Hosting a conference is always a challenging task, but hosting a virtual conference in the digital world would pose even greater challenges.
However, while the global COVID-19 pandemic initially forced the transition to virtual conferences, now more and more businesses and event organizers are realizing the unique benefits of hosting a virtual conference.
For instance, in a virtual conference, we are not limited to the venue’s capacity, which will translate into a lower cost. We can also invite attendees, speakers, and exhibitors from halfway across the world without needing to worry about travel arrangements and logistics.
Virtual conferences are definitely here to stay, and here we will share some important best practices in hosting a virtual conference to ensure success.
Without further ado, let us begin with number one.
1. Define Your Objective
This might seem like obvious advice, but too many businesses and event organizers made the same mistake of not having a clear and/or specific enough objective of hosting a virtual conference.
Do not host a conference for the sake of hosting a conference. Instead, especially online, virtual conferences would require a clear and specific enough purpose since it will dictate how you should production the event, what kinds of technology stack you’d require, and other elements.
Here are some common objectives for virtual conferences:
- Educating/training your attendees
- Building relationships and encouraging networking
- Lead/demand generation
- Increase brand awareness
While you can go for several objectives at once, it’s best to focus on a single, unified goal and not more than two.
2. Identify and Understand Your Target Attendees
In the end, hosting a virtual conference is about attracting as many attendees as you can to visit the event.
Thus, it’s crucial to design your virtual conference based on this target audience, and you cannot do this unless you’ve properly identified who your ideal audience is and understood their needs.
You should define your target audience based on the objective(s) you’ve specified above, and by understanding their behaviors, pain points, and needs, you can figure out more details about the virtual conference: who should be the key speaker, what kinds of content your target audience would like, and so on.
Remember that in a virtual event, you won’t be limited with your venue size and geographic location, so you can actually target more people as attendees. It’s still crucial, however, to consider factors like time zones, languages, and potential cultural barriers when targeting a global audience.
3. Establish a Team
Especially if this is a fairly big virtual conference, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to do everything by yourself and you’ll need a winning team to help you.
In organizing a virtual event, you’ll need to fulfill at least these five key roles:
- Event/project manager: might be you, the responsibility of an event manager is to plan and supervise the whole event and delegating tasks.
- Producer: responsible for choosing the right technology platforms and tools to ensure a professionally produced event.
- Social media/marketing manager: a crucial role in hosting an online event. You’ll need to build up and moderate social media conversations surrounding your events to generate buzz and interest.
- Host/MC: you can hire a professional host from outside your team, but it’s crucial to have a host if your conference is divided into several segments and/or have multiple speakers
- Technical: responsible for the reliability of the technical aspects of the event like ensuring your live stream is smooth.
4. Choosing The Right Technology Tools
When hosting an in-person conference, probably securing the right venue is the most important factor of a successful event.
In a virtual conference, however, it’s the technology stack.
Running a virtual conference can be very complex, technology-wise, and you’ll need to consider the following factors:
- Registration: you’d want a reliable registration/ticketing platform where your target attendees can easily register from any devices
- Payment: if everything is handled online, you’d want to make sure you can receive online payments securely
- Early-bird/discount: you’d want to be able to offer discounts and early-bird promotions seamlessly
- Attendee tracking/management: know what your attendees are doing while attending your virtual conference
- Team collaboration: don’t forget internal collaboration and task manager
- Live streaming: if you plan to stream your virtual conference
- Video conferencing: pretty self-explanatory, where the virtual conference will happen
As you can see, there are many different details to consider when planning your technology infrastructure. This is why it’s best to get a multi-purpose virtual conference management platform that can help you plan and manage your virtual conference seamlessly so you don’t have to worry about using too many disconnected tools and platforms and you can focus on planning and executing the event instead.
5. Secure Exhibitors and Sponsors
You’ll need to be creative in securing sponsorships for virtual conferences. You can, for example, offer a virtual booth in your virtual 3D exhibition, or offer to show your sponsor’s video ad in-between sessions.
Create tiered sponsorship packages that align well with your target sponsor’s objectives like brand awareness and audience engagement. The better you can communicate the value of your virtual conference, the easier it will be to secure your sponsors.
For exhibitors, base your choice on your target audience’s needs and preferences, but don’t exceed your budget.
6. Market Your Virtual Conference Effectively
At the moment, there are a massive number of event organizers and businesses hosting their versions of virtual conferences. So, it can be challenging to win the attention of your target audience while competing with all these different events.
So, it’s very important to have a clear marketing strategy for your virtual conference.
You can consider:
- Email marketing, still very cost-efficient and effective
- Social media marketing, both organic and paid, including partnering with relevant influencers
- Create packages (i.e. group discounts) to encourage people to promote your conference to their peers
7. Measure Your Event Performance
Use data and analytics to objectively measure the performance of your event. Conduct pre-event and post-event surveys, and also use attendance tracking tools, like the one offered by Eventtia to measure metrics like attendee’s average time in a session, engagement, conversion rate, and others.
Reviewing the success of your virtual conference is very important, especially if you are planning to host other online events in the future. Also, consider measuring session attendance and lead/demand generated during and after the event.