives — perhaps in a way directly related to the struggles of the industry — will be a useful addition that your attendees enjoy.
If you were hosting a real-world event, then there’d be some swag involved — it’s an important component of any conference. Things may have moved online, but that doesn’t mean that you should get rid of the swag component altogether. There are multiple ways to do this. If you’re planning well in advance, then you can get swag products and mail them to your attendees. Alternatively, you can look at digital swag — there are plenty of options out there, from premium content to subscriptions to digital services. It’ll be an added bonus that your guests will love.
Many companies would prefer to have a traditional conference, but there is one pretty big advantage that virtual conferences have over their real-world counterpart. It allows you to get speakers from all over the world, and this means you can put together the best list of speakers possible. When it comes to selecting your speakers, think global. You wouldn’t ordinarily be able to fly a speaker over from the far-flung reaches of the world, but it’s straightforward enough to get them to deliver a talk virtually, from the comfort of their office or home.
Record for Playback
Finally, be sure to record your conference for use later on. Not everyone will be able to attend every session. In the real world, that would mean that they’ve missed their chance to soak up the lessons. But when it was hosted online, it’s as simple a process as hitting the record button and making it available to be viewed later on. It’ll help you to get the most mileage out of your conference.