The Nuts and Bolts of Hosting a Virtual Conference

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Virtual conventions and conferences certainly existed already before the COVID-19 pandemic, but they have become even more relevant in 2020 while we practice social distancing. If your business depends on large in-person events, don’t cancel your next conference, simply move it online. You can put together a video conference that can host a lot of participants pretty easily these days with all the tips and tools available. It is possible to have a virtual event that is just as engaging as a traditional conference if you plan it right. Here is a handy guide to jump start your first video conference event.

Technology Needed For Hosting Virtual Events

Even without the threat of a virus lurking, virtual events give you an opportunity to get people from all areas of the state, country, or globe together. Get your backend services in order before you even start planning your event. You’ll need several tools working together to pull this off. There are many competing brands out there that offer digital event services but here are the general pieces you will need.

A website

Your website will help you market and organize your event. You can host multiple events, provide up-sells, and offer memberships as well. This also allows you to brand your event. If this is your first event, then make sure to snag the matching social media usernames while you’re at it. You can also create landing pages to help you market your event and collect emails or sign-ups.

An email funnel and RSVP system

You’ll need to attract and convert attendees, track RSVPs, get people hyped for the event, and keep following up with them after it’s over. An email system that has great automation capabilities can help you with all of these tasks. See if you can find one that easily integrates with your website and video conferencing tools.

A one-to-many video conferencing tool

For the main event and key speakers, you will want a great video conferencing tool that allows you to have a large audience. You can also record these videos.

A many-to-many video conferencing tool

If you have break-out-sessions and want to be more interactive with your video conference then you’ll need a many-to-many or group video conference tool such as Zoom. Tools that are helpful to have are the ability to mute people, allow them to raise their hands to participate, and record for later use. Screen sharing or whiteboard sharing are great features as well.

Key Elements Your Video Conference Needs For Success

You can’t simply jump on live video and start speaking to the masses. An online event is just as structured and well-planned as an in-person event. If you want to impress your audience, here are some things you might want to include in your first conference.

A Theme

Your conference should have a purpose, a solution to your customer’s problem. Your topic should be very clear and motivating. Keep in mind, in-person attendees are more or less forced to be attentive and engaged, at-home participants will have a ton of distractions around them. You’ll need to be extra engaging to keep their attention.

Compelling Keynote Speakers

Using your one-to-many video conferencing software, your main attractions can have their very own podiums so to speak. Fireside chat-style talks that resemble podcasts seem to work best for virtual audiences. Your speaker’s voice needs to be dynamic as well to keep the audience’s attention from drifting.

Small-Group Breakout Sessions

If you want to provide a similar experience to in-person events that allow time for questions, chatting, and networking, then you’ll want to include breakout sessions. Each breakout session can have it’s own theme or purpose and you can also host one as a general meet and greet or networking opportunity.

A Plan For Follow Up

Once your event is over, the work isn’t done. You’ll now have a warm email list to keep up with for marketing products, services, or future events. You might be able to roll a successful conference into an on-going membership-based community, for example. You can also splinter off and have related courses and workbooks available. Sell a recording of the event to people that could not attend live at a discounted rate.

Additional Tips For Your Virtual Conference

  • Hardwire your internet connection: Avoid using wireless internet for presenting and hosting if possible so you have a more stable connection. This will help prevent crashing and eliminate lagging.
  • Test your video and audio before the event: Make sure all speaker’s mics are working and sound good. Remind your speakers to eliminate background noise where they are.
  • Dress for the occasion: Just because this is an at-home conference doesn’t mean you can totally relax and be casual. If this is a professional event, dress professionally.
  • Use an agenda: Use a well-planned agenda with specific start and stop times for each block of speakers or sessions.
  • Use captioning if possible: If your video platform has the capability, adding captioning can help anyone who has trouble hearing.
  • Use Q&A features: Allow participants to type in questions or “raise their hand” to be unmuted to ask questions live. You can also use a polling feature to increase audience participation.
  • Use broadcast options: If your conference is free you can use software to broadcast your event on Facebook or YouTube. This can give you a much wider audience especially with people that aren’t able to attend live.

Also, don’t forget to be creative and have fun! Try to think outside the box and provide something other virtual conferences aren’t. Maybe it’s some swag you send pre-conference or a workbook you provide as a supplement. You could even have boxed lunches sent to paid participants and host a VIP lunch and learn during your event. The ideas are endless and the success of online conferences is just starting to heat up. Make this into an opportunity to increase sales and drive more traffic to your business with video events.

Agency Advisor :: I help marketing agencies scale their business.

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