With COVID-19 changing the way we live our everyday lives, any physical gatherings seem like they are a distance away. As a result, many people have transitioned to the virtual way of business over the last few months. However, there is one realm of virtual business that has remained largely untouched: conferences. While many people attend conferences for the value provided, another major reason for conference attendance is networking. With the lack of face to face networking currently unavailable and the need for your business to still provide learning opportunities, a virtual event may be an amazing opportunity for your business.

Virtual interaction has become a major part of our lives. It’s best to adapt and be the one to take advantage of these digital business tools. As with most things, you either adapt or risk failure.

Jumping into this new digital way of business may be a bit daunting and overwhelming. To get started with confidence you need to consider the basics. In order to captivate the attention of viewers through a screen, it’s important for your event to be well executed, creative, and entertaining. Here are a few tips on how to take advantage of your digital interactions, and what is important to consider when designing, planning and executing your virtual event.

First and foremost it’s important to have a well thought out plan. This means that your event needs to be carefully prepared and structured in a way that is captivating to your specific audience. Think about your audience and what exactly they would be interested in hearing. This forces you to consider how to make your event have value and ensure that it is worth your time planning the rest of the details involved.

These details may include the logistical elements such as what platform is best for this event to run on and when you plan to schedule your event for. There are a large variety of softwares that support virtual events, and it is important to be well researched on the different capabilities of each. This information is key in determining what software will be best to support the needs and goals of your vision for the event. As with an in-person event, you also must keep in mind when exactly you are planning for this event to occur.  Depending on the scale of your event and the audience you are targeting, it is important to plan the event for a day that there aren’t major conflicts such as holidays or other major conferences and events. However, with virtual events there is the added consideration of potentially different time zones. This makes you responsible for ensuring that the timing is acceptable across these different time zones. One of the added benefits of running a virtual event is that it allows you to broaden your reach with your audience and have participation from people across the country, or even across the world.

Upon determining many of the logistical aspects, it is then essential to consider the overall message that you are trying to convey with this event and how this information can best be communicated. Whether it is you, or someone else, it’s important to have a host that is dynamic and engaging. Additionally, you will want to have keynote speakers that your audience will want to hear from, or present ideas that are unique and worthy of people’s time. The information provided by your event must be cohesive and focused, with quality content. The manner you choose to communicate this information, whether it be keynote speakers talking about certain topics, interviews or chats with industry experts or workshops- is important to consider too, based on your virtual event’s goals and focus.

Want a piece of advice? No passive audiences. You must engage with the audience. 

Why? Since people aren’t at this event in person it is extra important to keep their attention by actively engaging with them. Actively involve your attendees whether they are completing polls based on the topics of conversation, participating in a Q + A, or even being split into breakout rooms in which they can discuss the topics amongst other attendees, furthering their opportunity to network at this event.

Having this opportunity and integrating this time for people to network will be extremely valuable for the attendees. This will be one of their opportunities to network and will allow them to find value beyond the content of the speakers who are also working on building their own personal brand. Finding these ways for both you as a business to connect with your audience, and your audience to connect with each other, will be invaluable towards the overall success of your event. 

If you are looking for additional value to provide your attendees with the focus of increasing attendance and participation, consider incorporating incentives. These incentives could be far ranging such as bringing an additional guest for free, discounts, coupon vouchers, giveaways, or exclusive gifting from your business, the other speakers, or potential sponsors. While incentives aren’t necessary, they may be a fun addition for people to look forward to in regard to the event.

Finding the best ways to promote this event will also be very important to the success of your event. You need to build up excitement for your event, and focus on the unique selling points of your event versus other events that are happening. Then highlight these in all promotional materials. This is where you would mention your speakers, the unique topics or ideas that will be discussed, or the incentives you are offering. Then use other digital marketing techniques such as email blasts, SEO, and promoting on the right channels such as social media. One way to do this could be combining email lists with the other speakers at the event in order to reach all existing audiences.

While balancing promotion into your budget, you may want to include sponsors. Sponsors will help you with leveraging your event and reaching more people. Reach out to sponsors that will resonate with the messaging and overall goal of the event. Finding this similarity will encourage sponsors to become involved since they will be gaining exposure in front of an audience that is representative of their own target audience.

Lastly, it’s important to be sure that all of the finishing touches are complete before event day. This includes sending out instructions and links for your attendees to access the conference through. Make sure that when people are registering, they know that it is through their email that they need to look for instructions regarding the event. You may personally have a solid understanding of how virtual conferences work after setting everything up, but not all attendees will have this same understanding of virtual conferences and the technology involved. So it’s important for you to explain the process thoroughly to ensure that attendees are able to join the event with ease.

Speaking of the technology, it is crucial to test run the technology and do a dry run of the event prior. It is better to run into any problems and troubleshoot them prior to the event rather than during the event as this may lose viewers. This helps to ensure that your event runs smoothly and professionally.

Finally, as with any event, afterwards make sure that you measure the successfulness of your event using key performance indicators. Notice what worked well and what didn’t work as well. Ask for feedback. Make the proper adjustments and keep on finetuning your virtual events!

Digital connection with others is the way of current times. Whether it is desirable or not, you must adjust to this and make the best of it. Our team hopes these tips will help you run a successful virtual event and help you to continue to connect with others!