By now you probably already know how to host a virtual conference. You may have even hosted an event or two of your own. But what does it take to run a virtual conference that delivers? One that optimizes the budget and engages the audience. Most importantly, a virtual conference that achieves its goals.
Organizing a virtual conference is an intricate process that involves many layers. Let’s peel off each layer and find out how to organize the perfect virtual conference.
What is a virtual conference?
A virtual conference is an online meeting that connects people with similar interests. It spans multiple days. And depending on the conference objectives the agenda can include various activities. Panel discussions, educational sessions, training, product demos, Q&A, and sales team gathering, are examples of activities that a virtual conference can comprise.
Some Facts You Should Know
- Audience engagement is the biggest challenge when it comes to virtual conferences. The next is networking.
- 38% of marketers say they run into technical problems when hosting virtual conferences.
- 80% of people join virtual conferences for educational purposes. The next biggest reason for joining virtual conferences is networking.
Typical goals of a virtual conference include:
- Demand generation
- Product/service adoption
- Customer/member retention
- Brand awareness
- Relationship building
At the onset of COVID-19 virtual conferences were a forced choice. But they slowly gained popularity among organizers and attendees alike. A few leading reasons for this market shift are that virtual conferences
- Give access to a global audience
- Are convenient to organize from anywhere in the world
- Required a lower budget.
- Gave access to audience data that was not available at in-person conferences.
Types of virtual conferences
Virtual Conference Call
A virtual conference call is a way to connect with colleagues and clients. Attendees are given a link and passcode to join the conference call.
- Objective: To bring together people from different places, have a discussion based on a fixed agenda, and decide on an outcome or next steps.
- Types of virtual conference calls: Weekly team meetings, client update meetings, product update meetings.
- How often can you organize it?: It can be organized periodically or on a need basis.
- The conference call can be recorded for viewing later.
- It allows people to participate from all over the world.
Virtual Town Hall
Virtual town halls are live-streamed events where company leaders provide key updates to employees. The idea is to review the company’s performance with the employees and build a sense of community among colleagues.
- Objective: Share important updates with employees across the company
- Types of virtual town halls: Quarterly business reviews, annual meetings, important announcements.
- How often can you organize it?: Quarterly, half-yearly, annually, or on a need basis in case of singular announcements.
- Enables you to share information as a broadcast.
- Allows employees to interact with leadership without having to travel.
- Saves time and money since one event can be organized for global employees.
Virtual Medical Conference
A virtual medical conference is an online event where physicians, specialists, and medical professionals gather to discuss and share the newest developments in their fields.
- Objective: Share knowledge and industry updates with participants, provide networking opportunities, and offer professional development opportunities.
- Types of medical conferences: Annual medical conference, member conference, chapter meetings, training and workshop conferences, new technology announcement, a celebration of medical milestones.
- How often can you organize it?: Quarterly, half-yearly, annually.
- Access to a global audience
- Experts from around the globe can be invited to speak at the conference without them having to travel.
- More networking opportunities.
- Saves front liners a lot of their time.
Virtual Investor Conference
A virtual investor conference is an online event for businessmen, investors, academia, and policymakers. During these meetings, they discuss ways to make businesses more profitable, share the best business practices, and discuss macroeconomic trends.
- Objective: Share industry trends and best practices, enable meaningful networking opportunities, and provide a platform for companies to interact with potential investors.
- Types of virtual investor conferences: Industry-specific conferences, award functions, and thematic knowledge-sharing events.
- How often can you organize it?: Quarterly, half-yearly, annually
- Access to a global audience.
- Companies get access to investors outside their home country.
- Knowledge sharing is not restricted to a certain region.
- Recognition of global companies and investors in your space.
Virtual Fundraising Conference
Virtual fundraising conferences are online events organized to raise funds from individuals and organizations who support a common cause.
- Objective: Spread awareness about the project, grow the tribe that supports this cause, and raise funds for the cause
- Types of virtual fundraising conferences: Virtual magic show, virtual music concert, and virtual games night.
- How often can you organize it?: Quarterly, half-yearly, annually, or on a need basis
- Access to a global audience enables more awareness and fundraising opportunities.
