Planners and marketers have a new way to reach a wider audience through virtual conferences. This is often more effective than attending in-person events because travel costs and expenses are not a burden. Virtual events are the new norm. A survey by PCMA found that 79% of event planners now use virtual venues. This event type requires a new way to think and plan an event. This event requires cross-functional teams, which include IT, digital, planning, marketing, and digital. It also requires reimagining content to engage attendees at home. What does it take to organize a virtual conference?
What is a virtual conference?
A virtual conference is more complex than a virtual meeting. It’s also more complex than a webinar. These webinars are usually multi-day and are held online. They can include keynotes and panel discussions, live entertainment and training and certification, product demonstrations, solution sessions and industry trends/thought leaders, product training/adoption and many more. Virtual conferences are used to generate leads and sales, foster brand awareness, increase adoption and retention, build relationships, and improve customer service. A virtual conference can be used as a companion to hybrid events or an alternative to in-person conferences.
Why not host a virtual conference instead?
Virtual conferences allow organizations to reach a wider audience. Virtual conferences are 8 times more popular than traditional in-person conferences. This is something we’ve experienced firsthand. Eventalways VGO, our flagship event, attracted 4,500+ people in 2019. Eventalways had over 40,000 registrants. Although virtual conferences are not a substitute for face-to–face interaction, they can be a viable option for key stakeholders who live far away or where travel is impossible. Although many virtual conferences have been offered at no cost, this type of event is becoming more popular. Virtual conferences are a great way to increase brand awareness, network opportunities, and lead generation.
How can you make a virtual conference strategy work?
Virtual conferences are not the same as in-person conferences. The conference is entirely online and requires that attendees focus for long periods of time on a screen. Content is the key to your virtual conference strategy. It will attract the attention of attendees and encourage them to register. Consider your entire event program to create a virtual conference strategy. Do you have a gap in the program that could be addressed by a virtual conference. Are you able to afford a virtual conference and have the necessary resources? Are you able to host a virtual conference with the resources available? These are all questions you should ask when deciding if a virtual conference is the right option for your company. It’s worth looking into a virtual conference if you have an annual conference that can’t be held this year, or any other major event that generates revenue.
What are the goals and KPIs for a virtual conference?
You’ll need to establish goals and identify key performance indicator (KPIs), before any event. This will allow you to evaluate event success at each stage. It also allows you to compare the performance of different events in your program. It is essential to be concise when planning for a virtual conference. Virtual conferences are more difficult than traditional ones. It’s much harder to accomplish multiple goals at once. Instead, focus on a single goal that will drive the virtual conference’s mission. When creating goals, there are two streams of goals to consider: attendee goals and business goals. It is important to understand your goals for each.
Potential business goals
- Lead generation or brand awareness
- Instant revenue
- Lifetime value and product adoption
- Loyalty and customer appreciation
- Membership growth
- Training or learning
- Entertainment and celebration
How can you host a virtual conference?
Virtual conferences don’t have to be any different from in-person conferences. Virtual conferences are a lot the same as in-person conferences. Everything is done the same, from registration to website creation to email marketing. With virtual conferences, technology must be given more attention. If you consider it strictly budgeting, the emphasis is clear. 25% of the expenses for in-person events are tech related, 75% are non-tech-related expenses and 75% are non-tech-related expenses. Virtual events are 75% technology expenses and 25% non-tech-related expenses. Although there is very little F&B and hotels, there are virtual booths and livestreams. In many cases, these can also be used to cover production costs.
How can you create cross-functional teams?
Your planning team will need to adapt when you decide to go virtual. You will need to create a cross-functional team in order to make a complex digital marketing program successful. Marketers, who are familiar with running successful webinar programs can help with content, promotion, as well as overall strategy. Marketers are crucial in securing the right virtual conference software. They are also responsible for vetting tech stacks. Digital and IT, which are usually less involved at in-person events will be your rock stars. They will ensure that streaming, connectivity and other essentials work for the duration of the virtual conference. To create high quality content, a video production team may be required. Although your team might look different than usual, bringing together the expertise from your entire organization will make your virtual event even better.
How can you select the best virtual event technology?
Virtualizing your event often means adding new technology to the mix. Most planners are asking themselves the first question: How will attendees access, consume and interact with your event’s content…and each others? How will that experience look? What will be the interactive aspect?
There are many options and providers available, so it can be difficult to choose the right one. The answer is ultimately in what experience you are trying to provide. What is the importance of high production quality? Is interactivity more important than one-to-many broadcast capability? Are you looking for a platform that can handle complex transitions and “virtual runs of shows”? We don’t have a universal answer.
What technology do you need in order to host a virtual conference.
Virtual conferences are one of the most complex event types. They rely on technology for their success. A virtual conference platform that integrates with your marketing system
These are some types of event technology you will need to host a virtual conference.
- Abstract management
- Mobile event app
- Schedule an appointment
- Onsite engagement
- Tracking attendance
- Video platform
How can you plan for the virtual conference content experience
Forbes says content is still the king. The attention span of attendees has changed. It is important to keep attendees focused and not send them back to work every time they get an email or message notification.
