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Planning a Can’t-Miss Online Conference: Tips and Tricks

Virtual events have become increasingly popular in recent years, and for good reason. With the ability to connect with attendees from around the world, virtual conferences offer a convenient and cost-effective way to share knowledge, build relationships, and generate new leads. In this article, we will explore the benefits of hosting a virtual conference, provide tips for planning a successful event, and offer strategies for engaging attendees throughout the conference. 

Hosting virtual conferences, summits, and events allows connecting with broader audiences from anywhere. But simply slapping a standard webinar together won’t cut it. Delivering truly memorable remote experiences requires extensive planning and production effort. Follow these tips to create online events that wow attendees.

Choosing the Right Virtual Event Format

Select an event format suiting your content, audience size, goals, and resources.

Virtual Event Format Options

  • Webinar – One-off presentation with Q&A. Easy to organize. More salesy.
  • Summit – Multiple speakers over days. More variety but intense planning.
  • Workshop – Small group interactive teaching. Higher engagement but limited attendees.
  • Conference – Larger community event with talks, networking, entertainment. Major production.
  • Hybrid event – Combination of virtual and local in-person components. Logistically complex.

Consider your niche, target audience size, ticket pricing, and team capabilities. Match event format to your strengths.

Picking the Right Video Conference Technology

The technology platform significantly impacts the attendee experience. Compare options thoroughly.

Video Conference Platform Considerations

  • Ease of use for non-techie presenters and attendees
  • Production features like screen sharing, transitions, etc.
  • Audience size capacity for your event needs
  • Engagement tools like polls, Q&A, chats, etc.
  • Networking capabilities for audience interactions
  • Integrations with other marketing and payment tools
  • Technical support and moderation assistance
  • Pricing models – per attendee, flat fee, revenue share, etc.
  • Branding – Can you customize with your assets and pages?

Thoroughly test front and backend experiences before committing. Ease of use at scale is crucial.

Structuring a Compelling Event Agenda and Flow

Map out a purposeful sequence of segments that captivates from start to finish.

Elements of an Engaging Virtual Event Agenda

  • Pre-show welcome and event orientation
  • Energizing kickoff capturing attention
  • Thoughtful speaker order showcasing your headliners
  • Mix of session formats – panels, presentations, workshops, etc.
  • Built-in breaks to minimize screen fatigue
  • Facilitated networking sessions so attendees mingle
  • Entertainment segments with music, comedy, contests, etc.
  • Closing keynote motivating people to take action
  • Post-show compilation of resources and links

Strategic programming avoids boring lulls. Create dynamic flows optimized for digital experiences.

Recruiting the Right Speakers and Presenters

Book presenters who offer fresh perspectives people want to hear. Avoid recycled talking heads.

Tips for Recruiting Great Virtual Event Speakers

  • Cast a wide net hunting beyond the usual suspects
  • Prioritize presently relevant topics rather than dated advice
  • Seek diversity across gender, ethnicity, age, and experience
  • Look for speakers able to compellingly demonstrate concepts live
  • Ask for pre-event practice sessions to vet skills
  • Recruit people with existing audiences excited to see them
  • Curate complementary perspectives across your lineup
  • Balance emerging voices with recognized established names

The right mix of speakers sparks community buzz and signups. Great content drives great events.

Optimizing Staging, Lighting, and Video

Invest in quality staging for polished, professional-looking video presentations.

Video Production Tips for Virtual Events

  • Unified branded backdrop for speaker consistency
  • Proper 3-point lighting avoiding shadows or glare
  • Lapel mics for clear voice pickup and handsfree movement
  • Multiple camera angles like wide, close-up, and over-the-shoulder
  • On-site producer switching feeds and troubleshooting
  • High-quality cameras and encoding for flawless video quality
  • Graphics and titles to overlay during presentations
  • Green screen capabilities for custom backdrops

Well-crafted video engages attendees and conveys value for ticket costs. Pay for production talent.

Facilitating Networking Opportunities Between Attendees

Don’t just broadcast one-way. Give attendees chances to connect face-to-face too.

Tips for Fostering Attendee Connections

  • Speed networking sessions randomly pairing people for quick intros
  • Build in discussion breaks for small group Q&A
  • Facilitate topic-based video chat groups based on shared interests
  • Gamify networking with rewards for most connections made
  • Matchmaking algorithms to suggest promising contacts

-polls and interactive tools everyone responds to

  • Group video rooms around shared niches, roles, locations
  • Virtual exhibit booths attendees can video chat within

Serendipitous networking conversations build professional relationships and enrich events.

