Event and conference attendees‘ health and safety is a significant concern for event and meeting planners and will be so even after the pandemic. We all know that many are turning to online conferences. While they do not provide face-to-face interaction like live events, but they transcend physical space and allow global outreach.
Organising any event is daunting, and an online or hybrid conference is no exception. While you do not need to worry about booking a venue or catering services, you must have a robust plan for the event to run smoothly. Besides, online event planning has a unique set of challenges. For instance, if you do not engage your audience, they will abandon your session. Whether you want to create an event from scratch or convert a live event into a virtual conference, the following online event planning checklist will come in handy:
Online Event Planning Checklist
1. Understand the Audience
Mapping out your online conference is similar to planning an in-person event. It would be best to have your audience’s questions in mind to establish a strong foundation for a successful event. Defining your audience will help you streamline your event goals with their interests. Therefore, you need to figure out your attendees‘ interests, the challenges they are facing, and goals. A proper understanding of your audience will help you create an event that adds value. Besides, you can map out their attendee journey and generate more leads at each stage.
RELATED: Online Event Engagement Strategies
2. Organise Your Team and Establish a Budget
Virtual events have many moving parts and require a team to handle all the details. For an unforgettable virtual experience, gather a group of meeting planners to help you with conference management. Assign individual tasks to each team member to ensure accountability. You also need an event budget to ensure fantastic ideas do not fall to the wayside. If your team does not consider the budget during online conference planning, the event may come to a grinding halt when you run out of funds. Some necessary expenses to include are event management software, technical support, and marketing expenses. Having an estimated expenditure will also assist in decision-making.
3. Choose Your Conference Format
What type of event are you hosting? There are various forms of virtual events, and you can test out your favourite formats. Some conference planners combine two or more structures to keep the audience engaged. However, the best option would be a format that resonates with your audience. Here are some ideas to keep in mind:
• Single keynote speaker: One presenter shares a topic with the audience.
• Dual Speakers: Two speakers engaging the virtual attendees from two different perspectives of the topic.
• Panel: Host a hybrid event with a group of experts discussing a particular topic.
• Q&A: A panel of experts or a speaker answers questions from the audience.
• Interview: Host an interview with an industry influencer.
4. Choose a Suitable Platform and Tools
Before you plan a conference, you need to choose a live streaming platform. With the many streaming platforms available, finding the best for your event can be confusing. While most have the same basic features, some platforms are suitable for large conferences, while others are best for smaller meetings. Focus on the accessibility of the platform to all attendees. It should also support chat, live polls, Q&A, and uploading slides and pre-recorded content during a presentation. Check out the features and use the free trial to confirm if it is a good fit for your conference. A dry run before the event will help you double-check the promptness of technical support and familiarise yourself with the system. You should also have a plan to deal with technical difficulties and connection issues. Troubleshoot technical problems during the practice session and have tech support in case of glitches.
5. Create Valuable Content
Your attendees are streaming your online event to learn something. Therefore, pick a stellar topic and find the best keynote speaker. Avoid vague or broad issues, and instead, focus on honing a specific field of study since virtual events rely on consumable and engaging content. That means you have to find unique angles for your topic to keep your audience interested up to the end.
6. Pick the Event Date and Time
Unless it is a recurring conference with a pre-set date, a lot of effort goes into picking the event day. You cannot choose a random day on your calendar and fix the event. Before firming up the date and time, you need to consider the planning time you need. Besides, your online conference should not coincide with any statutory and religious holidays. Study the demographics of your audience like religion and nationality to determine availability. The day-to-day activities of your potential audience are also a factor. If they work during the week, it would be best to host the conference towards the end of the week. Also, keep time zones in your online event planning checklist if you are hosting an international event. However, you should not beat yourself up if you do not find the perfect time for everyone. Instead, you can upload the recorded session on the conference website after the live stream.
7. Market the Event
The attendance rate of your conference relies on your event marketing strategies. If you get marketing right, your target audience will flock to your live stream session. How do you promote your event? Begin with creating a conference website and event app dedicated to your event. Alternatively, you can create a landing page optimised for search engines to help your attendees find the event. Social media is also crucial in drawing an audience to the event. Therefore, you should create a buzz on LinkedIn and a hashtag on Twitter to promote awareness. Email invitations can also give the attendees a nudge to register for your conference.
8. Register Participants
A great ticketing system is crucial in your online event planning checklist. Even if you are not selling tickets for the conference, you need software to manage attendees and event registration data. The audience data is valuable for planning your next event and customising the online discussion for each attendee.
9. Plan for Attendee Engagement During the Event
Audience engagement is an uphill task for event organisers, especially in online conferences where an attendee logs out if they lose interest. Therefore, you should be clear on the activities you need to engage your audience. You can use Q&A sessions, gamification, and live polls to create an unforgettable experience.
10. Have a Follow-up plan After the Conference
Follow-up is a crucial part of every event checklist. You will gather useful feedback and retain your audience for future conferences. An excellent way to get feedback is to send a thank you email or a post-event survey to attendees. You can also send a few highlights to people who could not attend to generate a little FOMO and create interest for your next event.
Online event planning requires a robust strategy and marketing chops to make it work. We hope the above online event planning checklist will come in handy for you to start and create a successful conference or event.
Congrex Switzerland is an internationally operating agency delivering customised solutions. This encompasses the overall organisation of conferences and meetings, including the management of hotel rooms and the strategic consultancy. Annually Congrex Switzerland organises approximately 45 events with over 73’000 delegates. Amongst our clients are international associations, governmental organisations and corporations.