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Mastering Digital Gatherings: Tips for Virtual Conferences

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As a conference host, you may be feeling a little anxious about moving your conference online and the pressure to make a good impression has never been higher. Whether you are rushing against the clock to move from a physical to a virtual event or are planning to take a conference online later in the year, you need to cut yourself a little slack. There is a lot to be learned about online events and mistakes will be made. The good news is that the COVID-19 global pandemic has made attendees far more understanding and accepting of any hiccups arising from virtual or heavily hybridized events. Unfortunately, the attendee’s goodwill will only get you so far. You still need to be prepared and you should strive to put on the most professional event possible!To that end, we’ve put together this list of virtual conference tips and best practices to help you out![embed]https://youtu.be/Oot-yM-7za8[/embed]

Virtual Conference Tips & Best Practices

The accelerated move towards virtual and hybrid events has been hard on many conference planners and organizers. To help ease the shift and improve your chances of hosting a successful virtual conference, here’s what you need to know:

Know Your Value Proposition

As you would when planning a face-to-face conference, ask yourself this question: What is the value proposition for attendees?One of the biggest points of value a virtual conference has is, well, the fact that it is virtual. This means individuals can attend the conference without having to travel, pay for that travel, or put their personal health at risk. All they need is an internet connection and a screen! This adds value to your event. But, here’s the thing, that cannot be the main driver of value. Coronavirus is everywhere and that means all virtual events can use their remote nature as added value. You will need to dig deeper and provide a conference agenda or program that really educates, enlightens, entertains, and engages attendees. You need to create a cohesive program, connecting individual sessions, keynote addresses, networking sessions, and facilitating conversation between attendees. It is not enough to throw together a bunch of streaming videos. If you want a positive attendee experience, you need to use the available technology to foster engagement and create an online experience that cannot be found anywhere else.

Build and Market Your Content Library

A virtual conference provides organizers with the opportunity to build a significant, and valuable, content library. You can capture keynotes, breakout sessions, workshops, webinars, and demonstrations. These pieces of content can exist as future reference material for you, your sponsors, vendors, and attendees. This content library can go a long way and it can open up your conference to a wider number of people. Some attendees, for example, may be in time zones that make attending certain sessions in real-time next to impossible. Live streaming an address from an industry leader is only valuable if people are able to join. Adding this video to a content library assures that everyone who wants to see it, can. Make sure that you mention this content library in your marketing materials. If people understand that they will have access to the material for future use, or can catch sessions, addresses, and presentations that are scheduled concurrently or are not convenient for time zone reasons, they are more likely to see value and register for your event.

Choose an Event Platform with Social Tools

These days, most people are looking for some form of social connection. One of the primary reasons people attend conferences is for the networking opportunities. It is important to choose a virtual conference platform that has powerful social tools. If you do not have a platform that can offer some sort of communication and interaction capabilities, your event will suffer. There are lots of virtual platforms to choose from but it is important to look for one that offers chat and video conferencing functionality as well as remote meeting tools. The more you can do to encourage collaboration between attendees, the better.

Line Up Sponsors Early and Promote Them Often

As soon as you are able, start making sponsorship requests. The sooner you can bring sponsors on board, the more resources you have to fund and market your conference. Once you have your sponsors, promote them often. This does not mean slapping logos all over your materials but rather taking time and care to best benefit the sponsor. Simply put, there are lots of incredible benefits to a virtual conference and these benefits extend to sponsors. A virtual conference allows for a more targeted approach, creating a more specific audience meaning sponsors can get in front of exactly the right audience. The ability to generate more qualified leads will definitely be appealing to potential sponsors!Sponsors can be used as the key revenue drivers for your conference. One virtual conference pricing option to consider is to offer free registration in exchange for providing more information and personal data that can then be passed on to sponsors. This can provide more value to all parties involved.

Spread the Word on Social Media

When it comes to marketing conferences, social media is one of the most valuable tools you can employ. The more attendees you can attract, the more revenue you stand to generate. But, more attendees can also mean more sponsors and more vendors. The more excitement and buzz you can create, the better able you will be to establish your conference as a leader in the industry. Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin are all excellent channels to use when trying to reach your target audience. When choosing your virtual event platform, look for one that has social media integrations. One way to encourage even more reach on social media is to reward attendees for sharing your event. Your registration and ticketing platform should integrate with social media so that when someone buys tickets or registers, they will be prompted to share the news on their own social media platforms. Consider running a contest or giveaway. Create a hashtag and ask attendees to use it. Track their posts, enter each one into a draw for a prize package of some sort. Anything you can do to incentivize shares will help.

Provide Strong Technical Support

Despite the recent increase in online meetings and video conferencing, whole events like virtual conferences will be new to most people. Both you and your partner platform need to be prepared to help. Make sure that your event platform has a robust support feature with 24/7 live online chat, clearly documented instructions and phone support. Even with all of these features, it is not enough to rely on the platform for support. You and your team should test each element and feature so you can correct any issues that exist and are aware of what could potentially go wrong on the day of your conference. Put together a support team. Make sure you have at least one individual that fully understands all of the tools that will be used during the conference. This means that if there are any failures, you have people in place that can troubleshoot immediately. Make sure that support links and contact numbers are easy to find. You don’t want attendees scrambling should they encounter an issue. Providing fast support will improve audience experience and go a long way to ensuring your conference is viewed favorably.

Create Demo Videos

To reduce the potential support requests, be proactive. Put together demo videos to help your guests navigate the platform and your conference as a whole. Your demos should cover things like registration, accessing a session or keynote, networking capabilities, and how to use virtual booths and lobbies. But don’t just create these materials for attendees, your vendors can use the support as well. Making sure they don’t experience hiccups can help them realize their ROI quickly and it will make them more likely to speak favorably of your event and possibly participate again in the future. Virtual conferences provide a lot of value for everyone involved. In many ways, they are less complicated than physical events but that does not mean they are easy. Virtual events are new and uncharted territory for many — planners, vendors, speakers, and attendees included. To help flatten the learning curve and make your event as flawless and memorable as possible, give yourself as much time as you can to plan or transition to a virtual format and bolster your efforts by employing the tips listed above. When you are ready to investigate virtual event platforms, reach out to Accelevents to learn more about what we can do to help you host a seamless virtual conference!

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