Are you wondering what a virtual summit looks like or actually planning to host one? Not sure where to start from? Trying to get hold of a one-stop guide to help you plan your virtual conference from ideation to implementation?
Voila, you are at the right place!
So let’s start from scratch – What is a Virtual Conference?
As an organizer, this is the first question that strikes us when considering the idea of garnishing our formal meetings using technology.
A virtual conference is an event that is conducted online and where partakers with similar concerns attend remotely, usually from the convenience of their homes, cars, or peak of a mountain – all they require is a good internet connection and a device!
Role of virtual conferences in global recessions and the pandemic
Virtual conferences have been a lifesaver for countless organizations during global crises, like the recession in the late 2000s. It not only brought economic but environmental advantages as well.
The idea of virtual conferences gained much more popularity during the ongoing pandemic where businesses began to actively shift towards online platforms, enabling social distancing among various other benefits. Long gone are the days when organizations would worry about connecting people from across the borders and so, in today’s world, it is exceptionally important for both parties (organizers and attendees) to learn how a virtual conference works.
Here are some benefits that come handy with a virtual conference:
These conferences work just like any other meeting, offering a lot more convenience, as they can be attended remotely from any part of the world. In addition, event hosts can make the most out of the following advantages of a virtual conference:
- Engage attendees more effectively with 1:1 live and group chats
- Attentive and centered audience with audio/video integrations
- Measure ROIs that helps us shape our next strategy
- Interaction with new people from all over the world
- Networking with other experts in the same field
- Relatively quicker and easier to set up
- Attract more sponsors
- Eliminate travel and setup costs; otherwise incurred in a physical event
- Save the environment by avoiding plastic and fabrication waste
- Improve brand presence online and achieve better rankings
How can you plan and host a virtual conference
Step 1: Define the conference goals and select target audience
The first point in formulating a virtual conference is when you decide on the objectives that need to be achieved through a conference. Once you have determined your goals, you start working on the strategy based on the desired outcomes. The first step in developing your strategy is to select a target audience suitable for your virtual conference. Make sure, all of this is aligned with your goals and objectives.
Step 2: Plan your virtual conference in advance
Most of the time when you want to host a conference, you usually have a theme decided for it. If not, this is where you start your planning! List down the questions you expect your guest speakers to ask you regarding your theme and prepare for their answers.
Generally these questions revolve around the following:
- Why is the theme important to discuss and how will it benefit the audience?
- When do you wish to hold your conference?
- For how long will the conference last?
- How many guest speakers are expected to be participating in the conference?
Being prepared to answer such questions in advance is imperative in terms of pitching the virtual event to guest speakers and attendees and to therefore, attracting your target audience.
Step 3: Choosing the right platform
After finalizing your speakers, jot down the ideas and start formulating them into action because that is when you start your search for a service provider. There are a number of platforms offering a platform for online events, with varying degrees of features.
It is important to do your homework before deciding between your potential service providers. Some of the standards questions that can be asked for comparison:
- The engagement features it offers
- Scale of design and configurations it allows
- Extent of different languages it supports
- Compatibility with CRM tools
- Which accessibility features are available
- Scope of customer support as per your time zone
With vFairs, you don’t have to worry about the plugins or any additional extensions. It is also compatible with CRM platforms that will make your virtual conference experience a breeze. Click here to see a list of questions that might come handy for your event.
Choosing the right platform with CRM integration allows you to:
- Share content using dynamic layouts and customized designs
- Enhance your mailing list for future marketing campaigns
- Update attendees on a newly launched product or service relevant to the theme
- Engage and remind your attendees prior to an event
- Build long term relationships with your prospects
Step 4: Manage expectations
You need to understand the time frame involved in building a virtual conference. It takes very meticulous effort to bring you the virtual experience needed to make a difference. On average, it takes around 3 months in setting up an online event. Most of the time is spent on content, design, configurations and preparing webinars. Most importantly, it takes time to promote the event through various marketing channels to reach your audience.
Step 5: Attract Maximum attendees
What majority of organizers struggle while hosting a virtual conference is effectively spreading and circulating the word. For this:
- Run an Online Contest on Social Media It’s no secret that one of the straightforward paths to get visitors to your site is via social media. It can be one of your vital assets in attracting attendees to your conference, no matter which social media platform you are using for your business.
- Reach out to Your Current Email List email marketing is helping a number of companies to generate visitors and attendees. Protip: using catchy subject lines and certain keywords can drive your warm leads to action.
- Create a pre-event hype by offering certain incentives to your audience. For example, you can gamify your virtual conference with leaderboards and theme-based giveaways that will not just improve the quality of your attendees but will also stimulate better engagement.
- Send reminder emails to everyone who registered for the event.
Step 6: Protips for the event
- Test all of your equipment and tools prior to the start of your virtual conference
- Begin with an ice-breaking session to make everyone feel comfortable
- Stimulate an interactive environment by using polls and Q&As
- Ask closed ended questions instead of open ended as it may result in “dead air”
- Be courteous towards everyone
Step 7: Post Event : Analyze and Reflect
Now is the time to sit back and analyze the post-event reports and turn them into your next big strategy. Your entire conference is recorded so you can tune into those webinars again and revamp to build much better conferences in future.
While the concept of running a conference using an online platform might sound like a challenging task, however, almost all the organizers are able to emerge out stronger with hosting a successful virtual conference. Choosing the right virtual event provider along with a concrete objective in mind will surely lead you to achieve exceptional results this year.
At vFairs.com, we strive to build a top-class online event platform that will help event organizers make memorable connections with their target audience. We’re obsessed with taking out the hassle normally associated with physical events and leaving organizers and exhibitors to focus on what’s most important: engagement with the audience.