Whether a virtual conference is driven by the current virus COVID-19 virus, financial considerations, member outreach, or beneficial global dialogue, the fundamental process for planning and implementation remains the same. These five success factors outline important steps to creating a successful virtual conference.
1. Know your audience
At the heart of a conference’s success is audience participation. Before you endeavor to produce a virtual conference, make sure you are investing in content with broad audience appeal. Identify your target audience, and then focus your conference content accordingly: consider what topics and themes would interest them most, what potential benefits your conference can provide, and what roster of guest speakers would be most attractive.
2. Give yourself sufficient lead time for planning
Ideally, a virtual conference should have several months devoted to planning and logistics. A virtual conference must be an organized event, and it is more likely to be successful the more time that is allotted to gathering the right presenters, practicing the presentations, setting up your virtual conference site, and carefully completing all the other prerequisite tasks.
3. Work closely with a dedicated event coordinator and platform vendor
If you are new to virtual conferences, an experienced and dedicated event coordinator can be an indispensable guide during the planning process. The job of an event coordinator is to put themselves in the shoes of your conference’s attendees. They work closely with the LMS vendor, anticipate what would be most attractive to attendees, and then help design the site so that it features appropriate visual interest, design aspects, and intellectual stimulation. Essentially, an event coordinator is responsible for orchestrating the attendee experience.
An experienced, partnership-oriented LMS vendor can also prove a valuable resource to newcomers to virtual conferences. By providing training, best practices and technical support, the platform vendor can help you feel more at ease with virtual conferences. It is by no means necessary that you tackle a virtual conference on your own; in fact, a joint venture with an event coordinator or platform vendor can often help take a virtual conference to the next level.
4. Design a conference that offers a variety of content that is new and engaging
After you have drawn your audience to your site, it is crucial to maintain their interest by diversifying your conference content. Bear in mind that different people have different learning styles: some people learn best by reading, others by seeing, and others by hearing. By having a combination of text, visuals, and audio, you can appeal to these various learning styles.
Another important technique in keeping your audience engaged is to not release all of your content on the first day of the conference. Particularly if you are holding a lengthy conference, you want participants to have new things to look forward to every time they log in. By spreading content to different days, you have a much greater chance of engaging members and inducing them to return later on.
5. Provide opportunities for interaction and connection between other conference members
Creating a successful virtual conference rests largely on maximizing the participation of conference members. Aside from diversifying and spreading your content, you can promote participation by integrating audience interaction into your virtual conference. Live chats via webinars, discussion boards, and moderated breakout sessions are just a few ways that this can be done.
These tools, though simple, can have a powerful effect, enhancing and enlivening the learning experience in addition to promoting deeper and more lasting connections. By fostering a sense of community, a virtual conference can be elevated from an unremarkable temporary event to an experience that is truly meaningful for attendees and valuable for the hosting organization.
Now is the time to get started! Your annual conference and other in-person meetings may be forced to change this year. In terms of generating revenue, cutting costs, extending brands, and reaching out, virtual conferences offer expansive new possibilities. Increasingly facile leveraging of the Internet has spawned a new generation of virtual conferences that meet and, in many ways, exceed the expectations we have held for our professional meetings.
At Blue Sky eLearn, production of a successful, global virtual conference is a well-understood process. By following simple, but crucial steps, it is possible for any organization to launch multi-day or multi-week programs. Moreover, by using a proven LMS platform with great support, your conference programs can save your event from cancellation and create long-lasting value.
Author’s note: this article is adapted from my previous whitepaper on the same subject.
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