virtual conferences

The Ultimate Virtual Conference Guide

We have got everything you need to know about hosting a virtual conference, engaging your audience, and more in this ultimate guide to virtual conferences.
Hubilo
,
November 19, 2021

During the wake of the pandemic, companies had to overcome some serious challenges. While the show must go on, learning to host events such as virtual conferences came as no easy task. However, with the help of each other and this guide to help you host the best virtual conference, you can be sure your guests will be informed from the beginning of the virtual conference to the very end. 

What Is A Virtual Conference?

Conferences have made the switch to virtual, and they have become extremely successful! Virtual conferences are held on an event hosting platform, and they are able to host people from all over the world! In-person conferences typically hosted people that lived within a certain distance of the event venue, and others may not have been able to attend. With virtual conferences, guests from all over the world can attend and participate in panels, Q&A sessions and even small fireside chats. Using a virtual hosting platform can help take the stress away from planning your virtual conference!

8 Benefits Of Hosting A Virtual Conference

Events are taking on a new hybrid model, as some companies have decided to fully work from home. Just because you aren’t physically gathering together doesn’t mean you can’t receive the benefits of virtual conferences. Your company will reap these benefits when you host your virtual conference! 

1. Easy Access & Increased Attendance

Conferences were typically held over the course of a few days, usually in once central location. Guests would fly or drive in from their home state, and they would stay a few nights in a hotel. With a virtual conference, you can reach out to a larger audience, as nobody needs to travel. There needs to be no travel arrangements, no researching hotels in the area. Event hosts can reach a much larger audience when they market the event!

2. Low Cost & Increased ROI

As stated above, with in-person conferences, guests can attend from all over the world. When guests come in from other states and countries, they need a place to stay, food to eat, etc. All of those attributes come with a price tag, and they all need to be within the conference budget. With a virtual conference, no one needs to travel, which you don’t need to budget for! Virtual events are virtually low cost, as all you need to do is send a link to your guests after they RSVP. 

3. Better Networking Opportunities

At in-person conferences, there are usually hundreds of people, and you may not get a chance to talk to them all. There might be a guest who you could have made a great connection with, but time unfortunately didn’t allow it. By hosting a virtual conference, event hosts have all of the guest’s information readily available. Guests can include their name, contact information and even their LinkedIn page, so guests can connect even after the event is over!

4. Measurable Results

One huge benefit to hosting a virtual conference is that the results from the event are readily available after the event ends! This can include things like: data and analytics, the clicks on a certain webinar or even how many times a booth was visited. Having all of this information available at the conclusion of the virtual conference will help hosts plan the next one, and can determine what worked well for the event and what didn’t!

5. Decreased Carbon Footprint

Virtual conferences help to decrease the carbon footprint tremendously! Guests don’t have to fly or drive, therefore decreasing both air and vehicle traffic. Anything that helps with the reduction of the carbon footprint is a win for everyone. 

6. Quick Feedback and Lead Generation

Virtual conferences can have live Q&A sessions at the end of every discussion or panel, where guests can ask their questions and learn even more from the speakers. If time allows, you can even have a suggestion and recommendation time from your guests, where they offer their suggestions for the next virtual conference- because, who better to ask than the people attending the event? This will also determine if your guests will want to attend any events in the future. 

7. Industry Trends & Insights At Your Fingertips

Industry trends are ever changing, and event hosts need to be able to keep up with them! Both event hosts and guests can broaden their knowledge as they attend the event. Event hosts should always be looking for new trends to try at the virtual conference, and if they don’t work, they can ask their guests for the feedback at the end of the event. 

8. Encouraging Diversity and Equity

Virtual conferences are open to all types of people, from all over the world. If you market your event on a global scale, people who may not have been able to attend can now join your conference. This can help to make your virtual conference more diverse and guests can get to know more about one another! A virtual conference hosted on an event hosting platform can also help to translate the conference into many different languages, to ensure guests from around the globe receive the information in their native language.

5 Types Of Virtual Conferences

There are many kinds of virtual conferences fit for any company. With the right event hosting platform you can successfully host your event, no matter how big or small it is! 

1. Virtual Conference Call

Conference calls typically have a small number of guests attending, to speak about a certain topic. In person, guests would gather in a room with one phone on speaker phone, and one person would talk at a time. When a conference call is done virtually, more guests are able to attend and speak about the topic at hand. Guests can mute themselves when others are speaking, and they can also use that chat portion of the call to further their discussion with other guests as someone else is speaking.

