10 Virtual Conference Best Practices to Increase Engagement

Like most things in life, running an online conference gets easier with practice. Due to our experience facilitating countless online events as a live streaming events company, we have a wealth of expertise on how to deliver a successful event that generates maximum engagement. 

If you are looking for a few pointers on how to improve your online conferences, the following considerations will help to ensure that your event is playing its role in helping you maximise growth.

1. Get to Know Your Event Platform

Knowing the ins and outs of your chosen event platform is hugely beneficial. This level of insight can save time in the planning stages as you are aware of its strengths and limitations.

Networking options and breakout rooms offer a lot of interesting possibilities but can be tricky to operate depending on your platform. Similarly, polls and Q&As can be utilised to great effect but it is imperative to make sure you know how they’re set up in advance of the event. 

Spend some time getting to know your chosen event platform. Most platforms offer free online demos with a company representative, so this might be a good way to explore all of the finer features to make sure that your event runs as smoothly and successfully as possible.

2. Have an Event Theme

Virtual events and conferences lack the advantage of a physical space that brings everyone together. Therefore, having a strong theme for your conference can help to make it memorable, as well as making it more appealing to potential attendees. 

A great way to reinforce your theme is to expand on your branding with custom graphics solely for the event. Depending on your event platform these can be added to every virtual touchpoint of the conference. 

The message, imagery, and graphics throughout your event should be consistent to tie everything together and make attendees feel like they’re a part of something real.

3. AV Checks & Rehearsal

As you may already know, a full tech rehearsal is essential prior to the event. Without one you risk a number of issues on the event day, mostly relating to communication between the speakers, organisers, and tech team. This is a great first-hand experience for anyone new to appearing at/organising a virtual conference.

If you are unable to gather everyone for a rehearsal, the next best thing is to do a rehearsal with as many speakers as you can and conduct AV checks with the speakers who couldn’t attend.

An AV check is just a quick test of the internet connection and audio/video quality of the device that a speaker will be connecting to the event with. This test is normally conducted via the video chat software (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.) that your speakers will be dialling into the live stream with.

If you’re able to do AV checks for all speakers and then a full rehearsal, this is even better, but can be time consuming.

Virtual-Event-Speaker

4. Minimise Pre-Recorded Content (if possible)

Many people are new to speaking at virtual events, and with the possibility of easily pre-recording their segment/presentation this can be a tempting option.

In our experience, live material seems to be a lot more engaging. It feels more significant and more immediate. Plus, there is the ability for more live discussion between speakers, which is often what audiences are there for.

In addition to this, you can streamline the planning timeline if you don’t have to worry about creating pre-recorded content and focus all of your attention on the running of the event. However, pre-recording is a good alternative if a speaker isn’t available on the day of the conference, and can be effectively utilised as filler content if required.

5. Interactivity

Networking is one of the main aspects of most conferences, and it can be a challenge for a virtual event to get right. Seeing as networking doesn’t occur naturally in a virtual environment, organisers need to act as facilitators by using breakout sessions and attendee match-making.

It’s also important to give your less-outgoing attendees a way to connect through other mediums like live chats.

In addition to this, Q&A chat boxes during live presentations allow attendees to interact with speakers, and live quizzes are a fun way to help your attendees feel confident in what they have learned.

6. Have Someone Dedicated to Helping Attendees

Having someone who is well versed in your chosen event platform to take on help desk responsibilities ensures attendee satisfaction and maximises your number of guests.

If you have a large audience, there is always going to be a small percentage of attendees that require some kind of support regarding getting into the conference. This can often be overlooked.

Make sure attendees are easily able to find support if needed, perhaps provide a support email address in a registration email/ticket.

Virtual-Event-Helpdesk

7. Have an Established Means of ‘Backstage’ Communication

This is easy to implement during your event rehearsal or AV checks. Ensuring you have a discrete way to communicate with speakers, organisers, and technical staff enables a much smoother event. 

If your speakers are dialling into the event using a video chat service (such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams) they can use these application’s chat functions as they will only be seen ‘backstage’ and not by your audience. 

Pre-establishing a method of communication is less of a concern if you are hosting a Hybrid Event (a virtual event where the host and speakers are all situated in the same location, whilst attendees join remotely) as it will be much easier to communicate with everyone running the event in the same physical space. 

8. Send Plenty of Reminders

Frequent email reminders are great for helping to keep the event at the top of people’s minds and draw attendees back into the idea of a live experience rather than something they can watch later if they miss.

You don’t want to overdo it and annoy attendees with too many emails, just regularly enough to keep them aware and excited. If they have signed up to attend, they presumably want to benefit from the experience the conference offers, particularly if they have paid a registration fee.

Consider sending an SMS Marketing flow in the build-up to the event, ideally with a dedicated landing page, to target those who did not open your email. This is a cost-effective way of communicating with your audience and achieving high open-rates.

9. Act Quickly After the Event

If you’re planning to make a recording of your main livestream available after it finishes, it is wise to ensure you can do this as soon as possible after the event.

If this is something you are looking to do then check it’s possible on your choice of event platform/stream host. For example, if you stream to YouTube the video is available to view straight after you end the stream. This means being able to quickly share your recorded stream with those who may have missed it, and attendees can pass it onto others whilst it is fresh in their minds.

Networking-Technology-Data

10. Get the Most Out of Your Post-Event Data

Evaluating your event is always important. Odds are that you’ll have much more data available with virtual conferences (attendee engagement, time spent in different areas of the event, files downloaded, etc.) than you have for a live event.

Spend some time finding high quality leads to follow up on. These hot leads could be the attendees who interacted most with your content and chat boxes or the ones who were most vocal in your breakout sessions.

Summary

Apply these best practices to create a fun, informative virtual conference, but always strive to ensure a fantastic experience for your attendees by listening to their feedback and acting on it.

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