- You can invite global leaders to speak virtually, thereby promoting your cause more effectively.
Virtual Conference Engagement Ideas
Ever since virtual events have become popular, engagement has been a pain point for event planners.
51.5% of event planners say that virtual events can’t match in-person event engagement. Here’s the thing though, this may not necessarily be true. Debunk that myth with these virtual conference engagement ideas.
Deliver an Experience
Include a virtual experience to share the information you need to share with your audience. Don’t just have a screen with a grid of boxes where nothing changes. Instead, design a virtual stage that makes the experience closer to an in-person event. Bring in an experienced, high-energy host to stitch the event together.
Organize Fun Ice-breaking Games
Encouraging your audience to talk to you is one way to engage them. Another way is to make them talk to each other. Plan some fun games that came be sandwiched between your sessions to get your audience to talk to each other.
Want an easy-to-organize game to lift the mood of your event? Check out these 16 games you can go wild with!
Give Away Prizes
Who doesn’t like to win prizes? A virtual giveaway is possibly one of the best ways to engage with people, arouse their interest, and keep them invested in your event. For example, tell the audience to keep a count of stats that show up on their screen during a particular session. Later, give away an irresistible prize to the winner!
Need more ways to engage your audience at the virtual conference?
Tips for hosting a virtual conference
Listed below are some actionable tips to turn your virtual conference into a success and generate a lot of chatter afterward.
Set clear event goals
Clear goals will ensure your team knows what they’re going after. Demarcate the exact deliverables and outcomes you need each team to achieve to ensure success.
Define a clear event takeaway
A clear takeaway will help convey a crisper message to attendees. They’ll know what to expect. The clearer the message, the higher the number of relevant and invested attendees.
Choose a platform that aligns with your goals
Familiarize yourself with the tools and features provided by the platform in advance. Ask questions around branding, analytics, engagement, and support to ensure your needs are met.
Decide on the event date and time strategically
You may be covering a hot topic at your conference. But it could fail if the timing isn’t right. Know your audience, their preferences, and their holidays well before deciding on the date and time.
Plan every last detail of your agenda
Your virtual conference is set to fail with an agenda that is not planned and communicated in advance. Your topmost goal while planning the agenda should be to retain attendees till the end.
Account for breaks between sessions
Virtual fatigue is real. Without timely breaks, a virtual event can fog an attendee’s mind. Keep your sessions crisp. Include breaks in between sessions to give your audience time to refresh.
Promote your event across platforms
An event without an audience is like Universal Studios without visitors. It’s no fun! Start promoting your event well early on. Promote your event across multiple platforms and identify which one works best for your audience.
Plan engagement and networking activities
We can’t stress this enough! Planning activities that help your attendees interact with one another and build meaningful connections is imperative. Set aside dedicated time in your virtual conference agenda for engagement and networking.
Intrigued to know more? Here is a list of 13 things to keep in mind for hosting a successful virtual event
Mistakes to avoid while hosting a virtual conference
In addition to all the things you should do while hosting a virtual conference, there are also things you should avoid. Pay close attention to the mistakes you should avoid while hosting a virtual conference.
Plan, plan, and plan some more
There is no greater sin an event planner can commit than failing to plan adequately. Plan for every possible scenario right down to the last detail. Sending out details a day before the conference, or making attendees wait for a long time, are mistakes that can cost you heavily.
Have a contingency plan in place
We can’t stress this enough! Preparing for potential failures is crucial. Arrange for a backup internet connection. Have a spare of the devices you will be using during the conference. You can also plan for these nine common problems before your next virtual conference.
Don’t forget to follow up
People forget things that are not in front of them. Make sure you connect with all registrants and attendees within 24 hours of the conference. Share a recording of the conference with them. In addition, nurture this audience further into your sales funnel with relevant content.
Don’t be complacent with success
If your conference went well, that’s great! But don’t assume that everyone liked everything. Run a survey to take feedback from attendees. Identify things that you did well. Identify things that could have been done better. Doing so will prepare you better for your next virtual conference.