2. Virtual Town Hall

Town hall meetings directly connect employees with their leadership to discuss company updates and create an open discussion. Virtual town hall meetings can be done on a weekly or monthly basis, whichever works best for your company. Keep in mind that long, drawn out meetings can create fatigue for your guests and hosts, so be sure to keep the meetings short. Creating an agenda and sticking to it will ensure your guests know what to expect from the town hall conference.

town hall meetings

3. Virtual Medical Conference

Medical conferences happen constantly, with new medical information and equipment always being developed. One way to safely gather guests for these conferences is by hosting them virtually. Doctors, medical professionals and even sales people can join virtually, and learn all about the new information. Be sure to include a Q&A session with the speakers, as there will likely be many questions.

4. Virtual Investor Conference

Investors for all kinds of companies may attend your virtual conference to learn how to better invest their time or money. The CEO of the company can attend the conference, while providing tips and stories from the business world. If your guest list is small enough, you can also schedule one-on-one sessions with the CEO and your guests, allowing them to ask questions and further their insight on investing. 

5. Virtual Fundraising Conference

Fundraising can help with any and all future events! This event can include fundraising activities, such as a raffle or an auction, and guests can virtually bid on items. Items can range from smaller, less expensive items to large, big ticket items. Guests can bid on these items, while at the same time raise money for the company. The funds raised at the virtual fundraising conference can then be put towards any future events!

How Does A Virtual Conference Work?

By creating and setting goals for your virtual conference, you can plan the rest of the event from there. Event hosts can develop a guest list, schedule dates and times and send out an agenda. You provide your guests with a link that brings them directly to the virtual conference and they’re in; ready to take on a full day of learning and team building!

How To Host A Virtual Conference

Virtual conferences have been around for years, and there are still many ways to host them! When done correctly, virtual conferences can be extremely successful. Be sure to record any and all meetings, speeches or webinars done within the virtual conference, as they can be used for reference at a later date. 

1. Define The Goal Of Your Virtual Conference

Different companies may have different goals, depending on the type of company they are. Whatever your company may be, be clear and concise when determining the goal of the event. The goal can be as simple as networking with other guests or keeping guests updated with new information. Use metrics to determine if your event goal was met at the conclusion, and use this information to plan the virtual conference for next year!

2. Choose A Reliable Virtual Conference Platform

Choosing the correct event platform for your virtual conference can be the difference between a successful event and a not so successful event. Be sure that your event platform has a section for guests to interact and network with one another and breakout rooms for smaller learning groups. When choosing a virtual event platform, be sure they have a technical employee on standby, just in case you run into any technical issues on the day of your virtual conference.

Virtual platform - Hubilo's Restart 2021 with Guy Kawasaki

3. Identity The Best Tools For Engagement

Once you determine the goals for your virtual conference, you will then be able to decide which tools to use. If your event is one where guests gather to share new research, then a simple meeting room will do the trick! If your event is more hands-on with your guests, then breakout rooms may be the way to go; they allow guests to share thoughts and ideas on a smaller scale, interact with their peers and then share those ideas to the rest of the group when the group reconvenes back together.

4. Invite Relevant Sponsors and Exhibitors

Sponsors help make your event possible, so be sure to reach out to sponsors who closely align with your cause. In terms of searching for exhibitors, be sure to choose ones that your guests can chat with and are easy to engage with, both at the event and once the event is over. Exhibitors who are relevant within your company’s industry will be more than willing to help you execute the perfect virtual conference. 

5. Find Speakers

Finding a relevant speaker for your virtual conference will help with guest attendance. Speakers can develop their speech with points that are relevant to the topic at hand, and they can also have a Q&A session at the end. Be sure to have a moderator while the speaker talks, and they can help keep the speech running in a timely manner. 

6. Promote Your Virtual Conference  

In order to meet your virtual conference goals, you need to successfully promote your event! In order to reach the most relevant audience, market your event through a series of different channels. Social media, such as Facebook or LinkedIn will reach the correct audience. Email marketing can be done quickly, as you can promote your event to all of the relevant guests you have. If you want to reach an even larger audience, you can use paid ads on websites you think potential guests may be interested in.

7. Do A Run-Through

The day before your event, do a run-through of your virtual conference! Be sure to test the cameras and microphones, to ensure there will be no technical issues. As we all know, just because you have no glitches on the run-through doesn’t mean there will be any on the day of. If this happens, try to troubleshoot the issue right away, to get back on track with your virtual conference. 

Features To Look For In A Virtual Conference Platform

Hosting a virtual conference is no easy task, but in the end, your guests will walk away with knowledge they didn’t have previously and dozens of networking opportunities. In order to take advantage of these, you need to select the right virtual conference platform. These 8 features will help you choose the best virtual conference platform for your company! 

1. Personalized Tools

Every company is different, and one company may need a certain tool that other companies have no use for. Virtual conference platforms are able to customize the tools you will need for your event, which will only set you up for success! You may need access to a job board or breakout rooms. When doing research for the perfect virtual conference platform, be sure to have all of the items you need listed to ensure you get everything you need. 

