The COVID-19, The Disruption, The Age of Virtual Conferences

Murtuza Ali
June 16, 2020

The Coronavirus has ripped all of us apart from all the angles and across the industries. The most adversely hit industry is the events and hospitality.Event planners and managers have been left with no choice. Scheduled events and conferences have been cancelled/postponed. People are anxious and not sure what is going to happen in the next few months.

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Adversity reveals the true characters and leaders. That is absolutely right - your mettle is tested when difficulties and challenging times surround you.

1. Virtual conferences - COVID19 impact and disruption

Are events, conferences/ exhibition managers and planners ready for the Big change that has already cemented the future of virtual conferences/events? We’ve noticed that event professionals seem to be extremely worried about what they’re likely to lose. However, the game changing point is to think about what you can do with the current possibility and potential and not about what you can’t.If you can visualize a successful future of your events virtually and play your cards right with your conferences, you can do wonders and gain laurels of marvelous success.But the question is - Who is supposed to take action and make it happen? And when? If you, event planners want to avoid the potential problems that could be caused by the pandemic (Covid-19), take action and go ahead with what you can do rather than overthinking and worrying about what you CAN’T do. - Quoted by Will Curran, Endless Events.

Take action now

Yes, the negative effect of the pandemic is inevitable. However, how you react and respond to it matters the most.I agree to the point of what it takes to rebuild the events industry and how harder you need to work to put your events to life again.It’s time for you to step up on the gas to ensure that you take care of your events and your attendees/guests.The best solution arguably is pivoting your events to virtual events - online events. Your audiences are online and they’re more active nowadays compared to the days before the Covid-19. Because they consume content and information online, they work from home, you can reach out to your international attendees instantaneously. It eliminates barriers for attendees to join events online, etc.It has become practically possible to take your events online easily with the current event technologies.

2. Why event professionals should consider hosting online events

I’d like to explain this point to you with my real work story.A few years ago, my colleague asked me “Why did we need to come to the office to meet face to face when we could meet virtually?”At the time, I felt devastated because I treasured my spirit and energy of team meetings around a large table in our war room.As we progressed through time, our team meetings began to take place anywhere, anytime and across different time zones. The acceptable compromise and flexibility came with meetings from our bedrooms and cafes in lieu of 8 am/9 am meetings in the office. But for sure - our productivity boomed.What does this story have to do with your events and attendees in the digital world of 2020 and beyond?Now, with multiple platform/software choices, digital meetings, virtual conferences and events are the norm and face-to-face is a chore. Meeting with people and bringing your delegates virtually is absolutely a NECESSITY.I see event professionals moving their events to the digital space and must strive to deliver memorable experiences to their online event attendees. I can't wait for them to go virtual and grab the ripping fruits with both the hands.Check out this: Hosting a Virtual Event: Things to DoLet’s unearth why event professionals should consider hosting online events

Virtual meeting
  1. Virtual events are the new face of the events industry

Let’s admit that virtual attendance is changing the face of the event industry.Moreover, the current coronavirus pandemic has poured oil into the fire and shaken off the events industry (in-person events).With a huge number of events being cancelled or postponed, it’s forcing event planners and professionals to take a new leap and pivot to digital events.Some events professionals may healthily argue that they would not get the same ROI with virtual conferences Vs physical conferences. While we must respect their opinions, we need to get one thing straight that attendees and guests are online and they want to be faster and snappier with their content consumption and activity execution process.Not just that, they want access to different events and speakers’ content they could not afford before the COVID-19 (when they had to be present at venues for in-person events).The current scenario of the world has put all of us under immense pressure.The question is still unanswered - who will be okay with losses due to the present severe situation?Only - taking action can save us all.

  1. Technology at its best

Technology is too advanced - We have to prove to the machine that we’re not machines. Thanks to “Captcha”.Talking to the point, however, event technologies are really fascinating and can help us soar the show the way we want.With the invention of online conferencing, video sessions, new ways of branding and attracting potential customers, attendees, speakers and sponsors, it has become essential for all the event managers to plan, manage and execute their virtual events.There are a lot of virtual event platform providers who could help you with your virtual events. However, choose a suitable virtual event software provider that can meet your event needs and assist you to deliver your virtual event successfully.

