Have you ever wondered what the virtual conference best practices are?
Virtual conferences are making headway as part of the virtual events industry, which was estimated at $78 billion in 2019. The industry is forecast to surge to over $400 billion by 2027! (Grand View Research)
But to launch a successful event or conference, there are a few best practices to follow.
If you’ve ever had to do digital marketing work, you’ve probably researched what the best practices were for posting and using different platforms. Plus you’ve had to experiment a little to see what works for you.
But with virtual conferences, it’s quite different. You may need to experiment with smaller details like what virtual meetings and online networking or lead magnets but you don’t have to overspend to experiment.
In this blog post, we’re focusing on the top virtual conference best practices to help you achieve the success you’re looking for.
Essential elements for your virtual conference
Let’s begin by brushing up on some essentials for any business planning a virtual conference or mega online event.
1. Focus on a general topic or theme
The first thing to consider is the main theme or topic that your company or organization wants to focus on.
We recommend having a general main topic with several sub-topics, branches, and ideas.
This topic is what helps you set the tone of your virtual conference and the agenda. It helps you determine what your speakers will talk about.
2. Have an agenda
To be successful, you need a plan. And that plan is your event agenda. In it, you’ll decide what your main theme is, what your topics are, and of course who your speakers are.
Not only do agendas help you stay focused and allow you to navigate problems, but also they help you see the overall outline of your event.
With an agenda, you can easily move topics, sessions, and speakers around to suit your conference’s needs.
Don’t forget to make sure that your theme and content are relevant to your audience.
3. Have sponsors and exhibitors
Remember how physical conferences had many sponsors and exhibitors? It’s no different in a virtual venue.
As a virtual conference organizer, you should have sponsors and exhibitors in your event.
Are you running a pharmaceutical virtual conference? Then reach out to pharmaceutical firms for sponsorship like the old days.
In a virtual setting, you, as the organizer, will be offering virtual booths for your sponsors and exhibitors.
If you’re using Eventtus, you’ll be offering them they opportunity to network through Circles. As an organizer, you can decide on the number of Circles for each exhibitor and sponsor.
4. Bring speakers
Speakers are another essential part of your virtual conference. They are the ones attendees will be joining your event to listen to and learn from.
Once you have an agenda outline and a preliminary idea of the topics you want to tackle, make a list of speakers you think will resonate with your audience.
Consider having a few popular names or speakers from well-known companies.
A pharmaceutical virtual conference will include speakers who are CEOs or doctors from pharma companies, whereas a digital marketing-related conference will feature top industry names, authors, or well-known marketers and creative directors.
Your speakers can be local or international.
That’s one of the fun aspects of a virtual event: You can have speakers from the other side of the globe speak at your event without the hassle of flying them over to your conference.
5. Increase engagement
Engaging your audience is what excites them and keeps your event flowing and moving.
We recommend engaging your audience not only during the event but before it and after it as well.
This will help you build a relationship with your attendees, who you can later get in touch with easily for future virtual events.
Don’t forget to check out list of 13 virtual conference engagement ideas!
6. Use a virtual event platform
A virtual event platform is where everything comes into place. It’s where you organize your sessions, hold backstage prepping with speakers and your team, and it’s where you navigate your entire event.
The platform also helps with analytics which show you what the popular sessions were, where your audience was milling about, and so on.
It also helps you organize and manage your sponsors, exhibitors, team, and speakers.
The platform is where everything comes together.
Did you know you can experiment with the Eventtus Virtual Platform simply by signing up?
Virtual conference best practices
Though it’s been a little over a year since the pandemic started, virtual conferences continue to be unchartered territory for many companies.
Businesses aren’t sure if they should move forward and create a virtual conference or wait the pandemic out. The latter sounds like a long wait and it stops businesses from reaping the many benefits of virtual conferences.
So how can you make the most of the online conference experience?
By following this list of virtual conference best practices.
1. Outline the basics of ‘why’ you want a conference
Before you plan your agenda or line-up your speakers, you first need to consider: Why do you want to host a virtual conference? And what are you getting out of it?
The purpose of your conference can be to generate leads, build relationships, unveil a new product or service, or establish yourself as an authority in a certain field or niche.
The reason for hosting your conference can even be more than one of these ideas. Or something else entirely.
The important thing is to know the ‘why’ behind your conference as this will guide you through the entire process and many of the following points.
2. Set up the ground work or place for your conference.
Now that you have an idea about the reason for holding a conference, it’s time to talk about money.
Allocate a budget including your marketing budget for the event, discuss and contact speakers, and understand what your role will be in the event.
Are you just going to have a birds-view of the event or are you going to participate in it with speakers and sessions from your company?
3. Give yourself enough time to prepare
Going virtual does save a ton of time and expense but you need to make sure you’re still giving yourself as a business, your partners, and your employees enough time to manage and organize the event.
Virtual or not, there will be some organization you need to carry out.
If you’re planning a conference, you might want to consider more than 6 weeks to ensure a larger number of registrations.
