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5 Tips for hosting a successful virtual conference or event

With the COVID-19 pandemic limiting travel and crowded gatherings, virtual conferences and events have replaced their in-person counterparts. Rather than these disruptions slowing planning down, it seems like there are more events than ever, between webinars and launch events and industry conferences.

If you’re hosting a virtual conference or event for the first time, arm yourself with these tips for a successful experience.

  1. Budget

Budget

Virtual events do have a lower cost than in-person ones but the more activity and attendance you have, the more you’ll need to budget for, especially for the supporting technology.

Other budgeting items you’ll need to consider that are related to virtual events include: heavy social media promotion, live captioning, comment moderation and hosting videos and documents after the event is over.

2. Mix live streams & prerecorded videos

live streams & prerecorded videos

The benefit of a virtual event is that you’re usually able to watch talks that you miss. But then, what’s the point of attending if you’ll just be able to watch later? Beef up your events and make them more appealing to live attendees with fun live streams, virtual breakout rooms or discussion chats and other interactive material.

Prerecorded videos let your speakers off the hook for any technology issues and also allow for editing if needed. Livestreams are a lot more interactive for everyone and a value-add if attendees need to pay to attend.

Mixing the two types of videos up in one event makes it fun and memorable, overcoming the staleness factor that strictly prerecorded videos can have.

3. Prepare your speakers

Prepare your speakers

For an entirely virtual event, make sure your speakers are fully prepared. Larger events should do test runs for internet speed, comfort level with the technology and mic checks. Livestreaming and using whichever event platform you choose might be a new experience for your speakers so it’s best to prepare them for what they might encounter.

Some common scenarios to prepare for include:

  • Finding the best physical environment for your speaker to minimize interruptions and have clear sound.
  • If sharing a screen or live stream, tips on what to turn off on your computer, such as putting all notifications on hold.
  • To comment or not to comment? Ideally, you’ll have a separate person who is moderating the comments so the speaker can focus on their talk.
  • What happens if the speaker’s tech fails them or the software glitches or their slides aren’t working? Have backup plans ready for all these possible issues.

Lastly, speakers are another source of promotion for your event. You want them to advertise their talk so their current audience will feel like the event is worth attending.

  1. Set expectations for attendees

You need to effectively communicate what attendees should expect in the virtual conference. Be clear in what the event is and who it is for. How does it stand out from all the other virtual events out there?

Make it very easy for attendees to build an event schedule and have the right links to head to when it’s time to attend. With a virtual event, you have the option of expanding your attendance base and effectively generating more potential leads and meaningful engagement.

5. Plan the promotion: Before, during & after

promotion

Marketing, especially on social media, will be a big portion of your preparation. Paying for social media ads are a must-have for digital events but don’t forget about event landing pages and newsletter sends. The effort doesn’t end with the day of the event either–virtual events supply plenty of opportunity to repurpose livestream and digital content for weeks after the fact.

Luckily for you, virtual events make it easy to track your ROI and you will be set on knowing how well your campaign is performing.

After the event is over, thank everyone involved and use follow-up surveys to understand what you can work on for next time. These survey results can also become testimonials for the next event promotion.

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