The social distancing mandate has been in force since the coronavirus pandemic broke out in March 2020.
This ensured that large in-person events, gatherings, festivals, & conferences were now all moot.
Infact, 2020 marked the first time in 33 years that the music festival SXSW was cancelled.
Also, large annual tech gatherings like Google & Facebook’s annual developers’ conferences were cancelled too in view of the restrictions on physical distancing.
This development led many leading organizations as well as small & medium sized businesses to adopt the way of virtual conferences, events, webinars, & the likes.
Microsoft’s Build Conference & the Game Developers’ Conference held as multi-day virtual conferences were amongst the first examples of physical conferences gone virtual, successfully too at that.
While it’s true that it isn’t possible to completely transform physical conferences into totally virtual experiences, a good & engaging virtual conference can definitely be held with the right resources & expertise in tow.
Infact, for many businesses, whether big or small, virtual conferences remain the only way to connect with & engage their attendees in the present situation.
Industries are actively looking for new innovative ways to fill up the vacuum generated by the stoppage of physical events & conferences, & virtual events can very well provide a way to do just that.
In this article, we tell you about the top tips needed to successfully host a virtual conference & meeting.
1. Choose an Appropriate Theme for The Virtual Conference
Without the commonality of a shared physical space, virtual conferences tend to get a little bit out of context at times.
It’s difficult to keep people interested & focused on a single topic when they are attending the conference from their own homes, in their own comfort zones.
Thus choosing an appropriate theme to keep the entire virtual conference somewhat in the same zone might be your best bet to save the conference from being all over the place.
Choose your topics carefully & design your conference schedule accordingly so as to keep your conference carefully pivoted to one common topic/theme.
To make your virtual conference actually impactful, try to keep your sessions, webinars, workshops, & other activities, all within a common agenda to make it as monothematic as possible for your attendees.
Try to choose a strong idea for your conference, & lead with that for everything within the conference.
This idea, even if it’s just a single word, will help your conference make sense to all the attendees involved.
2. Make Use of Live Video
Since virtual conferences are held well, virtually, there is a real element of disconnect to them.
Attendees don’t feel as if they are actually a part of the conference, rather just watching it from a distance as an outsider.
Live videos are one of the most effective ways for virtual conference organizers to combat this aspect of alienation in virtual conferences.
You should encourage your speakers to turn to live videos whenever it is possible for them, either before or after a session.
If there is need, you can even ask them to switch to live video even during a session if it helps them better put a point across.
The more live video you use during your virtual conference sessions, the better you will fare at engaging your attendees.
3. Keep the Sessions Interactive & Engaging
The last thing you want to do with your virtual conference is schedule session after session with no breaks, or engagement activities, or interaction opportunities in between.
This makes your attendees tune out of the conference even before you’re reached halfway through.
Try your best to design the conference schedule in such a way that there is a short break between the sessions with fun activities like games, attendee networking opportunities like 1:1 video conferencing, business card exchange, etc., as well as interactive activities like polling, quizzes on the session just attended, & other fun stuff.
Doing this not only helps break the monotony of attending a virtual conference, but also makes your attendees feel entertained, interested, & a genuine part of the virtual conference.
You can also try making each session entertaining & interactive by utilizing 3D graphics, hologram technology, AR, VR, & high-quality audio-video production.
Remember, the more engaging & interactive your sessions are, the more audiences will connect with you & leave satisfactory feedback.
4. Perform a Dry-Test Run
Virtual Conferences have a lot of potential for engaging audiences & giving them a proper virtual conference experience. However, since they rely so much on technology & especially a working internet connection, there is also potential for so much to go wrong in the worst case scenarios.
Hence, performing a dry test run before you go live with your virtual conference is of utmost importance & helps ensure that you or your attendees are not faced with some ‘surprising’ element right before you’re about to go live.
Hold test speaker sessions well ahead of time, run the technical setup through every snag possible, & double-check the internet bandwidth required for carrying on with the virtual conferences.
After all this, you still need to set up a quick & efficient technical issues resolution team that helps your attendees get over any possible technical issues they might have during the virtual conferences.
Quick response times & efficient query resolution on the technical team’s part will help ensure that your attendees have a smooth, seamless virtual conference experience, giving you one less thing to worry about.
5. Keep Simplicity at The Core
Even though virtual conferences are supposed to be a recreation of physical conferences, they don’t necessarily have to represent each & every aspect of a live conferences.
Given the constraints of the internet, various components of technology, & other bottlenecks faced by attendees in virtual conferences, it doesn’t really make sense to overdo the virtual conferences experience.
You want your virtual conferences to be a simple, easy to understand & navigable experience.
You don’t want to overwhelm your attendees with a ton of redundant information & features that they don’t even properly understand how to use.
Basically, the success of a virtual conferences depends largely on the ease with which your attendees can attend the conference & be a part of your conference experience.
If you make it overly difficult for them to attend your conference, it’s likely that they won’t stay for very long & bow out of the experience even before learning something good.
So, keep your virtual conferences simple, straightforward, & easy.
6. Keep Networking at the Forefront of Your Virtual Conference
Just because your conference isn’t taking place physically, there shouldn’t be any reason to deprive your attendees of networking & connection opportunities.
Infact, the more connection & networking opportunities you provide your attendees with, the more likely they are to have a good time & experience at your virtual conferences.
You can design your virtual conference with interactive & highly conversational chat functions to enable attendees to chat with each other during the sessions, as well as give them options to form their own ‘breakout rooms’ where they can engage in 1:1 chats & video conferencing with other attendees.
Depending on the topic of your virtual conference, you can also give your attendees the option of taking their conversations to another chatting app, like Whatsapp, or Zoom for video conferences, etc.
Whatever you do, remember that networking is one of the most important things to consider when designing your virtual conference.
7. Choose the Right Virtual Conference Platform
All the above mentioned points hold merit only when you have the right virtual conference platform to host your virtual conference.
The virtual conference platform you choose should have built-in features to help you build & design branded, customizable virtual conferences.
Like we mentioned above, it also needs to provide your attendees with immaculate & efficient networking features like AI matchmaking, business card exchange, 1:1 video conferencing, chats, live polling, Q&A functionality, & third-party app integration.
Depending on your specific requirements, you can also go for a virtual conference platform that provides marketing features like email marketing, personalized invitations, & other forms of marketing for your virtual conference. Whichever virtual conference platform you choose, make the decision wisely to ensure your virtual conference is a success.