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How to Host a Virtual Conference – 10 Tips for Success

Read our 10 tips for pulling off a virtual conference that's relevant and beneficial to your attendees.

So, you’ve decided to host a virtual conference – good for you! The way we transfer information and learn from one another will forever be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which drives the need for virtual conferences like the one you’re aiming to host. Consumers expect high-quality conferences, or they will lose interest, so it is important to follow these tips to pull off a successful virtual conference. 

There are no shortage of speakers that you could round up to present at your conference, which is why it is important to ‘curate’ your conference experience so that guests get taken on a journey as they hear from each speaker. There needs to be a common thread that will keep attendees engaged and learning. This will help you market your conference better and attract an audience that will be interested in the full offering of sessions. 

Make it easy for others to promote 

The best promoters for a virtual conference are the people invested in it – whether they are presenters, ‘evangelical’ attendees or event sponsors. Marketing is a no-brainer to get attendance to the event but creating it in such a way that these important stakeholders can easily share and invite others will leverage their own followings as well and ultimately help broaden the awareness of your conference. 

Find ways to add a social aspect 

The one thing that physical conferences have over virtual conferences is the opportunity to network and meet like-minded people. It is, however, not impossible to create a social space within your virtual conference. The onus is most definitely on the organisers though – social does not just happen without intentionality. If a live chat functionality is your solution, then have moderators that engage with questions and make meaningful contributions to the conversation. Hosting Q&As with speakers to delve further into their content and allow for participation is another way to create a social space, but again, this space needs to be set up and maintained by a host. 

Balance recorded content with live elements 

There is a tendency to opt for the more controllable pre-recorded content. This is important since it can be pre-approved, tested and has a predictable duration. The trade-off is that it creates a less personal and intimate setting. So, it is important to keep this balance in mind – pre-recorded material may seem more professional but comes at the expense of attendees feeling a part of the conference. 

Have a strong support team 

Incorporating new tech into your conference is great for innovation and pushing the boundary but runs the risk of creating a negative experience for your attendees if they can’t get it to work. It’s important to have a strong customer support team to handle queries before and during the event to ensure everyone experiences your conference the way you planned. It is also worthwhile drawing attention the support that you’re offering, so that attendees know who and how to get in contact with them should they require assistance. 

Set your speakers up well 

Even the most experienced presenters benefit from good event support and feedback. Be sure to be in consistent communication with them in the leadup to your event, so that they are coming into their session with the same expectations as you are. Dry runs are a great help in ironing out hiccups and figuring out precise cues and the flow of proceedings. Be open to suggestions from your presenters on how to make things run smoother. 

Let your attendees collaborate as well 

Your attendees are not just sheep that you herd into your event – they are people interested in the content being presented and, when invited to collaborate, provide a much richer experience for everyone. Like we mentioned under creating meaningful social interactions, perhaps allowing spaces for collaboration could be what sets your conference experience ahead. 

Keep sponsors in the loop and involved 

Not every event requires vendors to sponsor it, but should you require it, it’s important to nurture these relationships so that they can develop into partnerships. Sourcing the relevant sponsors are key and keeping them in the loop about your plans for the conference is important – they may have valuable input to add that could further enhance your conference experience. Recognising your sponsors is important, whether that be displaying their logos, providing an opportunity to lead a session or otherwise draw attention to their sponsorship during the event. 

Lean on the flexibility of the virtual space 

Virtual conferences can definitely mirror their physical counterparts, but due to their very nature, there are things that the virtual space does better and can be explored. For example, physical attendance over a long period of time is a no-go; people cannot afford the time off work to attend multiple days in a row. But a virtual conference could take a completely different format – it could be spread out over the course of a few weeks; it could be an evening only session outside of office hours. Now that the physical boundaries have been removed, there are many options to explore that fully take advantage of the virtual space that you’ll be working in. 

Remember to reminder attendees 

With physical attendance, there’s a high likelihood that attendees will be engaged with the proceedings of your conference just because they are there and will look to make the most of the time they spend at your event. In a virtual space, it is easier to forget the start of the next session or what breakaway sessions are available. This makes reminders an important part of your event – the question is often how many?  Whether your host does it live, or you use email reminders, it’s important to remember that your attendees signed up for your event and would want to maximise their experience of it. It’s safer to err on the side of annoyance then. 

There are a lot of things to think about when planning a great virtual conference. Digitlab is excited to offer virtual conferencing as a new service offering, helping you plan out, market and host a truly professional event. We’ve partnered with world-class specialists to meet any requirements you may have. 


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