Over the past year, virtual events have become a mainstay in most industries. And moving forward, virtual events will continue to be a staple of conferencing, networking, and client engagement. But if you’re going to win on this stage, you must learn how to host virtual conferences successfully.
What is a Virtual Conference?
A virtual conference is, well, exactly what it sounds like. It’s a virtual spin on the classic conference that would be held at a hotel ballroom or other event venue. But instead of taking place in a physical location, they’re hosted online. These organized meet-ups can consist of speakers and presenters, training courses, workshops, interviews, breakout networking groups, or anything else. They can consist of several people or tens of thousands of people.
4 Tips for a Successful Virtual Conference
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, what the focus of the conference is, or who the audience is. The same underlying principles can be used to facilitate successful results. Here are a few pertinent tips:
1. Use a Strategic Promotion Strategy
While there are ways to streamline a virtual conference (some of which we cover in this article), there’s no denying that hosting an event like this takes a lot of time and energy. To ensure you get a robust ROI, be intentional about your promotion strategy.
Your exact promotion strategy will depend on the type of event you’re running, who you’re targeting, the pricing (free, low-cost, or high-ticket), and a number of other unique variables. However, most successful promotion strategies use a combination of social media, PPC advertising, email marketing, and partnerships with influencers. (One great technique is to invite certain people to speak at your event and then ask them to promote the event to their own email list and audience.)
2. Choose the Right Event Management Software
In a physical conference, choosing the event venue is one of the first steps. For a virtual conference, it’s all about selecting the right event management software.
There are a number of options to choose from, but you’ll want to go with something that’s proven, scalable, functional, and cost-effective. (Don’t get too caught up on pricing, though. The most important thing is that the event is smooth for everyone. If the platform delivers a solid user experience, you’ll generate a positive ROI.)
3. Leverage Opportunities for Real-Time Engagement
The last thing you want is for people to show up and feel like they’re sitting in a college lecture hall. The most successful virtual conferences are the ones that pull attendees in through real-time engagement.
Options for real-time engagement include audience Q&As, surveys and polls, and breakout groups. Look for a healthy blend of content so that people feel like they’re active participants, not silent bystanders.
Secure Sponsors (And Use Them as Partners)
Entrepreneur Jeff Cobb is a big believer in virtual events. And he’s found that one of the best ways to offset your costs, draw people in, and increase engagement is to secure relationships with vendors and leverage them as partners.
“By ‘vendors,’ I mean companies that sell products or services that are of value to your target audience, but that don’t compete with whatever you provide,” Cobb explains. “Ideally, whatever the vendor sells should complement your products or services. In our case, this meant primarily working with learning platform vendors, as most of our attendees use or plan to use a learning platform.”
This sort of crossover with your audience will allow you to add more value and relieve certain pressure points.
Learn and Iterate
While it’s tempting to view virtual events as a temporary trend that will dissolve once the world returns to normal, experts in technology and business caution people that this won’t be the case. Even after many other areas of life return to normal, the business world will remain “shook” – in a good way.
Businesses that are leveraging virtual conferences now realize that they’re much more cost-effective and convenient. And because they can reach more people, they usually generate higher ROI. Virtual conferences are here to stay. So what better time to learn how to do them well?
You’ll experience your fair share of mess-ups and mistakes. Make it a point to learn from them. Take notes, document processes, and identify areas for improvement. Then, as you get a few more virtual events under your belt, you’ll be able to iterate to bigger and better things.