[Updated for 2021] Virtual conferences are a great alternative to traditional in-person events. They provide businesses with a safe and socially distanced option for hosting large-scale events for their audience.
What are Virtual Conferences?
Virtual Conferences are revolutionizing the way companies interact with audiences by taking traditional conferences and hosting them online. WorkCast's virtual conference software gives you the power to do it too.
Similar to conventional conferences, virtual conferences are highly engaging and include a series of large sessions run by thought leaders in the industry who present to and interact with attendees.
If your company already runs a physical conference, then hosting a virtual conference is the next natural progression to extend your reach even further. But, if you don’t currently offer any kind of conference, then opting for an online conference, rather than its more traditional counterpart, might be a more effective way of attracting new customers, increasing brand awareness, and generating revenue.
Virtual conferences can be used to establish thought leadership within your industry, create networking opportunities for your audience, and generate revenue through conference sponsorships opportunities.
Why Choose a Virtual Conference?
There are loads of reasons why you should run a virtual conference. Whilst many are specific to your own business use, there are some benefits that make sense for everyone:
- Increase attendance at your conference by up to 145% by hosting a virtual conference.
- Virtual conferences are cost-effective: minimize outgoings, like overheads, insurance, venue, and equipment hire.
- Virtual conferences can extend the reach and flexibility of your events: expand your global reach and allow for flexibility, as attendees can join from wherever they are in the world.
- Grow engagement with virtual conferences: attendees have the opportunity to interact with presenters and thought leaders in a more meaningful way.
- Virtual conferences can help to establish you as a thought leader and increase your sales pipeline: 88% of technology buyers say thought leadership is an important factor in making buying decisions.
- Virtual conferences can help to boost conversions (by up to 86%) using video and increase the lifetime value of your customer.
- Easily measure the success of your virtual conference, with access to live data and analytics.
- Use a platform like WorkCast for your virtual conferences and we'll help you ideate, plan, set up, and run your entire event. Read more about our virtual event planning services.
One of the biggest benefits of running a virtual conference is that their upfront costs are significantly lower than in-person events, all you need is a virtual conference platform and a few tips to help you run the best possible event.
Virtual Conference Best Practices
1. Set Clear Goals
Virtual conferences can be as simple as running a few live webinars in a single day or be scaled up into complex events where you have multiple sessions running simultaneously over multiple days. Setting clear goals for your virtual conference will help you prioritize, stay organized and maximize your ROI.
Some of the goals we usually set for our conferences and individual sessions are below:
Virtual Conference Goals:
- Number of registrations
- Daily attendance rate
- Sponsorship revenue
Individual Event Goals:
- Number of registrations
- Attendance rate
- Average engagement rate
- Attendee conversion rate
- Overall event rating from survey feedback
2. Include Breaks in Your Agenda
Just because this event is online and people are watching from the comfort of their homes doesn't mean that they won't need bathroom breaks, food breaks, or just a minute to stretch their legs. Avoid running back-to-back events and include a minimum of 15 minutes between your key sessions.
While this may stretch the duration of your overall conference, it will provide a much nicer attendee experience and give you the opportunity to fix any technical or speaker issues that arise between events.
3. Use a Mix of Live and Pre-recorded Content
One of the benefits of running a virtual conference is that you can pre-record some of your content and run it as a simulive event without compromising the quality of experience provided to your audience.
Simulive events should always include a live Q&A at the end with your presenters, but the bulk of the presentation will be pre-recorded, edited, and embedded into your presentation. This guarantees the quality of the presentation and removes some of the pressure from the team overseeing the events.
It is a lot easier to manage and troubleshoot a simulive event than it is a live event, so do yourself a favor and include a few simulive sessions throughout your conference.
4. Optimize for Mobile Experiences
When looking for a virtual events platform, don't forget to test their mobile viewing experience. Depending on your audience, you should expect at least 30% of attendees to be joining via phone. If you have a younger, more tech-savvy audience it could be closer to 60% of attendees viewing at least part of your conference from their phone.
Make sure that regardless of device, your audience will receive the same quality of experience. People attending from a mobile device should still be able to engage, ask questions, and access your resource section.
5. Don't Overwhelm Attendees With Post-Event Emails
You'll be tempted to set up an email engagement series after each event to help increase the conversion rates, gain feedback on the session, or even just to say thank you.
This approach is okay for people who attend a single session during your conference, but if somebody attends multiple events per day they will not want to be bombarded by emails from you every hour.
Rather than set up a simple email engagement series for each individual event, create a complex workflow for the virtual conference.
You should structure your workflow so that people who attend a single event are communicated in a different way to those who are attending multiple events.
This will help increase your engagement from your highly engaged audience without overwhelming them with too many communications and CTAs.
Following these virtual conference best practices will help you manage your risk during the event, increase your ROI and provide your attendees with an enjoyable experience. For more tips on how to increase engagement during each individual session, check out 7 Interactive Ways to Increase Webinar Engagement.
How do I host a virtual conference?Much like any event, hosting a virtual conference involves a lot of planning and preparation. So, when it comes to running a virtual conference, you can ensure it’s a success by following these simple steps:
- Decide on your business goals for the virtual conference.
- Define your format and interactive content e.g. live webcasts, webinars, Q&A, discussions, and more.
- Choose the best virtual event platform to suit your goals e.g. WorkCast Stratus.
- Define your audience demographic.
- Choose your topic and select your team i.e. presenters, speakers, guests, panel, moderators, etc.
- Select the best day and time to host your virtual conference to maximize attendance
- Promote your conference with at least 6 weeks lead time via social media, email marketing, landing pages, websites, and more.
- Practice, practice, practice - complete several dry runs.
- Run a test stream (if you’re streaming live) to test your internet and audio levels before going live.
- Follow up with attendees by sending a thank you email and a link to any downloadable assets post-event
Our robust virtual conference platform is cloud-based, secure, and scalable, so you can safely and effectively take your conference online. Our virtual conference platform requires no plugins or downloads, so you can stream your online event to the world without any barriers.
Take a look at our intro to virtual events webinar for further information.
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