Hosting virtual conferences is on the rise. The current restrictions imposed on travel and mass gatherings have placed most meeting planners in a tight spot. Some planners were able to reschedule their conferences, but many events had to be cancelled completely. If we can find a positive aspect this is that organisers can still bring people together safely by opting for virtual conferencing. Apart from safety, virtual events attract a large crowd and cover a wider geographical region.
Unfortunately, many organisers assume that all they have to do is throw in a bunch of pre-recorded content and people will come flocking. Like with face-to-face conferences, online event attendees are looking for valuable information and networking. Therefore, you should not waste their time and expect them to keep coming back. If you want to host virtual conferences successfully, here a few tips to guide you:
Have a Strong Theme
People attend scientific conferences to build their knowledge on a specific topic. Therefore, your content and live streaming sessions should elaborate on the main idea and add value. During live sessions, you should also organise the major discussion points in chronological order for your attendees to follow. It is tempting to reach out to guest speakers and give them autonomy to talk about their fields of expertise. However, if the speeches are unrelated, you will lose most of your attendees. To attract reliable and professional speakers, nail down the vital objectives before you start hosting the virtual summits.
Decide on a Convenient Time to Host Virtual Conferences
Since you want maximum attendance, ensure the date and time for the online conference are convenient. With a little research, you can find out if some clashing events or holidays would reduce attendees. If you plan to host a global event, you should be mindful of time differences. While it is impossible to find a suitable time for everyone, ensure it is convenient for the majority of your attendees. You can also avail content for those who missed the live sessions. A perfect alternative is to plan virtual conferences and networking sessions for different time zones or post a poll for preferred dates.
Promote the Conference
Even with an established online community, you must market your virtual conference. Before, you establish a marketing strategy figure out your value proposition and key selling points of the online event. It could be an opportunity to network, learn new skills, or listen to a noteworthy speaker. You can also use personalised emails or create landing pages for the conference. Ads and promotional posts on social media will help to promote lead generation and build the hype for the conference. However, it would be best if you target your preferred audience instead of running generic ads. For instance, instead of sponsored posts, which are often impersonal, use LinkedIn’s InMail ads to reach the intended audience.
Most experienced speakers are notable public figures who can promote events. Therefore, ensure you provide all the details and make them ambassadors of your upcoming virtual conference. They can share the event’s hashtag and drive conversations through Facebook and Instagram stories.
Break up the Sessions
When you properly execute your marketing strategy, attendees will likely turn up in large numbers. In physical conferences, you can gauge their reaction and make adjustments accordingly. However, in virtual events, you have to rely on intuition. To avoid boring your attendees will lengthy speeches, you should break up the sessions into bite sizes. An intense one-hour presentation should have a 15-minute break for an interactive session. It will give your attendees time to digest the information and take notes or ask questions. It also breaks the monotony of watching a live stream. If you are using pre-recorded content, you can break up the monotony with a real-time question and answer session.
Promote Attendee Engagement
It is challenging to run a successful virtual event since the target audience is in the comfort of their homes and prone to distraction. You have to find creative ways to keep them glued to their screen until the end of the conference. It is easy to keep your attendees engaged since most virtual conference platforms have interactive features. Therefore, you can encourage guests to use the chat platform to network or ask questions during the event. You should also have relevant information and additional resources on-screen during a real-time presentation to keep everyone up to speed.
Prepare Your Content and Speakers Adequately
Even experienced presenters need your support to deliver the right content to your audience. Therefore, you should make sure they understand the attendees and your expectations for the event. Email them your theme, objectives, and the questions you want them to tackle. Before you host the virtual conference, go through their presentations and find ways to make their sessions successful.
Give the Audience Takeaway Materials
It can be challenging to replicate an in-person event in a virtual environment. There is usually positive energy in a conference hall and the excitement of travelling to a distant venue. However, it does not mean that if you host virtual conferences, they will not be memorable. You can enhance the value of the virtual event by giving takeaway material from the sessions. It could be something simple like a written summary of a presentation or a digital copy of the speaker’s book.
When you host a virtual conference properly, it can be as engaging and successful as your previous live events. The secret is to focus on providing a meaningful experience to your audience through quality content and excellent delivery.