In light of the current global pandemic, most businesses have been forced to come up with new approaches for their events. One particular industry, the events and conference industry, has been forced to make significant changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In-person conferences around the world have either been canceled or postponed with others moved online to platforms like Zoom and Skype.
However, as much as this may seem new to most people, virtual conferences have always existed. Virtual conferences have always been a natural way of reaching a wider audience. However, this is still a new concept for many event planners. Event planners need to understand that hosting a successful virtual conference is a tad different from an in-person conference. Some of the things that might work well for an in-person event might not translate well online while there is the aspect of technology too.
Most business conferences are now happening online because of the pandemic, and so there has never been a more relevant time to host a virtual conference. Here are some tips for hosting a successful online business conference.
Tips For Hosting A Virtual Business Conference.
1. You need a theme for your virtual conference.
A virtual conference needs a clear purpose or theme that will motivate people to attend. Moreover, the theme needs to be specific, clear-cut, and captivating to capture and retain the attention of your attendees.
In in-person conferences, your audience sits in the same room as you. Sure, they may not give you their full attention, but you are still in the same room. However, with virtual conferences, your audience is watching you from a device that is by design built to distract. As a result, you need your conference’s theme to capture and retain their attention.
2. The speakers need custom presentations for their audience.
As aforementioned, some things that work well for in-person conferences may not do as well in virtual meetings. For instance, gestures and other visual cues will not work on a virtual platform. Therefore, you need your speakers to use special materials that will convey an emotion or information that would not otherwise be conveyed across a virtual platform.
3. Keep your session interactive.
One way of keeping your audience’s attention is by having an interactive session. There are several things you can do to achieve this. Conducting a poll or having a Q&A session during or after the presentation are good examples of how you can keep your audience engaged. Most of these features are already available on the virtual events platforms. It is up to you to ensure that your speakers are familiar with and use these audience-engaging features.
4. If possible, use a video.
It can be challenging to keep the attention of your audience when you only have a slide-based presentation. Most of the virtual conferencing platforms have video-conferencing capabilities that virtual speakers should utilize. When the audience can see the speaker, it makes the event feel personal and intimate, which boosts their engagement. If your presentation can only be done through slides, try and shorten the speaker sessions to maintain your audience’s attention.
5. Promote your event.
Promoting your virtual conference is a crucial aspect of its success. Even with the most captivating theme, great speakers, and the best virtual platform, if people do not understand what value your conference adds to them, it will not matter. You need to promote your event continuously and with increased intensity on the days leading up to it. Since there will be no traveling, it is likely for prospective attendees to make a last-minute decision about the virtual event.
6. Practice makes perfect.
Since virtual conferencing is new to many people, you need to practice more than you would for an in-person event. It is imperative that your speakers are familiar with the technology and can easily maneuver their way around early enough. Additionally, ensure your staff is trained in facilitating interactive sessions such as the Q&A and polls. A few days before the conference, conduct a dry run and polish on some of the issues that may arise. Moreover, set up a contingency plan in case technical issues arise on the day of the event.
7. Hire an event and streaming company.
In case you want to present yourself and your brand professionally, then you should consider hiring professionals. After all, a virtual conference is not a Skype session with your best friend. You will need high-quality audio, video, and lighting equipment to host a successful conference. Hiring professionals ensures that difficult tasks such as video hosting and audience participation are made simpler. Moreover, for a live event, you get a backup set up for you so that your broadcast is not interrupted in case some technical issues arise. For most of you without experience in hosting virtual conferences, this would be your safest option.