Virtual or online events seem slightly revolutionary, but they have been trending since 1993 when the globe’s leading livestream brought us the nail-biting webcam videotape of a coffee maker in the mid drip. The streaming pot brewed up millions of views.
In certain ways, 2020 has changed many things for everyone across the globe. But social media and technological enhancements have opened the gates to new opportunities to connect virtually, from live Q and amp;A (questionnaire and answers) with space traveler to virtual museum tours.
The present global health crisis has fast-tracked us from a physical world—in which we were comfortable living in—to an entirely digital one. The rapid spread of COVID-19 may have made computer-generated events essential, but the reality is that their execution has been trending for years.
Interestingly, the current pandemic situation made the world go digital!
There was a time when conferences were a great way to meet and greet people, thus bringing industry peers and like-minded people from across the globe together to share a common view. Virtual conferences or online conferences are a game changer during this COVID-19 pandemic for many event organizers.
Conducting events online may help to reduce the carbon footprint, thus making conferences available for a wider audience. For instance, Coachella’s YouTube Live Stream in 2018 brought ‘Beyoncé’s Homecoming’ to more than 41 million people across about 232 countries, rather than just the hundreds of thousands in attendance in person.
Before going ahead, take a look at what exactly virtual or online conference means?
The conference is an umbrella term used for an official gathering of people for discussion. The online conference has become part of our daily lives after the coronavirus pandemic took over the world.
It is a virtual event that is conducted online instead of any physical site/location. These events can vary from large-scale conferences to small Q and amp;A sessions with about thousands of attendees. Here is a list of several conference events that your organization can host.
- Training and courses
- Conferences and shows
- Classes, how-tos, and tutorials (a good way to give instructions, tips, and tricks)
- Behind-the-pictures visits (galleries, airports, museums can present audiences previews to show what it’s like to visit)
- Performances and interviews (TED-style talks)
Idea and types of online conferences: Virtual Summits and amp; Networking events, Roundtable, Trade Shows, Exhibits, Panel Discussions, Keynotes, Video Conferences, Web Conferences, and Tech Conferences.
Some people say that “virtual summits are just a need of time.” But it is not less than a physical conference. Therefore, using basic best practices and easy to use technology, here is how one can change this “need of time” into “an opportunity of a lifetime.”
So, let’s get started.
Best practices for hosting, running, and attending online conferences
Thinking about social distancing, I know that we all are requested to keep or maintain social distance in one way or the other. Whether that’s canceling personal plans, neighborhood stores momentarily shutting for business, and the most popular thing is work from home (WFH). For some, it might be exciting, but few might find it tricky to adapt to the new virtual space.
Hosting virtual conferences
1. Before hosting a conference, be aware of video backgrounds and white noise. Send a pre-established background or offer enhanced tools to participants to create a virtual background.
2. Establish how individuals are going to present in an online conference (single individual alone or in groups). If one is hosting a group or has presenters in person, room microphones can play a key role in mitigating this issue.
3. Before starting the conference, it is the best practice to prep your attendees in the virtual room by videoing the room beforehand, so it gets easy for them to understand the setup, know the number of attendees, and get acquainted with in-person members.
4. Focus on your start and break time to keep attendees engaged.
5. Provide detailed information.
6. Create content that is engaging and promote events on social media so that it attracts several attendees. One can use a social media platform such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.
7. Think about how one will present oneself in front of virtual participants. Get ready with content and files to be shared with attendees. One should always take care that content must be interesting for the audience. For that, one can always add videos, images, quotes, GIFs, and more, keeping the content engaging.
Tools used to host a virtual event:
There are many ways to host a virtual event. Here are few best tools used to host virtual summits.
1. Conferences and schmoozing
For additional official virtual events, some platforms offer sets of tools that consist of chatrooms, live streaming, and others.
- VFairs – a virtual expo platform with everything from booths to webinars and conversations start tools.
- 6Connex – exhibitors can play for leaderboard spots, create virtual booths, and live streams with this business show platform.
- HeySummit – register attendees, develop a landing page, and onboard speakers. But for live streaming, one needs to combine with tools.
- Airmeet – it is an all-in-one podium to host mesmerizing events and build real contacts online.
- Hop In – it is an all-in-one on the air event manifesto that encompasses everything from live broadcasts, networking events, webinars, meetings, and trade shows.
- Brella – sponsors, speakers, individual streams, and multitrack agendas are taken care of with this hub for virtual conferences.
2. Live tweeting
Live tweeting of an event helps organizers to get attention from attendees. Hosting can be done by asking questions, “Ask Me Anything.” The idea of hashtag helps people to find and follow the conversation. Following are the other online discussion tools:
3. Social live streams
Social live streaming of a conference plays an important role in driving engagement. As per the Facebook report, the live video of an event is six times more engaging than a regular video. Following are the social live stream platforms:
- YouTube live stream
- Instagram Live
- Twitter Live
- Facebook Live
- LinkedIn Live
For instance, Facebook rolled out a live shopping feature in May 2020.
Running virtual conference
1. Be clear and direct about the topic of your event.
2. Educate your stakeholders.
3. Choose the right event provider.
4. Spread the word.
5. Send reminders to attendees regarding summits.
6. Map out the agenda.
7. Always be ready with alternatives to video conferencing.
8. Extract attendees’ data and feedback.
9. Always remember to record conference sessions.
Attending virtual summits
To be a part of a virtual conference has its unique challenges and benefits. Being a part of online conferences is like a “fly on the wall” condition. It totally depends on the conference organizers; virtual applicants can be listening and watching without any engagement or get completely involved and cooperating with one another or with an in-person attendant during the conference.
To gain most out of an online conference ticket, one must be completely involved. The resulting snippets could help generate a fuller understanding for virtual attendants:
1. Clear your schedule – no workday interruptions will help one to get the most out of the session. So, it is the best practice to manage office work, as there will be no disturbances during the online conference.
2. Before being a part of the conference, it is necessary to know what exactly the conference is all about. One should always be aware of the software that is going to be used. For instance, if the conference is utilizing the Zoom software, which you have not used earlier, then acquaint yourself with the software’s characteristics before the session starts.
3. Always do a test call and check the settings so that all the disturbances will be eliminated.
4. Immerse yourself in the experience as much as possible. Take notes, speak up when you have questions, and test out some of the knowledge you are learning. Think that you are physically present at the conference and make sure you are getting the best experience possible.
Best practices after an online conference
- Amplifying content – it helps to produce a wealth of insights that can support business development.
- Continuing conversations – Set up a way for conference attendees to keep new connections growing.
- Start the conference well in advance.
- Online conferences can reduce costs and carbon footprint.
Shifting focus from traditional in-person discussion to a virtual platform may seem scary at first, but the enormous value and ease that it presents are ultimately worth the so-called risk. The online platform, even during a pandemic, has made it easy for everyone to stay connected without hampering work or daily tasks. Therefore, no reason to think twice before hopping onto the virtual bandwagon. From live tweeting to live streaming, enterprises and businesses are staging virtual events across the web.
Is your organization ready to go digital?