  1. Capitalizing on digitalization era
Digital era

The collaboration between digital and live channels produces fantastic creative opportunities. And this further leverages new dimensions and ways to live experiences.Event professionals need to deliver powerful attendee experiences to attract audiences across the globe.

  1. Your attendees are online - social media too

Let’s understand one thing first. Your attendees are the hero, not anyone else. You need to be where your audiences are.Your guests are online, consuming content and information.Remember: social signals are some of the most important factors to be considered for online marketing of your events.All different actions you do on your social media - LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. have a drastic impact on your audiences and your marketing efforts.You can gain a terrific advantage by rolling our pre-event engagement activities on your social media platforms.

  1. Ability to reach out to your potential international audience

Virtual events are accessible by anyone online. That is the biggest advantage you have when you market your virtual events to your audience.

Event networking, more engagement

Your guests wouldn’t have to travel anywhere, neither have to pay any costs for travel, accommodation and food. Thus they save their costs and are attracted to attend conferences online.Their barriers to attending live events at different venues are eradicated. They have freedom now to participate in events online

  1. Cost-effective & Affordable

Whatever the case may be, virtual events and conferences are more cost-effective and affordable than in-person events.No travel, food and accommodation costs have to be paid by attendees.The same applies to event organizers - they do not have to take those costs into consideration while developing their event pricing strategies. It’s also cost-effective for them.

  1. Access to premium speakers’ content

In the current pandemic, most of the physical events are cancelled or postponed. This has also affected the speaking engagements of different speakers.No doubts that speakers charge higher for physical events. Yes, this also adds up to your overall event management and production costs.However, when events are online and speakers are speaking at events digitally, they tend to charge lower for their speaking engagements. Elite speakers too.

During any pandemic, crisis, Covid-19, you’ve got your best chance to have your speakers sign up at a comparatively low price to speak at your virtual events.

You can take them on board. Your guests will be able to exploit premium speakers from the content and insights perspective.

  1. Enhanced event engagement & networking opportunities 

Digital events help you leverage all sorts of engagement opportunities for your delegates.Plan compelling speakers and sessions. Have live polls and live Q&A sessions and contests.Have a fantastic reception area online and attract guests to engage.1-1 meetings, group sessions and break-out sessions can do wonders and elevate attendee engagement and event networking.

  1. Easy to leverage social media 

Leveraging social media for your virtual event events is easy.You can even roll out pre-event engagement activities on your social media channels - Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Do marketing of your events digitally.You can create a buzz and attract more people to participate in your events.It is great to have people and guests talk about your event, content, and engagement opportunities on social media after your event is over.

  1. Community development and engagement 

One of the biggest benefits of the internet from the events perspective is community development and engagement.

Online Community

You as an event organizer can build interactive event communities online and engage members in different topics of their interests.Allow them to share their experiences and content. This way, you will get user generated content and analyze their challenges and interest levels.You want to use your community for event marketing purposes too and inform them about the key potential takeaways of the event. So that they will be able to get information and start engaging.

3. Best practices for hosting online conferences

  1. Using the right technology

When you go virtual with your events, you must use some even technologies that enable you to provide your online guests with event networking, attendee engagement, speakers sessions, etc.


These event technologies are virtual event platforms, virtual event software.A good virtual event platform helps you leverage all of the above opportunities for your attendees.There are so many virtual event platform providers. However, choosing the right one and using it wisely is the key to your online event success.With the right event technology, you can execute your virtual events & conferences and become UNstoppable.Consider to get these from a virtual event software provider:- Live sessions streaming. Video conferencing- Networking: 1-on-1 meetings, meetings with sponsors and exhibitors. All on video. Networking lounge for small group discussions- Chat with fellow attendees and sponsors and exhibitors- Live Q&A, Polling, and Contest capabilities. Attendee Engagement- Recorded content- Other document uploads- Instant notification capability- Concurrent/Paralleled sessions- Going Live simultaneously on social media platforms - YouTube and Facebook- Analytics- Etc.

  1. Creating online program design

Lots of things go into live sessions being conducted by your speakers. You will need to create an online program in such a way that covers all the major aspects of your virtual conference.Remember that not all your speakers will be comfortable with producing live sessions from the comfort of their homes. Have a plan ready If you need them to make it live. Have sessions with them in prior and help them understand.Draw a plan of online activities you want to do and design your online program considering your speakers’ interests and your audience’s interests.Consider these:- Create a simple document for your attendees on how to attend and what to use to join the event.- Create an easy to understand manual for your speakers explaining what they need to do to do live sessions, background of their places, testing technical stuff in advance, and so on. If you need to get recorded video content from speakers.- Get your scripts ready for your online audience - welcome notes, how to navigate the event and so on.- Add interactivity into the presentations of speakers to keep your attendees engaged. Live Q&A can will hearts.

