Today, almost everything can be done virtually. Innovations have digitized most business processes, and meetings, conferences, and events are among the first to adapt to this change.
While the need for a “new normal” in corporate events was heightened by the lockdowns due to the pandemic, institutions were bound to reach the point where online events are the primary method of the congregation. COVID-19 just happened to hasten the process.
Besides removing transportation from the formula, online events platforms also break geographic barriers that separate like-minded people from all over the world. They also bridged the financial gap, allowing more guests to participate.
Holding a virtual conference anytime soon? Below are seven steps you need to take to ensure its success:
Step #1: Pinpoint and understand the intended audience.
Aside from knowing the basic information about your audience (i.e., their age group, profession, location, etc.), you also need to have a solid understanding of the way they think and act.
You need to answer certain questions to establish a strong demographic profile of the virtual event’s target audience. Here are some questions you can use as a guide:
- Do they actually like joining virtual events?
- What topics in your niche are more likely to pique their interest?
- What is their level of know-how in the required tech?
- What is their level of familiarity and activity on social media?
- What kinds of offers (e.g., raffle draws, discount codes, etc.) are they most inclined to respond to?
Pro Tip: Suitable channels for getting these questions answered are surveys, forums, or social media groups.
Step #2: Identify your format.
In live conferences, you choose from different formats to determine how best to present your business to your audience. Do they like having a panel discussion? Or perhaps an exhibition would be received better?
This is also true for virtual events.
In traditional virtual seminars – a.k.a. webinars – one person takes the stage and leads the program. It could also be like a workshop where people exchange thoughts and take turns speaking.
But if you have the budget and want that extra “wow factor,” you can also make use of multi-user virtual platforms to recreate “face-to-face” exhibits and trade shows.
The key is to make the event stand out with an experience that is unique and distinctly different from what your competitors are currently doing.
Step #3: Establish your agenda.
Once you’ve decided on a format, it’s time to create an agenda for the program. This will ensure the smooth flow of the virtual event, keep all participants on the same page, and help you maintain your priorities as the host.
Having an agenda is more about establishing a clear understanding of the participants, especially those not in the same room. Since they have a limited view of nonverbal cues, they need a guide to keep them focused on the goals of the event.
To make sure this happens, here are some tips you can use when developing an agenda:
- Seek out input from the people attending the virtual meeting.
- Take note of the things that have been decided.
- Depending on the agenda, you may also identify the discussion leader for every item or topic.
- Always set aside time for last-minute questions or additions.
Step #4: Choose your event platform.
The event platform serves as the venue of your conference. There are many options available, from social media sites to video streaming and video calling apps.
Most offer almost the same basic features, though there are some smaller details that you might want to take into account. Generally, it’s all about personal preference.
However, if you’re looking for virtual conference platforms for large groups and something that could wow your audience, you should consider taking advantage of the new virtual technology.
With virtual events, it would be very much like you’re holding a live event because of the excellent content delivery and rich media webcasting. Some virtual events platform providers also support ease of access through any device regardless of the users’ location and the event’s timing.
Step #5: Make sure your space is ready.
Even if you can cover up the view of your background using virtual conference platform features, you still need to make sure that your space is ready for when you’re hosting the gathering.
Remember the BBC interview where the interviewee’s kids appeared on camera while the show is on the air? You don’t want the same mishap to happen during your virtual event.
If you’ve worked remotely in the past, you understand that there are plenty of distractions that could affect virtual conferences. But while you can’t prevent every single one of them, preparing beforehand can go a long way.
Here’s what you can do:
- Find a quiet space with little to no distractions.
- Use noise-canceling headphones to minimize noise and audio feedback.
- Perform a test run ahead of the online meeting.
Step #6: Pick the event schedule.
Since geographical concerns are no longer an issue in virtual events, you’d think that it is possible to hold one on a whim at any time of the day.
Time remains a relevant factor in virtual conferences. In most cases, weekends and early evenings are the best times to conduct the online event. However, you still need to factor in several things to ensure that your audience can attend and focus on it.
Some of the things you need to consider are:
- Other major events taking place during the designated time, such as a high-profile sports game, TV show finale, or even one of three meals of the day;
- The typical mental state or physical condition of your audience during that time (e.g., sleepy late at night or too early in the morning), or
- The time differences if you’re aiming for an international audience.
To be safe, ask your audience for date and time suggestions and set your virtual conferences to the time when most people are available. Don’t forget to record the entire show and upload it so that the people who weren’t able to attend can watch it.
Step #7: Make your event known through marketing.
Marketing is crucial to an event’s success, and virtual gatherings are no exception.
You can do this by maximising the power of social media. But besides tweeting or sharing the event link on Facebook and other platforms, you also need to show the viewers the event “venue” and give them an idea of what it’s all about.
Likewise, you can add links to speaker bios, featured clips, and tutorial videos about using the live streaming platform you’ve chosen.
Pro Tip: Make it easier for other people to promote your virtual gathering. Look for ways for people with a stake in it to spread the word. This may include but is not limited to, your sponsors, exhibitors, presenters, and attendees.
Virtual events are no longer something that can only be seen in futuristic sci-fi movies – they are the present and primary means of gathering people together. Update your conferences and gatherings by following these steps for putting together a successful virtual event.
Ahmed Tameemi is a serial tech entrepreneur, XR expert, and futurist, as well as the Managing Director at Outreal XR, an award-winning virtual, augmented, and mixed reality company, specializing in virtual events. Pioneering in the creation of stunning extended reality (XR) experiences, Outreal XR delivers immersive digital realities that result in total emotional engagement. Their newest innovation, HoloFair, is a virtual events platform where users can connect with others in the 3D virtual world.
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