2. Easy To Use

In today’s world, how easy something comes will make your event run smoothly and in a timely manner. When searching for the virtual conference platform, ask for tours of the platform to ensure that it will be easy to use for both you and your guests. If you choose, once the event has started, you can give your guests a quick tour around the site yourself, so they can correctly navigate around. 

3. Live Broadcasting & Recording

Like in-person conferences, virtual conferences have people asking questions and interacting with one another in real time. During all of your panel discussions, webinars and chats, be sure to record everything! This will not only help to use as references in the following years, but they can also be published so that if a guest couldn’t attend, they can still receive the information. Live broadcasting can also be done within your event; market the live broadcast to your guests and event hosts will be able to see just how many people tuned in.

4. Event Marketing

In order to reach the perfect audience for your virtual conference, you need to market your event in the correct way. A great way to do this is by meeting the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) team and building a marketing campaign that uses keywords and titles that people are searching for. By doing this, you can be sure that the audience you wish to attract will see your marketing and will become interested in your event. Social media is another great way to market your event, because everyone uses social media; reaching out to specific social media groups within your industry can add a potentially new audience!

5. Sponsorship

Sponsors help to make your virtual conference possible. Some sponsors will donate funds, others will offer in-kind donations. When searching for sponsors, look for ones that closely align with your business goals and want to see your company succeed. There may be some sponsors who, while also donating funds, will also promote your event. This will not only help your company build an audience, but it will also be great exposure for your sponsors as well.

6. Troubleshooting and Customer Support

As we have discussed, there may be technical issues on the day of your virtual conference. Signal issues, microphone problems and other issues may arise, but don’t fret! Virtual conference platforms have departments assigned to combat these types of problems if they happen. Having these departments present throughout the duration of your event will help guests if they have any questions or concerns. 

7. Reports and Insights

One highlight from hosting a virtual conference is the use of reporting. Event hosts will be able to see how well guests interacted with different aspects throughout the event, and use this information for any future events. If something doesn’t necessarily work for this virtual conference, you will be able to omit it in the future. 

8. Feedback and Growth

In order to gain all of the understanding and feedback from your guests, provide them with surveys. This can be done at the end of the virtual conference, right within the platform! Guests can answer questions about their experience, rate the conference on a scale of 1-5 and also add any suggestions. Using this feedback will help event hosts plan for future events, to make sure their guests get a pleasant learning experience. 

Defining Your Virtual Conference Content Strategy

In order to have a successful event, planning out the content strategy is just as important as securing the correct hosting platform. Once you have the right hosting platform, you need content! From the design to the engagement of content, planning the strategy and how you plan to execute the content is a giant part of the planning process as a whole. 

1. Determine The Event Type And Client Profile

Once you begin the planning process, first determine the target audience. Once you have figured out who you want to market to, then you can align your goals. There may be a group of people who haven’t had a conference in quite some time, and there may be new information discovered pertaining to them. Once you understand this, you can begin the planning process for your event!

2. Plan The Visual Experience

Your virtual conference homepage is the roadmap to your guests having a successful event! Your homepage needs to include items such as the title of the event, dates and times, registration and any communication portals. This landing page will be the page guests refer to for any questions they may have, so be sure to make this page user friendly.

virtual experience

3. Landing Page

Landing pages are the standalone web page, designed for your marketing campaign. Once a guest clicks on a link to your event, provided to them through an email, this is the page they land on. Be sure to include all of the correct information regarding your event, and even add a link so the guests can add your event to their calendar! 

4. Lobby Design

Think of the lobby design of your webpage as a real life lobby; it is the place where your guests gather. Once guests are registered and logged into your event, they are now in the “holding place” before the event begins. This lobby can also be designed to benefit both your company and your sponsors. You can use banners sporting company logos, company colors or even testimonials from previous guests. 

5. Piece Together Content For Booths

In order to get your guests fully immersed in the content, make it fun and informative. The use of videos, photo galleries, webinars and documents for guests to go through at their leisure will guarantee they receive the information needed. These visual aids can be customized right to your audience, or even be used from past years if they are relevant to your current virtual conference. 

6. Plan Out Agenda

Planning an agenda will help event hosts stay on track throughout the event. Be sure to include all of the content booths, any breaks or meal times, and the Q&A session. Make this agenda accessible to every guest, so that they are aware of what is coming next. Attendees may also choose to create their own agenda, if your virtual conference allows for that! If you have multiple booths, guests can create their own agenda so that they can visit multiple booths on their own time. 

7. Promote Your Event

Using social media channels to your advantage will help you reach the largest audience possible! Your event will be able to be shared on your social media profiles, which will be seen by thousands of people. You can also use email and your company website to market your virtual conference, all with links leading right to the registration page. 

