Convert your conference into virtual extravaganza
Transforming an in-person multi-day conference into a fully-fledged virtual event can be tricky if you’ve never worked in the online event space before. From planning to content, pre-records to networking – there are plenty of ways to connect with your audience, but it’s the strategy behind the screen that counts.
In this article, the online gurus from FCM Meetings & Events, have dished up some helpful advice on how to host a red-hot virtual event that will keep your delegates buzzing for days.
Tap into support
Think a virtual event is as easy as throwing up few webinars and letting the presentations do the talking? Think again. You need just as many people to run a virtual event as you do an in-person one.
- Chat box monitor/s: you need at least one person monitoring the chat box, more if you have a high volume of attendees who are keeping the chatline busy.
- Event flow manager: one person needs to keep the presentations flowing. They manage the muting, unmuting and promoting people to panellist when they join the conversation.
- Emcee or host: have a host to either run and add commentary to keep the event fluid or to host a particular session where there are numerous panellists. A host can introduce speakers and ask questions.
- Technical support: have people who know what they’re doing when it comes to troubleshooting visual and audio issues.
Show delegates how to use the virtual platform
At the start of your virtual event, give a tutorial to show your virtual audience how to use the platform your event is being hosted on. How and when do they mute themselves, how do they indicate they’d like to ask a question or do they write their question in a chat box? Are there editing tools they can use during the presentations and how do they switch sessions if there are different sessions running at the same time? Basic points to keep in mind are the functionality of the chat box, how to raise hands, muting and unmuting, the size of the screen and how to exit full-screen mode.
Get jiggy with your content
While presentations and webinars are important, you’ll need to mix your content up and give your audience a break from talking heads and PowerPoint screens. Strike a balance between information, entertainment and physical activity. Consider adding in videos related to the content, activities like chair yoga or team-based trivia, run a raffle or a competition around lunch time so people have the option to take a break. Additionally, make sure there is variety in the format of each session, whether that’s by creating a panel environment, having a two-person presentation or using creative video editing for any pre-recorded sessions.
New to online networking?
Virtual networking can be just as effective as meeting someone face to face. Networking online allows people to interact as little or as much as they want to, at their own pace. Give your audience the opportunity to network with sessions such as a ‘virtual happy tour’ or a game show, where delegates get to interact in groups and work as a team. Break-out sessions are also effective particularly when they involve small numbers of people who can easily form connections with each other. Interactions can be either via a chatline, chat forum or breakout room.
Keep your keynotes
While your virtual keynote sessions will be delivered a little differently to normal – having a solid line-up of A-list speakers is still important for your content strategy. Often it will be the keynote speakers who are the star attractions for some people. Make sure there is a way for your delegates to ask questions and have these moderated by an emcee or viewable for the speaker.
Beware the boring
Just because you had something planned for your in-person event, doesn’t mean it’s going to translate virtually. There are some agenda items that will need a complete 180 … like an awards banquet! Hearing name after name or business after business being announced will get tedious, even for those in the line-up to receive an award. Consider a short PowerPoint instead that highlights the winners or even a pre-recorded video. Online networking sessions where there are too many people can also be overwhelming and boring if it’s the same people doing all the talking.
Agility gives you ability
One of the big advantages of an online event is that your ‘room’ is whatever you need it to be. Make sure you have backup content available for any unplanned breaks or glitches and factor in some flexibility. As long as you communicate any changes clearly to your audience, your line-up can scale up or down, be sped up or slowed down, depending on engagement levels and audience size.
Keen to create the event of the year - online? Chat to our team of virtual and hybrid conference specialists at FCM Meetings & Events. We’ll show you how to create an experience your delegates will remember.
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