4. Set targets, measurement metrics, and KPIs
To measure the success of your virtual conference, you’ll want to set targets and define your key performance indicators (KPIs) and success metrics.
You also want to define what success means for your virtual conference.
Virtual event success differs based on the company, the industry, and the reason for holding the event in the first place.
5. Create a mix of sessions and chats in your agenda
Now it’s time to decide what your sessions will look like. Long? Short? One-speaker or several?
There are many types of virtual events, but within those types there are ideas that you can incorporate into your virtual conference. For example, you can host a webinar or fireside chat within the conference.
6. Offer different registration types and options
When it comes to how and where attendees will register for your conference, you’ll want to offer multiple payment options.
This includes the early bird and late owl options where early birds get to pay a discounted ticket as a bonus for registering early.
The reason for this is that it entices people to register early on. You can also offer perks to early-bird registrants.
Having group discounts also helps you hook more attendees than single-tickets. That said, you’ll still need to have single tickets to accommodate your audience.
Don’t forget the student pass, which tends to be discounted like the early bird option. While this one helps you attract the younger generation, it may not be applicable to all conferences and industries.
7. Talk to potential sponsors early on
Your virtual conference sponsors are an important part of your event. Their sponsorship helps you finance the event and turn a profit.
You can reach out to sponsors before getting into the nitty-gritty of your virtual conference to see if they’d be interested in the first place.
This is a good step that can save you time later on and that can help you attract more sponsors.
Not sure if companies and brands would be interested in becoming sponsors in your conference? Share with them our list best practices for virtual booths.
8. Promote your virtual conference
Preparing for your conference isn’t just creating a theme and an agenda or even talking to sponsors and exhibitors.
After all, your conference needs attendees. This means you need to have enough time to market your conference.
Even if your conference has stellar talks and speakers, having to rush your marketing will result in higher ad spend and fewer attendees, which can result in bad performance KPIs.
Use social media, your website, and sponsors’ and exhibitors’ reach to promote your conference.
Use lead magnets, email newsletters, and different types of posts across your social media channels and track which work best for you.
9. Learn how to use the virtual event platform
We’ve mentioned that using a virtual event platform is essential when hosting an online conference.
Virtual conference best practices necessitate knowing how to use the platform early on so you don’t get any surprises on the big day.
Don’t forget to ask as many questions as you can and need to.
At Eventtus, we’ve recreated how our virtual events work. Once you create an account, you can go in and explore. In addition, our customer support team is available round the clock to help you with questions.
10. Get backstage practice for your team, speakers, and sponsors
Remember the phrase ‘practice makes perfect.’ Well, we agree. Nothing guarantees a smoother experience than practice.
If Eventtus is your virtual platform, we’ve got backstage access for event organizers, sponsors, exhibitors, and speakers.
Want to test the platform before launching? Want to get some pep talk before your big Q&A session? Use the backstage access pass to make that conference a success.
11. Offer strong customer support
At the various stages of the event, two teams are of the utmost importance: your marketing team and your customer support team.
Your customer support team is the one that guides exhibitors and sponsors before and during the event, and supports attendees during the event.
You’ll need to pick your support team well and train them to use the virtual event platform.
You can also create a list of expected questions and offer answers for them to save time.
Another idea would be to create a quick tutorial and share it with your team, exhibitors, and sponsors. You can create another for your speakers. This way, you’ll save tons of time.
12. Use reminders
With virtual conferences, you can expect that attendees may sign up a month before the event.
While some may sign a few days before the conference or on the first day, you’ll want to remind early registrants and keep them engaged till you get to the start date.
We recommend you use these reminders as engagement opportunities as well.
13. Don’t forget networking
Did you know that the networking is one of the two top reasons people attend events and conferences?
Networking is an essential part of your virtual conference.
In an online setting, networking becomes a virtual experience.
Here’s our list of virtual networking ideas and tips just for you. We recommend you share this with your exhibitors and sponsors so they can get the most of their virtual networking experience as well.
Got a conference? Now engage!
Now that you have an idea – or 13 – about the best practices for virtual conferences, let’s talk about engagement. Yes, that scary item on every conference organizer’s list!
Engaging attendees doesn’t just happen during the event, it should start before the event and continue after it as well.
Virtual conference engagement ideas include creating a lead magnet to attract attendees, engage with them, and build authority.
Creating a social media hype, polling attendees after sessions and during the event itself, and using pop-ups, are other ideas you can consider.
As you can see, there are many virtual conference best practices out there, with more to come as the virtual events industry continues to grow.
For example, mobile apps are becoming ‘a thing’ in virtual events and conferences. They help attendees attend from anywhere not just their laptops. It also helps you get more people to engage. A mobile app is also great for hybrid events.
At Eventtus, we created a mobile app to supplement all organizers in their virtual events and conferences. If you’re using Eventtus, you get the mobile app at no additional cost.
Also to help organizers like you get a taste of the virtual experience, we’re giving you $250 in credit when you sign up to get you started.