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How to plan the perfect online conference, quickly and easily

Hubilo
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Published:
December 3, 2021

Hosting an online conference has its benefits. It gives event organizers the ability to track digital behaviors. It reduces friction for attendees (no travel, reduced expenses, better allocation of time). And, it shortens the lead time required for execution (vs. in-person events). This makes online conferences an attractive option for event organizers and event participants.

Want to make the most of your online conferences and amplify your growth trajectory? Here’s a handy guide to help you kickstart your next online conference with ease.

What is an online conference?

An online conference is a remote event and involves people with shared interests. The event can take place in one day or over several days. Online conferences include delegates sharing papers, presenting ideas, and discussing relevant topics. The goal is for attendees to learn, pose questions, interact, and network with each other.  

Online conferences eliminate the need to travel. This makes it a convenient and inexpensive option for attendees, speakers, as well as organizers.

Benefits of hosting an online conference

In the third quarter of 2020, the success rate of virtual events was at 60%. This number has gone up to 83% by the end of the second quarter in 2021. Besides, 42% of event organizers will organize their next major online conference virtually. This is despite COVID-19 restrictions being lifted. [Source: EventMB 2021].

The benefits of online conferences are becoming increasingly apparent. Let’s take a look at some of these benefits and how they can tie into your online conference strategy.

Ability to record the event seamlessly

Recording an in-person event requires a dedicated team of videographers. Afterward, you must also wait a few days for the video to be edited before you can use it.

This is not the case with online conferences. Most virtual event platforms allow event organizers to record the conference with a simple to use, in-built feature. These recordings can then be shared with others almost immediately, with little or no waiting time involved.

Reduced friction for attendees 

Virtual events eliminate the need for your attendees to travel. This helps your attendees reduce their expenses. It also helps them save time that would otherwise be spent traveling or attending sessions that they were not particularly interested in. With virtual events, attendees can now participate in online conferences from the safety and comfort of their homes. 

online-conference-Virtual livestream session engagement

Improved reach for organizers

As an organizer, virtual conferences are the fastest way for you to scale up your event. You now have access to a global audience. Experts from the industry can be invited to speak at your conference regardless of their location. And, you can reach a larger set of exhibitors and sponsors to participate in your virtual conference. 

Reduced costs

Virtual conferences eliminate the need for a venue and associated expenses. You no longer have to spend money on travel, hotels, food and beverages, hospitality, and other provisions. This reduces expenses significantly and makes it a preferred choice over in-person events. 

Improved networking options

Networking is the second biggest reason for participants to join virtual events. And virtual events are a great way to capitalize on this interest. Virtual event platforms encourage networking through features like lounges, 1-1 chats, 1-1 meetings, and virtual rooms. In addition, you can use the matchmaking feature available on some event platforms to personalize the networking experience and make the right connections.

online-conference-Networking Lounges on Hubilo

Actionable data and insights

With the availability of data and insights not only will you get to know who registered for the event. You will also have visibility on attendance, engagement, leads, and conversations. This data can be immediately used to assess the success of your conference. In the future, it can be used to make informed decisions and improvements. 

Components of an online conference

Here are the elements you cannot miss in the process of planning your online conference:

  • Event registration page: Design an attractive landing and registration page to attract your potential audience.
  • Speakers: Presenters at your event should be expert professionals. You can choose to have in-house speakers or invite external individuals well-versed with the theme of your event.
  • Virtual conference platform: Choose a platform in line with your requirements for engagement, branding, and data analytics.
  • Events team: The specifics of a virtual event team are a bit different from your traditional in-person team. You’ll now need additional resources like a producer, support team, tech support, and more while organizing a virtual conference. 
  • Marketing automation tools: You’ll need a well-integrated marketing automation tool to promote the event across digital channels. Choose a tool that can be connected to your event platform and supports data exchange with it.
  • Host: You’ll need a high-energy emcee or host to stitch the event together and provide attendees with a uniform and engaging experience.  
  • Content: This is one of the main things you’ll need throughout your event lifecycle. Some types of content you’ll need are - promotional content, speaker presentations, keynote speech, sponsor page content, and post-event communication with registrants and attendees. 
  • Entertainment: Keep the audience hooked with an entertainment segment, so they stay till the end. 
  • Virtual stage: While this is not a must, you should consider incorporating a virtual stage into your conference. A virtual stage is an effective element in providing audiences with a uniform experience. It also helps reinforce branding and messaging, supports presenters, and highlights sponsors. 

