When the global pandemic struck in 2020, the world went virtual. We witnessed hundreds of brands and communities transition from hosting live events to virtual conferences. Virtual events are now becoming more commonplace even after post-pandemic. They allow businesses to reach a global audience with hundreds of people in different places and in different time zones.
Virtual events not only help planners expand their audience and promote inclusivity, but they can be an effective way to increase revenue and track key data about their audience.
Planning, promoting, and hosting a virtual event requires the same attention to detail as a real-life event requires. Whether you are a small or a medium-size business or a rapidly growing team, read on as we will cover tips on how to host a virtual event, how to promote it online and some creative ideas to bring your online event to life!
What is a Virtual Conference?
With the development of advanced technology, virtual conferences are increasingly used to bring people in various locations together to conduct businesses. Virtual conferences have become a more popular and acceptable medium to develop and reach large audiences. Businesses in various industries have come to realise that online virtual conferences are cheaper than a full-on face-to-face live event.
A virtual conference is different from a simple online business meeting, and also more involved than a webinar. They are often multi-day events which are hosted in a hybrid format and can include keynotes, panel discussions, live entertainment, educational sessions, training, certification, sales product demos, solution sessions, industry trends or thought leadership, and product training or adoption, and many more. The main purpose of virtual conferences is lead and demand generation, adoption and retention, brand awareness and finally relationship building.
What Are The Benefits To Conduct Virtual Conferences As A Digital Marketing Strategy?
Better reach in audience
One of the most popular benefits of hosting a virtual conference is that it can be accessed from any device, browser and just from anywhere in the world. In short, everyone is welcome to join a virtual conference. Hosting a virtual event of this nature lets you address a wider audience without the need for them to spend any amount on travel or even accommodation, thus making the trade-offs easier and more importantly the attendance higher.
Virtual events open up geographical borders. When choosing your target audience, bear in mind that it can be found on a global level. International attendees will not only increase your attendee rates but will also bring diversity to the table. Many people who would normally be unable to attend a conference because of its physical location, may now be able to do so through virtual conferencing.
Lowers operating cost
Physical conferences are more expensive than virtual conferences. Physical events allot expenses for venue, travel, food and accommodation. On the contrary, hosting a virtual conference means not having to spend money and expecting lower overhead costs.
Considering that, virtual conferences tend to be cheaper but deliver a much higher ROI, you can use the money saved in increasing your organisation’s budget to purchase the most reliable online event platform.
Generate leads efficiently
Individuals who sign up for events across the globe can be added to a company’s CRM system, newsletter mailing lists and other lead generation platforms in the future.
Physical events lack the option of measuring attendee engagement, length of stay and locations, among many other analytics. A virtual conference platform can now easily measure the number of attendees in each session, track leads for sponsors and indicate who has interacted with what material for how long – often in real-time.
Better follow up & leads qualification
Data is a powerful tool and the rise of virtual events has helped event marketers leverage data, in ways that were not possible before, data helps tell a story about your attendees from which sessions that were the most popular to how long they have watched, and to how many sponsors they have clicked on. Once you have understood the data, you can then base the analysis or findings of information and plan for a better event in the future.
Virtual conferences are followed by interactive sessions of questions and answers, where the organisers themselves raise the questions to ask, and take into consideration attendee feedback in regards to the conference. Alternatively, they can also choose to send a feedback form via e-mail to have future reference records and updates.
Due to their accessibility, virtual conferences might be a feasible way to acknowledge your audience’s profile, as well as the concerns that they deal with to further help companies to improve their processes.
What Are The Important Elements To Host A Virtual Conference
To be able to host a successful virtual conference or event, you will first need a plan, in the form of your event agenda. In it, you will be able to decide what the main theme of the event is, what are the topics and who are the main speakers.
Agendas not only help you to stay focused and allow you to navigate through the problems as they come, but they also help you to see the overall outline of the event. You can easily move topics around, change sessions and designate speakers to suit your conference’s needs.
Keynotes set the tone for large conferences and summits by weaving together storytelling, insights, and predictions for the future. These presentations can solidify your event’s core theme and message.
