Before the COVID-19 pandemic was a thing, the virtual conference was just starting to gain a foothold as a go-to business practice. Since the pandemic started, however, it’s become a necessity as social distancing is the new normal, and probably will be for some time to come. The show must go on, as they say, and with virtual conferencing, it can.
So, how do you run a successful virtual conference? There’s a trick to keeping everyone engaged and focused, and the following tips can help you host a stellar online event.
1. Promotion is Key
It doesn’t matter how great your content or how well-known your speakers are if no one knows about your event. Promotion is the key to getting the word out, and it should happen well before the conference date.
Make a plan to start promoting your event early using branded corporate gifts, emails, and more to stress the value of the conference and why people should attend. Make a bigger promotional push as the event date draws near. This will help you snag last-minute attendees, which is an easier feat with virtual conferences since no travel time or expenses are involved.
2. Don’t Underestimate Resources
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because the event takes place online, you’ll need fewer people and it’ll take less time to prepare. The reality is, a virtual conference takes just as many resources and just as much time to plan, prepare, and execute as a real-world event. If this is your first virtual conference, it will likely take more time as everyone needs to learn the software.
Be vigilant in assigning roles and make sure you have plenty of staff on hand to assist. That way, you can be confident that no important details have fallen through the cracks.
3. Give Yourself Plenty of Time
Though you don’t need to book a venue months or even years ahead, you’ll still want to give yourself plenty of lead time before the scheduled event. You may need as many as six months beforehand to promote the event, gain sponsors, schedule speakers, and sign up attendees. The more time you give yourself to organize and plan the conference, the less stressful and more successful it will be.
4. Short Sessions and Sufficient Breaks
There’s an old adage that says, “The brain can only absorb what the butt can endure,” and it rings true for online conferences. Even in the virtual world, humans need to rest from the onslaught of information. So, keep sessions short and build in sufficient breaks for attendees to stretch their legs, check their emails, get a bite to eat, and use the bathroom.
Fifteen-minute breaks give people time to do what they need, and as a bonus, you can use them as an opportunity to steer attendees toward your vendors’ and sponsors’ virtual displays.
5. Offer Incentives
Just as you would with a real-world event, offer your attendees incentives for completing certain activities. For example, you could offer discounts for registering for the event early, do a giveaway during the event to drive attendance, or offer a prize for visiting all the vendor websites. People love winning and receiving free things, so use this knowledge to make your virtual conference a success.
Virtual conferences have become an important business tool thanks to social distancing and the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’ve never hosted an online event before, the tips above will ensure you run a stellar virtual conference that your attendees will talk about for months to come.
Alex is fascinated with “understanding” people. It’s actually what drives everything he does. He believes in a thoughtful exploration of how you shape your thoughts, experience of the world.