The business landscape has undergone seismic changes since the beginning of the pandemic. Workplace environments are being re-evaluated, with potentially huge implications around the corner. Another area of re-evaluation is the inherent value and logistical challenges posed in hosting a virtual event for your business and industry.
Like more traditional events, a virtual conference may include:
- Keynote address
- Panel discussions
- Training sessions
- Demos of new or upgraded products
- Educational programs
The goal of such events “is lead and demand generation, adoption and retention, brand awareness, and relationship building,” notes Cvent. A virtual conference is a “great alternative” to in-person events.
If this appears to be a viable alternative for your business, here are tips to keep in mind:
Understand why you are hosting the virtual conference.
As with more traditional business events, it’s key to know why you’re hosting the conference and what you hope to get out of it. According to Forbes, traditional business event objectives “typically fall into four categories: education, collaboration, networking opportunities and brand marketing or awareness.” While an in-person conference might accomplish all of these objectives, “if you try to replicate that at a virtual event, your success will be limited.”
Focus instead on one overarching goal for the virtual conference and tailor your efforts and resources in that direction.
Distribute all relevant information ahead of time.
Handling the logistics of a virtual conference can be complicated, and not just for the organizers. As you begin preparations, get all of these logistics in order, so that related information regarding where, when, and how can be clearly outlined to both participants and attendees.
In your promotional materials, suggests Learning Revolution, include “what sessions will take place when, where [attendees] go to access them, [and] when they can expect recordings to be available.” It’s a good idea as well to send email reminders to attendees ahead of time “to make sure they [know] the session schedule and how to access the sessions.”
Want additional insight? Read 5 Ways Business Owners and CEOs Prepare to Seize Opportunities now to learn more
Enlist support to promote the event.
Your marketing team isn’t the only resource to call upon when promoting a virtual event. Encourage all of those taking part—from sponsors and exhibitors to conference speakers and those in attendance—to share the news of the upcoming event in their professional and social media networks. You can even provide useful wording for these individuals and companies to share in their promotional messages.
Anticipate technical issues and be prepared for customer support.
With any technology being used during this pandemic, there’s always a potential for some glitch to occur. Rather than leave participants and attendees frustrated by technical issues, test and double-test all aspects of the virtual conference ahead of time.
WordStream cautions that the following technical issues are commonplace in this digital venue:
- Breakdown of the conference live stream. Plan for a backup platform that’s ready to go.
- A last-minute guest speaker’s absence. In the event your big-name keynote speaker cancels at the last moment, be prepared to cover the material yourself or through appointed stand-ins.
- Lack of preparation for number of attendees. Potential issues can arise with either too few or too many attendees online. Be prepared to handle the possible overload to your web-based systems.
During the planning stages, therefore, always “have some contingency plans in place.”
The trend toward virtual meetings and conferences will likely continue well beyond a return to normal for businesses. Done correctly, they can be informative, appealing, and relatively inexpensive to host. You just need to go about it the right way.
Finally, don’t neglect the way you and your team appear on Zoom or other digital conference settings. To learn more about presenting and conducting virtual conferences and meetings—the importance, for example, of good lighting, camera height and angle, background and sound, check our free TAB Boss Webinar, “Expert Tips on How to Look Your Best on Video Calls.”