Virtual events are shorter than in-person conferences. Virtual events are shorter and more concise than in-person conferences. They also offer more content on demand that allows attendees to watch their sessions on their own time. Do not be afraid to use your content. The virtual conference places a greater emphasis on production quality. Engaged attendees will be more likely to listen and view the video.
Speaking of quality, virtual is not about quantity, it’s about quality. Sessions should be well-produced, engaging, valuable, and relevant to attendees. You don’t have to reduce the number of sessions in a virtual conference. While you may have over 100 sessions at an in-person conference it is not uncommon to keep that number down to 20.
Questions you can ask about every virtual session
- Session Duration: Not more than 2 hours per session, but you may consider shorter sessions with different content.
- Session Format Panel or webinar, keynote, news-style broadcasts, executive presentations, ted-style talks, video, late-night shows, etc.
- Audience Interactions: Can the audience see each other on video, ask questions verbally or chat with one another?
- Types of Content: Thought leadership, research-based client insight, product or service training.
- Live vs. Pre-recorded vs. Live: There are many things that can go wrong in a live session. However, it creates a sense of community and increases engagement.
- Streaming and On-Demand: On Demand is great for smaller sessions. It also offers attendees a break, since they can set their own watch times.
- Talking Head or On-screen Presentation – Which is better for viewing the content? Consider the benefits of visual aids depending on the content type.
- Visual vs. Audio Only: Session formats don’t necessarily have to be identical. You could host an audio-only podcast or present that uses only visuals.
- Interactive vs. Interactive.
How can you promote networking at virtual conferences
After great content comes connection building. Attendees can create their own community during in-person events because they are close to each other. How can you make those connections virtual? You don’t have to be at the same table as an attendee, or even meet them in person, but that doesn’t mean your virtual event can’t help you make those connections.
Sales networking with attendees
Virtual one-on-one meetings have been a part of your life for many years. However, it has only been a few months since onsite visits are no longer feasible. These same principles can be applied to your virtual event. Sales can schedule meetings before the event to meet with attendees, allowing them to take a valuable place on their agenda.
Attendees network with
Attendees need to network with attendees. These connections will be made possible by your mobile event app. Participants can make connections with others by using messaging tools and the event stream. You can encourage networking by scheduling happy hours, breakouts and one-on-ones.
Exhibitors and sponsors networking with attendees
Sponsors and exhibitors should be able to network with attendees through networking opportunities. Your sales team, exhibitors, and other attendees can view the registration list and schedule appointments by emailing a Zoom link. It will be easier and more effective to make scheduling appointments from the virtual environment.
What does sponsorship look for virtual conferences?
Virtual conferences offer many sponsorship options, many of which are the same as at in-person events. You can sponsor sessions with video ads, sponsored sessions, trade show booths and appointments. Your name will also be prominently displayed on the event’s trade show website or page. Sponsorship is a great way to connect attendees with great companies and help offset the event’s cost. You should clearly define the levels of sponsorship. These should be broken down by cost and what the sponsors get in return. Don’t be afraid of negotiating for in-kind services. Just make sure that you are offering something of value. It is a great way to get sponsors. You can offer data about your past events or projected numbers.
How can you set up a virtual trade show?
Although a virtual tradeshow can make a big impact at virtual conferences, it requires the right technology. It doesn’t matter if you create a 3D tradeshow or one that uses company logos, prescheduled appointments or walk-ins, make it simple for attendees. Make sure to include time for attendees to visit the virtual tradeshow in your event agenda.
How can you activate data and analysis from your virtual conference
Your virtual events can provide valuable data just like in-person events. With the right strategy and engagement, they can also deliver valuable data. Virtual attendees can register to attend sessions, participate in live Q&A, polling, attend appointments or give feedback. This data will help you increase revenue. You will also want to see how attendees interacted and interacted with sponsors.
When planning your virtual event, it is important to think carefully about how you will capture data and what technology you can use to power it. This is the most important step to evaluating the success of your event, and maximising its value.
Virtual events can capture three types of data
1. Event Data: This data describes the event. Event type, cost, date, location, registration counts, etc. These are all examples of event data. You can compare virtual events’ performance with virtual ones, and even its in-person counterparts by capturing event data.
2. Profile Data: This is data about the attendee’s firmographic and demographic information. It describes both the attendee as well as his/her organization. Profile data can include name, address, email and title as well as the organization name and number of employees. Profile data is usually captured during registration. It can be used to create new prospect profiles and complete existing ones. You’ll get to know your prospects better in either way.
3. Engagement Data: This data is dynamic. It is a result attendees’ interactions with the event’s content, sponsors, exhibitors, and other attendees. Engagement data includes session registration, session attendance, duration, scheduled appointments, feedback. Engagement data can be particularly useful in helping your marketing and sales teams understand the interests of attendees and to help them follow up more effectively.
Don’t be afraid of going virtual. It’s the best option for many organizations to connect, inspire, and foster relationships. McKinsey stated that they have “vanquished five years forward in consumer digital adopt in just eight weeks.” Events are constantly changing. Virtual events and experiences can help you to rebuild your event program and plan for the future. Virtual conferences can have a significant impact. There are many resources available to help you host virtual events.
A virtual conference platform is essential if you are considering going virtual at your next conference. It’s specifically designed to support new types of events and has all the features necessary to make your event a success.