No venue, no food, no problem
It's 2020 and virtual conferences and meetings are now a thing. Whether you're transitioning a physical event into a virtual one due to current conditions or you're thinking of holding an event for the first time, this article should help you understand the virtual landscape. In this article we're going to take a look at what you should focus on, how technology will help and how to continue to engage your audience after the event.
Going virtual? get creative.
Key elements of a virtual conference or meeting
Just like an in-person event, a virtual conference should focus on a few key elements. Yes, there is technology involved, but that's where Creative Liquid comes in and your event planning team. This allows you to focus your attention on content, engagement and attendees.
What's your style?
What form will your conference take and what features are on your wish list? Will your audience interact with speakers or just watch presentations? Does your conference need breakout rooms? How about a virtual trade show floor? We can help you determine what features will work best to achieve your goals.
Similar to in-person events, attendees can register to attend your virtual conference online. Many technology platforms support online registration including Zoom Webinars and GoTo Webinars. Creative Liquid's FedStreaming.com platform can also support user registrations. We'll discuss these in more detail in a moment. Registration systems can process payments, send email reminders to attendees and provide your team with important attendee data that can be integrated into your CRM.
What's your theme?
Your virtual event needs to have a clear mission for why your audience should attend. With a virtual conference it's easy for an attendee to tune out if they're not interested. This is why you need to have compelling speakers, presentations and engaging content that keeps them glued to their screens.
Create compelling content
Your main stage is virtual. Develop a lineup of speakers who have something interesting to say, who people will tune in to see. The main stage is where you put your rock star lineup. They will speak to the audience as a whole. Attendees will watch their presentations as if they were attending a main stage event at an in-person event.
The program can take a few different forms. Keynote presenters can speak to the audience. For virtual events, we've also found the "interview" style format works well. This is where a host interviews your speakers or guests and carry on a back and forth conversation. This is similar to a news program, talk show or podcast. Attendees will feel like they're learning and being entertained. It's important to remember your audience will be watching your content. This means it's important to think more like a television producer. This is where we can help.
Breakout sessions give you the opportunity to dial in content with smaller, more intimate groups of attendees. In the virtual space it's important to have a moderator or facilitator in each breakout to prompt the conversation. Attendees should be encourages to participate, even more than they would at a physical event. Virtual breakouts can be a great opportunity for networking and making personal connections.
Post event follow through
When your virtual event concludes, the next step is to stay connected with your audience. Post event emails, follow up virtual meetings and conversations should be on your radar. Have a plan for ongoing events, smaller networking sessions, or follow on events. Staying connected to your attendees show them that you appreciate their participation and that they're time was well spent.
Technology for a virtual event
There is no one technology solution that will meet the needs of every event. This is why working with Creative Liquid helps. We can curate the correct tools and leverage the technologies that will make your event possible.
First, you need to determine where your event is going to be hosted. If you plan on holding ongoing events, it may make sense to develop a branded website specifically to host your virtual events. Creative Liquid's web team can work with you to determine if this is a good route to take.
If your event is a one-time thing or you're new to virtual events, we offer custom branded event pages on our FedStreaming.com platform. FedStreaming can include social media links, website links, downloadable attachments, chat and ask a question among other features.
A third option is to host your event through a webinar platform such as Zoom Webinar and Go To Webinar. Webinars are slightly different than video meeting platforms and different from live streaming. We'll discuss the differences in a moment.
How long is your event?
Keep in mind your attendees will be watching your virtual event. Just like in person events you'll need to develop an agenda and build in breaks. In our experience audience will tune out if your event days go too long. If your in-person event is normally two days, consider turning your virtual conference into three or four days. Program three to four hours of quality content each day.
Virtual technology options
There are three main options for virtual events:
- Virtual meeting (such as Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams)
- Live Streaming
- Webinar platform (such as Zoom Webinar, Zoho Webinar, GoTo Webinar)
Your event may use a combination of technologies. For your main stage we recommend live streaming. Live streaming is a one-way communication with your audience. You don't have to worry about attendees interrupting presentations. For a large audience live streaming is the most cost effective option. Streaming is normally distributed in 1920x1080 high definition and can incorporate branded graphics, slides, and video roll-in segments. Live streams are also recorded so attendees can go back and watch on-demand afterwards. Live streaming can incorporate moderated "ask a question" or live chat and polling. These features make the event interactive for attendees.
Breakout sessions work well in virtual meetings. These sessions should be hosted by a moderator who can guide the conversation. Attendees can pre-register for breakouts and they will receive a link to allow them access.
Webinar platforms work well when you want your audience to interact with your main presenters. These tools often feature "raise a hand" which allows speakers to acknowledge attendees.
Whatever solution you select, keep in mind recording live content is important. Giving attendees access to the recorded material adds value.
For live streaming we recommend Vimeo. Vimeo acquired LiveStream, which was one of the best live streaming content delivery networks (CDN) available. For reaching a large audience, Vimeo is our go-to solution. If you work with Creative Liquid you don't even need a Vimeo account to leverage their streaming platform. We offer it as a service and Vimeo Live is our preferred CDN for FedStreaming.com. Vimeo is stable, high quality, scalable and cost effective.
For virtual meetings and breakout sessions we recommend Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and Zoom. For webinars we recommend BigMarker, GoTo Webinar and Zoom Webinar.
Selecting the best fit for your event depends on many factors. We're here to serve as consultants, technology experts, video experts and facilitators, allowing you to focus on your content and attendees.
We often get asked about Facebook Live and YouTube Live. While these are good platforms for social media outreach, we do not recommend them for conferences and meetings. Attendees will be distracted by other social media posts, advertisements and content which you have no control over. When you host a virtual meeting you want to be in control.