In-person seminars, conferences and other events have historically presented valuable opportunities for information sharing and networking in the corporate world. However, at a time when large groups could potentially exacerbate the pandemic, these gatherings have moved from hotels and convention centers to the internet.
Even after COVID-19 no longer poses as much of a threat, many get-togethers could remain virtual. Only 21.5 percent of digital marketing and advertising executives said “yes” when asked if the advertising and media business would bounce back to pre-pandemic levels of in-person events after “the virus runs its course,” according to the report “The Future of the ‘In-Person’ Business Economy: Summary of Wave 2 Findings” published in August 2020 by The 614 Group. Additionally, 56.7 percent of the executives surveyed for the report predicted that all live events will also have a virtual aspect in the future.
Adapting to this new normal of online events naturally requires adjustments to the planning process. If you’ve been tasked with transitioning your company’s conferences and seminars to the web, you might wonder how you can deliver the same experience and value to attendees when they’ll participate from behind screens in their homes and offices instead of assembling in the same space.
Just like in-person gatherings, virtual events require thorough planning and preparation to ensure everything goes smoothly. If you’re looking for guidance, here are some tips to help you successfully host a virtual event.
1. Find a reliable videoconferencing/audioconferencing platform that meets all your hosting needs.
Having the right technology on your side is essential if you want your online event to go well, according to the Eventbrite blog entry “The Ultimate Guide to Hosting a Virtual Event or Webinar.” In addition to high-quality video and audio streaming, here are some must-have capabilities you should look for in conferencing software:
- Ability to record presentations for playback at a later time
- Features that make meetings and presentations accessible, such as subtitles and live transcription
- Robust cybersecurity safeguards
- Audience engagement features, such as live meeting chat, real-time polls, and hand raising
You’ll also want to ensure you have a reliable, high-speed internet connection and access to high-quality cameras and microphones to make sure your attendees have the best possible experience and your presentations appear and sound professional, Eventbrite advises.
2. Anticipate technical issues.
As part of your event preparations, you should consider what tech troubles you might run into and either take steps to prevent them or make plans to fix them as quickly as possible, according to the Hootsuite blog entry “How to Host a Successful Virtual Event: Tips and Best Practices.”
For instance, it’s wise to test your internet connection and broadcasting equipment ahead of time so you can rest assured everything works before the big day. Have contact information for IT support readily available so you can get in touch with techs pronto if something goes wrong. On top of that, putting together how-to guides to help your guests successfully log in and utilize the conferencing software can stop technical difficulties from derailing anyone’s event experience.
3. Don’t promote your event too far in advance.
Virtual events commonly see a surge in registration two to three weeks before the online occasion, according to the Marketo blog “Size Matters: How to Run a Virtual Event with 18,000+ Registrants.” As a result, although it might seem prudent to start promoting early, trying to get people to sign up months in advance is unlikely to net you many RSVPs. Instead, plan to pitch your socially distanced shindig via email, Twitter, Facebook and other online methods just a few weeks before it happens.
4. Make efforts to engage your attendees with interactive features.
Although it’s harder to make an event interactive when everyone is viewing it in their own space on a screen, there are still plenty of ways to make your conference or seminar an engaging experience. For example, the aforementioned conferencing tool features like live chat and polls let people share their ideas and participate instead of just passively consuming information. You can also create a hashtag and encourage everyone to live tweet about the event, according to Hootsuite.
5. Hand out virtual swag bags.
Just because attendees can’t wander an exhibit hall in person and grab free pens, keychains and other goodies doesn’t mean you have to give up on this fun aspect of corporate get-togethers. Consider giving out virtual “swag bags” containing items like a gift card for a food delivery service. Nearly 22 percent of virtual conference hosts report using this tactic to engage end users, according to the July 2020 International Data Corporation (IDC) blog entry “What Virtual Conferences (Still) Miss.”
Ultimately, with the advanced technologies available today and thoughtful event planning, your virtual gathering can be just as informative, engaging and entertaining as an in-person conference. If you’d like assistance selecting IT solutions that meet your event hosting needs, our team of tech experts would be happy to assist you. We have extensive experience working with Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) solutions and web conferencing software. Just give us a call at 877-599-3999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.