Driving Deeper Engagement Through Interactive Features

Avoid stale passive viewing. Integrate tools keeping people actively involved.

Ideas for Interactive Virtual Event Features

  • Live polls and surveys collecting audience feedback
  • Q&A sessions responding to attendees’ questions
  • Chat streams so attendees can discuss with peers
  • Virtual whiteboards for collaborative brainstorming
  • Live quizzes and trivia during programming
  • Tools enabling attendees to give on-screen feedback
  • Gamification through points and leaderboards
  • Breakout rooms for small group discussions
  • Virtual hands raising and reactions during presentations

2-way engagement keeps people tuned in and cements learning much more than 1-way broadcasting.

Incorporating Sponsor Booths and Swag Bags

Treat virtual lobbies like expo halls with booths, freebies, downloads, and more.

Tips for Virtual Venue Experiences

  • Custom-designed vendor booths attendees can video chat with
  • Free downloads, cheatsheets, checklists
  • Discounts and coupon codes for sponsor products/services
  • Entries into prize giveaways and raffles
  • Gamification through sponsored achievement badges
  • Live demos and sneak peeks into new tools
  • Expert Q&A in booth talking to prospects
  • Virtual swag bag collecting downloads and offers

Bring exhibitor halls online. Sponsors want fresh engagement, not stale signage.

Optimizing Ticket Pricing Strategy

Use tiered pricing to maximize revenue across buyer levels. Upsells add income.

Virtual Event Pricing Best Practices

  • Charge higher rates for more interaction – VIP small-group sessions, etc.
  • Offer early bird discounts to incentivize quick signups
  • Group discount codes for teams to encourage referrals
  • Free plus paid ticket tiers like nonprofits use
  • Dynamic demand-based pricing adjusting based on pace of sales
  • Bundles combining tickets, recordings, sponsor offerings
  • Payment plans to improve affordability
  • Charge for add-ons like networking, Q&As, and bonuses

Optimized pricing expands your audience beyond only premium buyers.

Promoting Your Event Through Outreach and Affiliates

Spread the word through joint ventures, affiliates, and grassroots outreach.

Event Promotion Tactics

  • Identify and recruit influencers, groups, and podcasts reaching your audience
  • Reach out to niche publications for listings and reviews
  • Use affiliates compensated for signups driven
  • Distribute promotional toolkits encouraging shares
  • Buy targeted ads on high-traffic sites frequented by your niche
  • Pitch the media on notable speakers and program highlights
  • Send out press releases announcing early bird specials
  • Seed giveaways building organic buzz leading up to event

Beyond your own reach, leverage communities already connecting with your attendees.

Capturing Value Long After Through Recordings and Products

Record your event for sales long after the live session ends.

Post-Event Monetization Ideas

  • Sell digital access to video replays
  • Offer transcripts, summaries, and key takeaways documents
  • Compile books and guides with your speakers’ wisdom
  • Sell audio recordings optimized for podcast listening
  • Upsell event bundles with additional bonuses and workflows
  • Curate highlights reel with best moments to promote
  • License clips to speakers for promotional purposes
  • Re-purpose content into online courses or coaching programs

Recordings represent another touchpoint to engage your audience while capturing additional value.

Following Up After with Surveys and Community

Collect feedback to improve your next event. Offer attendees ways to stay connected.

Post-Event Follow Up Best Practices

  • Send a quick feedback survey while the experience is fresh
  • Share compiled survey results to demonstrate you listen
  • Use feedback to refine format, speakers, promotion for future events
  • Link out to speaker and vendor sites driving traffic
  • Provide social media groups and forums for attendees to stay connected
  • Send reminder emails when replays and resources expire
  • Announce plans for your next event to maintain awareness

Events are the start of ongoing community relationships. Avoid leaving attendees stranded when it concludes.

Analyzing Event Data to Guide Growth

Review metrics and listener feedback to identify what resonated and where to improve.

Virtual Event Data to Review

  • Traffic sources driving the most registrations
  • Sales totals by offer package and add-on
  • Attendee NPS scores gauging satisfaction
  • Video completion rates highlighting engaging content
  • Poll, survey, and quiz participation and results
  • Chat and Q&A transcript highlights
  • Traffic to vendor booths and downloads
  • Technology platform issues or glitches reported
  • In-session and post-event feedback from attendees

Learn what worked and what didn’t. Let data guide enhancing future experiences.