Want to learn more about setting up a virtual stage? Download the event planner's guide to virtual stages.

Building blocks for a successful online conference strategy

Check out these tips to create an effective strategy for your online conference

  • Goals: Be prepared. Before you start planning how to conduct an online conference, it is essential for you to understand why you want to host it, to begin with. Set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based) to ensure that your entire team is in sync and understands the responsibilities without any ambiguity.
  • Budget: Be aware that budget can be a major constraint. You should plan things that align with the funds allocated for the event.
  • Event platform: Make sure you understand your requirements and choose software that caters to all of them.
  • Speakers: Ensure to invite at least two, star speakers to generate excitement around the event. Use social listening tools to identify popular speakers if needed. 
  • Audience insights: Get insights on your target audience. It would allow you to tweak your presentation to match their expectations.
  • Date: Decide on the event date and time that would be the most feasible not only for your team but for the majority of your target audience.
  • Agenda: Prepare an agenda for the meeting. It would guide you on how to go about things while conducting the event.
  • Promotion: Choose the right channels for promoting your event to ensure maximum traction.
  • Dry-run: Be sure to go through a thorough dry-run before the online conference. This will help stakeholders prepare for d-day. It will also help you identify areas of concern that can be addressed before the conference. 

How to choose an online conference platform

Struggling to pick online conference tools for your upcoming event? Here are some key things to consider while choosing a robust online conference platform for your virtual meetings:

Things to consider at the onset

Ease of use

Online conferences are still relatively new for both event organizers and audiences. Choose a platform that your team can understand and use with ease. More importantly, ensure that it is intuitive to use for your audience. It will reduce the volume of questions from attendees on the day of your online conference, as well as boost engagement.

Existing customer sentiment 

Want to make an informed decision? Find out what current users of the platform have to say. This is the most authentic view of any online conference platform you will find. Such information is easily available on verified websites like G2. You will not only learn about the platform's strengths but also its limitations.

3rd party integrations

Choose an online conference platform that complements your existing marketing stack. Look for platforms that integrate easily with existing systems like CRM platforms and marketing automation tools. This will boost your team's productivity, improve the attendee experience, and enable data sharing across without the need to manage multiple excel sheets.

Real-time customer support

All platforms will come with customer support. The questions to ask though are - what does this include and will you have access to support when you need it the most? An email or a phone number is no good if the support comes in at the risk of losing time, money, or attendees. So always choose a platform that promises timely support and is known to deliver on that promise. 

Customer Success Event Platform-online conference

Features to look for in an online conference platform

With one level of vetting done, it is now time to delve deeper into the features of an online conferencing platform. Here are the features you should look for while narrowing down on an online conference software:

Engagement and networking options

Networking is a top priority for audiences attending an event. It is therefore essential that your online conference experience includes multiple engagement options. Below are some of the engagement elements that leading virtual event platforms offer. 

Rooms

Much like its in-person counterpart, virtual rooms can be used to host niche discussions like product demos or closed-door meetings with a handful of attendees.

Lounge

A virtual lounge is a common area open for all attendees and can be used by them to get together, establish connections, and build meaningful relationships. 

Two-way communication features

Live Chat, Event feed, Q&A, and Polls allow your audience to become more involved. Look for these options if you want to move away from monologue-like sessions to interactive conversations.

Contests

The sense of competition gives attendees a reason to improve their performance and an opportunity to win. The Contest feature combined with tempting prizes can go a long way in engaging audiences to the finish line. 