Question to ask while choosing a Virtual Conference Platform
At any virtual conference, holding everything together is your virtual event platform. It’s a crucial piece of the virtual event puzzle, and your choice of platform will influence the outcome. Ensure you make this choice wisely. Here are a few questions to ask when selecting a virtual event platform:
- Is the platform intuitive to use for all stakeholders?
- Does the platform provide an interactive chat option during sessions?
- Is there an in-built section for polls, Q&A, and notifications?
- Does the platform have a networking lounge, exhibitor booths, and rooms with audio and video support?
- Can registrants log in and engage before the event to network with other logged-in participants?
- Are gamification and contests supported?
Data & Analytics
- Are attendee insights like event registrations, attendees logged in, and attendees engaging in the event feed available in the platform dashboard?
- What metrics can be tracked to gauge speaker popularity?
- Is it possible to measure networking lounge engagement?
- Are session-specific metrics available? Which are these metrics?
- Is it possible to track potential leads/inquiries at exhibitor booths and in virtual rooms?
- What metrics can exhibitors and sponsors track?
- Does the platform offer a designated support team?
- Is the support team available in your time zone?
- Will the support team be available during the event?
- Is the support inclusive of pre-event and post-event requirements like platform onboarding, sponsor onboarding, and data retrieval after the event?
- Will in-person support be available in case of a hybrid event?
- Is support available on call, email, and chat at all times?
You’re in the right place! Discover how our advanced, yet easy-to-use event platform can help you host successful virtual conferences
FAQs about virtual conferences
Which channels can I use to promote my virtual conference?
Some of the channels you can use to promote your virtual conference are:
- Organic Channels: Social media posts, email, content (Blog + landing page), and employee and speaker posts on social media.
- Paid Channels: Social media ads, search ads, partner marketing, influencer marketing, and PR.
What equipment will I need to create a virtual stage?
Some of the equipment/infrastructure you will need to create a virtual stage is:
- Fast internet connection
- Computing power (Computers and laptops)
- Green screen
- Talent reference monitor
- Sound stage
Want more inside scoop on setting up a virtual stage from experts who do this every day? Here’s a complete download!
What are some games that I can engage my virtual audience with?
These 16 easy-to-organize games are perfect for getting your audience involved and promoting networking:
What are some effective virtual conference networking ideas?
Here is a list of networking ideas that are sure to get the momentum going at your virtual conference
- Pre-event networking: Host a coffee chat, engage on social media.
- During event networking: Hire a high-energy host, plan games, and open virtual lounges for discussion.
- Post-event networking: Create a room on Clubhouse and host an entertainment session.
Interested in learning how to execute these networking ideas? Here is an in-depth account of what successful event planners are doing!
What’s the difference between virtual conference software and a virtual conference platform?
A virtual conference platform is any application, website, or virtual space through which the conferences and events are hosted. In contrast, virtual conference software refers to the backend functioning of these platforms’ operations.
What is the ideal duration of a virtual conference?
Well, there is no correct answer to that. You can organize a virtual conference for as long you need it without becoming repetitive. Virtual conferences typically last 2-5 days.
However, keep a close watch on the duration of each session. Attention spans are reducing fast. Avoid the risk of early drop-offs by limiting each session to a maximum of 40-45 minutes. Ideally, try to close each session within the 20-minute mark.
What are some ways to create value for virtual sponsors?
Some ways to attract sponsors to your virtual conferences are:
- Banners and sponsor logos in the agenda
- Banners and sponsor logos in the sessions
- Sponsored lounge tables
- Branded Spaces through strategic ad placement across the platform
- Sponsored session
- Branded exhibitor booths with detailed analytics and insights
Virtual conferences are here to stay
The virtual conference landscape is super dynamic and evolving at a breakneck speed. And event professionals are getting really creative to make the most of this opportunity.
Don’t be constrained by technology, let it enable you. Choose a virtual event technology platform that empowers you to experiment with new ideas, makes your brand shine, gives you plenty of engagement options, and provides you with all the customer support you need.
And remember to recalibrate, reimagine, reinvent your events strategy. With a powerful virtual event platform by your side, your imagination is your only limitation.