  1. Embracing moderation

The moderation of an online event is vitally important.Have someone fully moderate your event.Run contests and encourage them to ask questions.During breaks, run different activities that will ignite their further interest and participation. Polls.The moderator is the main point of contact for speakers and audience during the event. The moderator should be able to answer questions, solve queries and control things while the event is on.However, the moderator should be calm, composed and guiding and not aggressive.

  1. Creating a comfortable environment for attendees to participate in

When people are online, they tend to refrain from active participation in an event.Also, they may have a lot of distractions at home while attending the event. They would be checking their emails and responding to them. Taking care of their kids/household things. Answering their phone calls and messaging.Hence it is absolutely important to create a comfortable environment for your online attendees to participate in the event.They should not shy away from sharing their opinions and thoughts. They should not feel that they are just controlled and not allowed to voice what they feel.

  1. Encouraging engagement

Another practice that you need to put into implementation is encouraging them to engage and perform interactivities.


Engagement is one of the biggest factors your delegates will join your events. Engagement will not come automatically. But you need to ponder over the best strategies and execute them.Engagement is segregated in 3 phases:

  1. Before the event: Use social media platforms. Engage them on your website too. Provide some compelling learning content to them. Run takeaway programs.
  2. During the event: Use your virtual event platform for this. Share your event live sessions on social media. Engage them with Polls, Q&A, Contests, Global event news feed, networking, meetings, 1-1 chats, etc. 
  3. After the event: Event after your event, people should talk about your event. Feed content to your community. Have your participants talk about their learning and fun on social media platforms. Make use of personalization. Contact them and take their feedback for future event improvement. Make major announcements - contests winners, best prize winners, etc. 6. Collecting feedback from attendees and speakers 

Your speakers and attendees are the best people to provide you with their feedback.You need some information on what you could do to improve and this comes from them.Roll out online surveys. Email your attendees after the event and gather their feedback.Let them know that you listen to them and will work on leveling up your next events.

  1. Creating attractive virtual exhibitor & sponsor booths

If you have exhibitors and sponsors for your virtual events and would like to show them to your attendees, it is critical that you have online exhibitor and sponsor booths.When done right, it pays dividends.This will allow your attendees to separately visit their booths and start a conversation with them.Let them e-meet and chat with exhibitors and sponsors too. This way, they will feel more engaged and have excellent opportunities to expand their networks as well.Also, this will serve the purpose of sponsors and exhibitors in terms of prospects, leads, business cards.

  1. Managing and resolving technical issues

When you do digital events, you do all using a platform over the internet.Even though you tested the things in advance and ensured that all is working well, there may be chances that your attendees and speakers would be facing some technical challenges.Thus it’s necessary that you’re up and vigilant to manage and resolve technical issues.You can assign this task to someone from your team or take help from the event technology provider to assist you in that.Technical difficulties will diminish their interests and make it boring.You’re better off anticipating certain things and planning in advance.

4. In brief: Key action points to consider for hosting virtual events

  1. Plan ahead
  2. Do proper budget planning
  3. Go live with speaker sessions
  4. Keep your attendees engaged
  5. Stay connected with your audience after the event
  6. Decide what format will work best for you
  7. Provide updates to you attendees in a timely manner
  8. Delegate tasks to you team members
  9. Get attendee analytics 
  10. Conduct effective marketing as per your audience types
  11. Build and nurture your online community

5. Conclusion

Delivering a WOW experience to your online audience will take proper planning & execution, marketing, diligent efforts and right virtual event technology.If you play your event game right, know your audience types, their interests and what kind of content they consume, you can win half of your battle fast.With actionable strategies and event progress tracking, you can eliminate all your barriers and deliver an incredibly wonderful experience to your audiences.

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Murtuza Ali

Ali brings 12 years of rich experience in sales and marketing domain. He is passionate about following and writing new trends in consultative sales, event & digital marketing. He is an avid follower of cricket and loves following IPL matched while he’s away from work. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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