Branding opportunities

Delivering a branded experience is important for two reasons. The first is that your audience experiences a uniform experience that is synonymous with your brand. The second is that it gives you the opportunity to deliver maximum value to your sponsors and exhibitors. 

You can look for branding features in these sections of the virtual event platform.

  • Registration pages
  • Virtual booths and rooms
  • Lounge tables 
  • Sponsored spaces across the virtual platform. For example the reception area. 
  • Contests

Data and analytics

You can divide metrics into the following six categories while looking for data and analytics features: 

  • People information 
  • Virtual event feed
  • Networking areas 
  • Sessions 
  • Virtual booths
  • Virtual rooms

Once this is done, go about identifying which metrics are the most relevant to your online conference. Here is a list of 50 metrics to consider if you’re serious about engagement at your virtual event.

FAQs about online conferences

What are some mistakes to avoid when hosting online conferences?

Here are some of the common mistakes to avoid while hosting a virtual conference

  • Using a lot of technical jargon
  • Hosting a one-way monologue instead of a two-way interactive conversation
  • Going into the live event without a well-rehearsed dry run. 
  • Choosing an online conference platform that doesn’t meet your needs
  • Delivering lengthy sessions 
  • Outlining a packed agenda with little breathing space
  • Ignoring production details like broadcast quality and internet bandwidth

Want the whole list? Dive in here with this list of 9 common problems you can avoid at your next virtual event

What are the types of online video conferences I can host?

Following are a few types of online video conferences you can consider hosting:

  • All-hands meeting
  • Sales kick-off calls 
  • Educational events 
  • Annual general meetings 
  • Monthly member meetings 
  • Industry-specific events 
  • Job fairs

What are the different skill sets I will need to set up a virtual stage for my online conference?

Following are some of the people you will need on your team to set up a virtual stage successfully:

  • Producer 
  • Audio engineer 
  • Camera operator 
  • Technical event manager 
  • Teleprompter operator 
  • Grip hair and makeup artist

Want more inside scoop on setting up a virtual stage from experts who do this every day? Here’s a complete download!

What are some ways to increase audience engagement?

Here’s a look into 10 proven methods to increase audience engagement at virtual events

Which are some of the common glitches faced at online conferences? And how to fix them in 5 minutes?

Take a look at five common snags that can occur at events and how you can handle them. 

Examples of popular online conference events

F8 Refresh

This is an online developer conference organized by Facebook for developers and entrepreneurs specializing in developing website-based products and services.

Adobe Summit

Organized by Adobe, this annual conference that has gone virtual for the last two years brims with innovation in marketing and technology globally. 

Dreamforce

A Salesforce event, this annual convention brings together the global Salesforce community to share their stories, their successes, and learn from each other.

Google I/O

This global conference is organized by Google. It is meant for developers who are interested in learning more about the latest Google technology, product releases, and expert insights.

What next?

This is the starter kit to size up the task at hand. Once this is done, focus on aspects that will define your event's success. Networking tops that list. 

Making networking an important part of your event strategy is the key to generating great engagement. Not only will you kickstart audience interaction and improve your attendees’ enjoyment of your event, but you’ll also learn as much as possible about their interests so that you can pursue them accordingly.

While doing so, it’s important that you choose a virtual event platform that gives you access to this type of data and insights about your attendees’ networking activities. This will allow you to identify attendees with a high level of interest in your product or service, decide who is a priority to connect with and follow up with your most promising potential prospects.

Want to host your online conference on a platform loaded with networking options?Hubilo is here for you!

Sign up for a free demo
Author
Hubilo

Hubilo is the event professional’s event platform for live, hybrid, and virtual events. Founded over 5 years ago to revolutionize engagement at in-person events, the company makes it easy to bring people together anywhere, anytime. Hubilo’s powerful engagement features, personal client experience team, and custom branding tools have helped create over 12K events and counting. Headquartered in Bangalore and San Francisco, Hubilo’s nearly 400 employees are dedicated to co-creating the world’s most important events: yours.

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