What is a virtual event and why should you consider hosting one?

The benefits of hosting a virtual conference

Hosting a virtual conference offers numerous benefits for both organizers and attendees. From a logistical standpoint, virtual conferences eliminate the need for expensive travel arrangements and venue bookings. Organizers can save time, money, and resources by hosting the event online. Additionally, virtual conferences have a wider reach, allowing organizers to attract a larger audience from different geographic locations. For attendees, virtual conferences offer convenience and flexibility. They can participate in the event from the comfort of their own homes or offices, saving time and money on travel expenses. Virtual conferences also provide the opportunity for attendees to connect and interact with professionals from various industries and backgrounds.

How to plan a successful virtual event

Planning a virtual conference requires meticulous attention to detail and strategic execution. Here are some tips to help you plan a successful online event:

  1. Set clear objectives for your online conference: Before starting the planning process, clearly define your goals and objectives for the event. This will help guide your decision-making and ensure that your event delivers value to attendees.
  2. Identify your target audience and create compelling content: Understanding your target audience is crucial for creating content that resonates with them. Conduct market research and tailor your conference sessions to address the specific needs and interests of your target audience.
  3. Select engaging speakers for your virtual event: The speakers at your virtual conference play a critical role in captivating and educating your audience. Choose speakers who are knowledgeable, experienced, and charismatic to deliver impactful presentations.

Planning the attendee experience

Crafting a user-friendly platform for your online conference

When planning your virtual conference, it is essential to select a user-friendly platform that provides a seamless experience for attendees. Look for a platform that allows easy navigation, interactive features, and reliable technical support to ensure a positive attendee experience.

Incorporating interactive features to keep attendees engaged

Engaging attendees throughout the conference is crucial to keep them invested and interested. Incorporate interactive features such as live polls, Q&A sessions, and virtual networking opportunities to encourage participation and create a sense of community.

Providing technical support for a seamless virtual experience

Technical issues can hinder the attendee experience and impact the success of your virtual conference. Ensure that you have a dedicated technical support team available to address any issues that may arise during the event. Conduct thorough testing and have backup plans in place to minimize disruptions.

Ensuring meaningful connections at your online conference

Creating networking opportunities for attendees

Virtual conferences may lack the in-person networking opportunities that traditional conferences offer. To overcome this challenge, create dedicated networking sessions, virtual breakout rooms, and facilitate one-on-one meetings between attendees to foster meaningful connections.

Using hashtags to encourage social media engagement

Using hashtags related to your virtual conference on social media platforms can help boost engagement and create buzz around the event. Encourage attendees to share their experiences, insights, and key takeaways using the event hashtag to extend the reach of your conference.

Offering swag and other incentives for virtual attendees

Just like in-person events, virtual conferences can also offer swag and other incentives to engage attendees. Consider providing digital downloads, exclusive discounts, or virtual gift cards as incentives for participation.

Attending a virtual conference: What you need to know

Preparing for a virtual event: A packing list for attendees

As an attendee, it’s important to be prepared for a virtual conference. Here are some essentials to include in your virtual conference “packing list”: a reliable internet connection, a quiet and distraction-free environment, a notepad and pen for taking notes, and headphones for better audio quality.

Tips for getting the most out of attending a virtual conference

Attending a virtual conference requires active participation to maximize your learning and networking opportunities:

  • Engage with speakers and presenters by asking thoughtful questions during Q&A sessions.
  • Interact with other attendees through virtual networking events or by joining online discussion groups.
  • Take advantage of the resources provided by the conference, such as downloadable materials or access to recorded sessions.

How to maximize your learning at an online conference

To make the most of your virtual conference experience, create a schedule and prioritize the sessions and events that align with your goals and interests. Participate actively in the sessions, take notes, and follow up on key insights and strategies shared by the speakers.

Conclusion

Hosting standout virtual events demands extensive planning, production effort, promotion, and attendee engagement. You can’t just schedule speakers and expect an audience. Treat events as multi-touch productions optimized around your attendees’ experience before, during, and after your conference. Utilize diverse session formats, interactive tools, networking matchmaking, and post-event monetization opportunities. Market through affiliates, outreach, and toolkits. When you invest in delivering tangible value to your community, you build loyalty beyond any single live session. Use these tips to throw online events that drive impact long after the last session ends.

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By Dani Davis

Dani Davis is the pen name of the writer of this blog with more 15 years of constant experience in Content marketing and informatics product, e-commerce niche.

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