How to Create a Virtual Conference

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As we move towards the end of 2020 and look ahead, likely, virtual events are not going anywhere in the new year. Organizers and planners are continuing to move forward to create virtual conferences and facilitate an online experience for their attendees and replicate what would have been in-person.

To help you navigate new challenges faced when planning a virtual event, like how to keep attendees engaged or ways to provide valuable sponsor programs, we’ve outlined the basics for creating a virtual conference in this article.

Determine Your Event Needs and Goals

Organizations must be thinking about their specific event needs and goals and how to provide the same value to attendees and sponsors in a virtual space. Remember, your virtual event shouldn’t just be an online version of your in-person event. It is important to think about your event strategy and what components you need online that will best help you to accomplish your goals.

Typical components of a successful virtual conference include:

  • Education
  • Live engagement and networking
  • Entertainment
  • Exhibition Hall
  • Sponsorships

Just like an in-person event, organizers need to focus on determining their virtual event goals as well. Here are 5 keys to setting successful event goals:

  • Determine your objective
  • Select what type of event to host
  • Choose your event platform
  • Consider timing and split focus of attendees
  • Measure the results


Identify Key Stakeholder Groups

Your event’s key stakeholder groups will play a large role in determining what elements to include in your virtual conference. It is important to identify these groups early in the planning process to better understand who will be accessing your event, why they are attending, and the value they expect to receive.

Key stakeholders at a virtual event include:

  • Attendees
  • Speakers
  • Exhibitors
  • Sponsors
  • User Groups


Follow Best Practices for Virtual Events

As we mentioned, virtual events present new challenges for organizations when trying to deliver an engaging, valuable online experience. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind when planning your online conference.

  • Offer both pre-recorded and live education sessions to accommodate your attendees across different time zones and schedules

  • Train your stakeholders to help them become familiar with your event platform and know where to ask for help if needed

  • Prepare your speakers with tips to creating an exciting virtual session experience

  • Modify your event schedule to spread out the event across multiple days, in shorter periods of time

  • Build excitement for your virtual conference through social media, videos, and daily newsletters during your event

  • Create multiple engagement opportunities through exhibitor networking, sponsor lounges, speaker “green” rooms, and more

  • Collect feedback from your stakeholders at the end of your event to assess what worked and what didn’t

  • Provide reporting to your sponsors and exhibitors so they can measure their ROI


Offer Valuable Sponsorship Programs

Events, both in-person and virtual, rely on sponsorship programs to drive revenue and provide value. Organizers must offer innovative and valuable sponsorship opportunities that will draw them to participate and come back year after year. Creating these opportunities can be executed through advertising, branding, and programming opportunities including:

  • Branded Lobby Banners – Use virtual branded lobby banners where exclusive sponsors can promote their brand throughout your event or specific time slots for multiple sponsors

  • Sponsored Networking Lounges – Content such as videos or banners can be branded with a sponsor message in each of your virtual networking lounges

  • Sponsor Branded Booths – Offer sponsors the opportunity to exhibit their brand using custom booths

  • Scavenger Hunt – Sponsors can opt to participate in a scavenger hunt where attendees are encouraged to network and engage with them

  • Sponsored Pre-Session Messaging - 15 - 30 minutes before the event starts, sponsors can promote their brand and message to the audience.

While virtual events may not be the same as in-person events, there are still many ways to offer a valuable and engaging experience for your attendees. Remember when planning your virtual event to come up with creative options that engage attendees, showcase sponsor solutions, and provide value to all your stakeholders. 

For more virtual event strategies and information on our virtual event solution, contact us at eventtechgroup@communitybrands.com.

 

About the Author

Katie_Cook

 

Katie Cook
Senior Marketing Communications Specialist

Katie has a passion for marketing and specializes in creating event-specific messaging, audience acquisition, and communications plans. She has a detailed understanding of online and offline tactics to develop the right strategic mix to meet program goals.

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