Hosting a virtual conference in 2021
10+ things to consider for an engaging event
Written by: Gianna Kreider, CT Project Manager
The event industry has been patiently waiting for the green light to jump back into live events, but unfortunately, we will not be able to ramp up as fast as most of us want to. Most states still have capacity regulations that prevent a full-blown conference from taking place. While we are waiting to return to the old normal, we can take advantage of the new normal: virtual. There is no replacement for the experience of attending a conference, however, there are advantages to embracing virtual. Hosting a conference this way allows a much broader reach than a traditional in-person conference.
What is the difference between a virtual event and virtual conference?
Conferences are often multi day events and offer the flexibility of single or multi-track agendas. They also include multiple elements such as:
- Keynote presentations
- Breakout sessions
- Live entertainment
- Networking events such as happy hours
Crafting Attendee Experience
As with any event, planners must figure out how to create content that will be exciting for their audience, as well as the best delivery method. They must also tackle how attendees will interact with the content and with one another. Each of the following steps in the attendee process must be carefully curated to fit the motif of the event:
- Registration and landing page: This will most likely be the first time the attendee interacts with your event, so choosing a platform that fits your needs is key. By creating an accessible, impactful page, your attendees will have a clear-cut way to visualize what the rest of the conference will entail. Keep the registration process simple to help collect the necessary information from your registrants.
- Agenda: Conferences provide the attendees a way to create their own experience. An interactive agenda page can help the attendee establish the direction they want to go. It can also be a valuable data resource, showing which sessions spark the most interest.
- Content: Securing high quality presentations is one of the most important ways of keeping attendees engaged. Start by deciding if you want to have pre-recorded or live speakers and make sure you schedule time to do a technical check. Many speakers have not had the practice presenting virtually and may need some instruction on things like camera placement.
- Presentation: Decide where else to present content other than your “main stage”. Creating breakout session tracks that appeal to different audiences or facilitating small group “watch parties” can increase attendee engagement. And don’t forget about after -hours networking. By offering live entertainment or virtual happy hours, you can help create the sense of networking felt at an in-person event.
Technology for Virtual Conferences
With the industry evolving more to fit the digital space, the amount of new technology may feel a bit overwhelming. There are some factors, like production quality and budget, that will go into account when choosing what is right for your event, but overall there are some key elements that can be used to create virtual conferences.
- Platform: As mentioned earlier, the platform is one of the most important parts of the virtual experience. It is ultimately your venue. There are a multitude of platforms available, so it is best to choose one that fits your overall goals. Features such as branding, streaming, content playback, and user interaction can be integrated into your site.
- Live Streaming: Most events will contain a live streaming element. Types of presentations and audience reach will dictate the type of technology needed. Smaller events can be produced through virtual cloud control rooms, while larger events may require a physical control room with broadcast quality live streaming equipment that provides editing and archiving capabilities.
- Internet Connection: Reliable, hard wired internet will be needed to stream any event. Whether you are set up in a studio or corporate office, be sure to check that the internet is solid and there is no VPN that would interfere with transmission. Be sure to have a tech check with all presenters and create a back-up plan for a drop out situation.
- Green Screen Technology: Green screens have become a versatile tool in virtual shows. Green screen kits can be sent to presenters, allowing multiple people to interact in the same digital space, or can be set up in an office or studio to create a unique virtual set.
- LED walls: LED provides a step up from green screen technology. Events can utilize an LED wall and even an LED floor to create an unparalleled experience for the presenter. It provides the ability to interact with not only the set itself, but with other presenters or attendees that can be streamed through the wall. Events can choose to use a pre-existing studio setup or virtual studio kits that can fit into their existing space.
- Virtual Reality Technology: If you are looking for a way to create a shared experience for your audience, VR is the wave of the future. VR studios can be used to create a virtual trade show or offer in depth product demos.
The sky really is the limit when planning a virtual conference. The industry has spent the last year designing and implementing technology that maximizes the user experience. CT currently offers all of the above technology at various budget levels and is eager to assist in bringing your vision to life.