At a virtual conference, you may be able to attract high-demand keynote speakers who typically have limited time for in-person conferences, but are always more than happy to jump in on a video call to talk about industry trends. Not only is this a more schedule-friendly approach, but it also costs you nothing in terms of travel and accommodation expenses.
Breakout rooms are smaller, intimate or meeting sessions. 10 to 15 attendees with a designated moderator in each room that allows for a more personalised virtual experience. It is vital to make sure that the sessions are specific to a particular topic and aligned to the tracks created or towards the overall event message.
Host live, semi-live and pre-recorded sessions on multiple tracks to give speakers greater flexibility. All your sessions should also be available on-demand for your audience to view at their convenience.
With a virtual conference, you no longer need to be in a huge hall together with hundreds of people to achieve self-growth. Now, you can motivate, learn and exchange knowledge through the chat and Q&A sessions. Ensure there is ample time for Q&A sessions for your virtual conference. However, just because your attendees want an opportunity to ask questions, does not necessarily mean they will.
Always be prepared to offer up a few frequently asked questions yourself. This often helps attendees think of their own set of questions. You may also want to promote the Q&A in advance and allow attendees to submit questions when they register. Alternatively, if you think participants may also be reluctant to speak up, give them the option to remain anonymous.
Did you know that networking is one of the two top reasons, why people attend events and conferences? Networking is an essential part of any virtual conference experience.
Networking should be a key part of any event. It is a surefire way to give attendees time to get to know each other on a more personal level.
Networking should not be limited to the event itself. Creating a group, especially a private group, to engage attendees is a great way to network. In fact, you can generate lots of ideas, gather questions, brainstorm and chat with your audience before and after the event.
Tips To Create An Engaging & Interactive Virtual Conference
Create engaging quizzes & pools to improve audience interaction
Audience engagement is the degree to which attendees are fully participating in and captivated by your event. When you are able to do this, you will find attendees who are satisfied and actively involved with your content (making it much easier for you to achieve your event goals).
Interact with audiences through polls, surveys, quizzes or even Q&As in real-time. By engaging audiences and bringing interactivity, organizers can easily capture the ideas or opinions of attendees, and on the flipside, attendees get the chance to express their thoughts and steer the conversation of the sessions.
Offering both live-streaming and recap presentations
Creating an organized agenda filled with live speakers and webinars makes your event feel lively and urgent and more importantly, they can encourage participation from attendees. You can even add in on-demand content of your virtual conference for your audience to browse after the event ends.
It is simply not possible for an attendee to watch or attend every single presentation. Sometimes their schedules or attention spans simply will not allow it. By adding in on-demand content, allow attendees to learn at their own pace and get as much as they can from the event.
Pick featured topics & speakers
When it comes to hosting an engaging virtual conference, content is still king. You can employ all the latest technological gizmos; but if your content is not interesting or fails to hit the mark with your audience, your guests will zone out and get distracted.
The audience is another major factor to consider while browsing for the best speakers. When it comes to getting the people involved, a virtual event has an entirely different dynamic than a physical live event.
Since it takes place through a screen and over the internet, some of its energy and atmosphere is lost. As a result, top keynote speakers for virtual events have to put in a considerable amount of effort to maintain the same level of engagement from start to finish. Find a speaker who can easily engage with people and at the same time evoke reactions from the audience.
Virtual conferences are here to stay. Even in a post-COVID-19 world, virtual conferences will still provide opportunities and benefits that will continue to improve and transform the way we do business. Virtual conferences are significantly less risky and time-intensive than many of the alternatives. However, that does not mean they are easy and that they do not take time for planning and execution.
At Hashtaqs, we have the experience and expertise to help you organize a successful virtual conference. Our 2nd Annual HASH Innovation Asia Summit 2021 was such a roaring success, we are now organizing our 3rd Annual HASH Innovation Asia Summit 2022 on the 1 and 2 September 2022!
Our consultancy work is supportable with the funding scheme for local SG businesses. Contact us for a consultation at +65 8868 1418 or email us at [email protected]. For more info, visit www.hashtaqs.com.