2020 has undoubtedly become the year of uncharted ground. The necessity to pivot nearly every aspect of our lives has forced us to advance the virtual world, quicker than anyone anticipated. Hosting and planning a Virtual Conference is a new process to many of us, 65% of planners have never been involved in the process of planning a virtual event (Event Manager Blog). The Fall season is a notoriously busy season for events, and now more than ever it will be vital to hold a successful Virtual Event that stands out from the crowd. Is your association ready? Use these do’s and don’ts below as the framework in planning your next virtual event.
Do: Find the technology that supports your vision. Keep in mind what is going to be most comfortable for your audience and most beneficial to your content. Each event is unique and so is each audience. Do you require SSO? Mobile optimization for on the go attendees? Archiving of content? Distribution of CEU credits? The more questions you ask, the clearer your needs and ideas will become.
Don’t: Utilize too many technologies at once. You want to give your attendees a simple process with clear insight into how it will work. When you try to incorporate your mobile app, with a virtual conference solution, while holding sessions in Zoom or on LMS it becomes work for your attendees to keep track of where they need to go and what tool to use. These technologies are still valuable but look for ways to utilize them before or after the live show hours.
Do: Prepare speakers, panelists, staff, and other attendee facing participants. Practice makes perfect, and this applies to virtual even more than in person. Host or provide a training for your virtual speakers, over communicate schedules, set guidelines and expectations for live content, and ensure they have documentation to keep handy for reference.
Don’t: Overcrowd your schedule. Sitting for sessions in person is a much different experience than sitting at your computer. Allot times for breaks and time for attendees to visit other parts of the show. You may even consider a virtual happy hour for a fun engagement session. Many associations may need to offer content for CEU credits and educational content is the reason 80% of people join a virtual event. If you have lots of sessions, consider making some on demand, or spreading your conference out over more days. Consecutive short days are better received than condensed long days.
Do: Engage your audience with interactive content. Passive content does not work well in a virtual environment. There are too many distractions and too little accountability. Views are much more likely to engage with a brand when it’s a two-way street. Polling, live Q&A, panel discussions, and quizzes all work well for session content. For networking and exhibits, text, audio, and video capabilities are a must. This brings those virtual elements to life and makes them feel less like a website experience, where viewers are simply browsing content.
Don’t: Limit their feedback or collaboration. Give your attendees the ability to leave an impression on the event. Tying in live social media streams, open discussion forums, gamification and challenges all give your attendees a chance to step into the spotlight and be recognized and remembered at your event. Don’t just host content for them, show them their presence is valued.
Do: Offer a blend and variety of packages and price points. This will allow you to reach a larger audience of potential exhibitors or sponsors. In the virtual world you have plenty of deliverables to choose from to enhance options for your larger sponsors. More branding and exposure, more resources such as staff, multiple virtual locations, and digital analytics are all key selling points and benefits for your valued exhibitors and sponsors.
Don’t: Sacrifice price for a bad attendee experience. While your higher-level sponsors and exhibitors are paying for more than your standard level, don’t skip out on the essentials. Offering a standard package with no chat capability or other limitations only serves as a bad attendee experience and will hurt the event overall. Keep basics the same and find other ways to go above and beyond for your top-level sponsors, such as exclusive emails, giveaways, branding, and multiple booths.
Checklist for Successful Virtual Events
With this checklist, your virtual event will deliver the experience your members deserve and achieve the most return on investment (ROI).
Take the next step.
Whether you are implementing virtual events due to circumstances, looking to change with the times, or are interested in offering hybrid events, you can always look for ways to improve your event planning strategy. If you’re still not familiar with the idea of hosting a virtual event but looking forward to hosting one, check out our Virtual Event Technology.