How To Network At A Virtual Conference

Networking can bring forth brand new opportunities for your guests! Networking can happen before, during and after the virtual conference, as your guests will have access to their peers’ information. You can share thoughts and ideas, all while communicating about work. These 3 tips will help you to successfully network with everyone at your event.

1. Sales Networking With Attendees

Virtual conferences have the potential to sell equipment or tools to the attendees, even though nobody is face to face. Virtual medical conferences, for example, typically have new medical equipment that are designed to be used in doctor’s offices and hospitals. These salespeople do demonstrations to show how the equipment is used, and they can also make transactions. Sales networking can be done on a virtual platform, and it can be very successful! If an attendee sees something they like, they are able to gain the information they need from the sales person, and they are now connected in case they want to purchase equipment.

2. Sponsors Or Exhibitors Networking With Attendees

As we have discussed, sponsors are a pivotal part of getting your virtual conference off the ground! At the conference, be sure to have people from the sponsoring company present so they can talk to attendees about their own company and what their mission is. The guests can learn more about their sponsor and may even want to start supporting the sponsoring company. The business world is all about connections, and when you chat with all kinds of people, the connections you make will be endless!

3. Attendees Networking With Attendees

Before the pandemic, networking events were happening weekly within companies! Attendees would gather together, with some light refreshments, and learn a little more about one another! Business cards would be exchanged and you would connect when the event was over. Now, thanks to virtual conferences, the networking is even easier! Guests can exchange their LinkedIn profiles to one another, and become instantly connected to their peers! From there, the networking opportunities are never ending! You never know who you may connect with and what you can offer them, and vice versa!

What Should You Be Measuring During And After A Virtual Conference (Goals & KPIs)

Virtual conferences are one of the best ways to gather attendees, have them networking with one another and generate leads. You have results of the virtual conference right at your fingertips at the conclusion of the event, and using these results will only make the next event even more successful. 

virtual data & analytics

1. Total Registrations

Registrations help event hosts determine the size of their event, and therefore how they need to plan! If you have many registrations, you need to choose a platform that can hold everyone with ease. Event hosts can also take the attendee information and file it in a database for any future events!

2. Number Of Attendees

Once a guest has logged into the event, they are now considered to be an attendee. There may be a number of reasons why a guest registers but doesn’t attend, and with a virtual hosting platform, you can cross reference who registered with who actually attended. This will also give you a more accurate picture of what guests attend certain events. 

3. Document Downloads

Documents of all kinds may be available for your attendees to download. Documents may include employee and guest information, videos and picture galleries. Event hosts will be able to see how many total downloads there were, and what type of documents were downloaded. If you see that documents weren’t downloaded as much as you thought, you might want to change this tactic for next year.

4. Video Views

Videos are a great way to share information, especially through an online platform. Attendees are able to view videos and receive their information on their own time! Total video views can be viewed by the hosts, and using these metrics can be the difference between a successful event and a not so successful one. 

5. Chat Usage

The chat portion of a virtual conference platform is the perfect way for attendees to get out their thoughts and ideas. This chat can be logged for future reference as well! If the attendees are in a meeting, for example, and a thought pops into their head, but they don’t want to interrupt the speaker, they can type right into the chat! It helps keep the attendees focused while continuing to listen to the speaker.

6. Total Webinar Attendees

A meeting room full of attendees all talking to one another is the best way to determine if the event was successful! Event hosts can see just how many attendees there are, and can monitor the event success versus the original goals!

7. Attendees Per Webinar

If your virtual conference has the ability to have breakout rooms, this is where the webinars can take place! Attendees can pick and choose which webinars they want to attend, and event hosts can see which webinar received the most attendees! If one webinar was more successful than another, consider having that webinar again at a future conference. 

Virtual Conference Best Practices & Tips

In order to host a successful virtual conference, there are a few things event hosts need to determine. By setting your goals clearly and making sure the content is engaging, you can be sure your guests, wherever they are in the world, are going to receive the most important information in the easiest way possible. 

1. Set Clear Event Goals

Setting clear event goals is the best way to ensure your event is successful! Using metrics at the end of your event and comparing them to the goals you set will show you where the success of your event was and where it was lacking. The goals should be attainable and not too out of reach. 

2. Choose Platform That Aligns With Your Goals

Now that you have your goals set, it's time to choose the right event hosting platform. There are several event hosting platforms to choose from, and finding one that aligns with your goals will help you be the most successful. Make sure that your hosting platform holds all of the capabilities that you need for your virtual conference. 

3. Add Strong Context To Content

Your content is what your guests are going to be listening to, reading and seeing. It is what they will remember from your event and they will take it back to their companies and try to implement it into their daily professional lives. By adding strong context, you can be sure that your attendees will remember the content, simply based on the way you presented it. 

4. Plan Ahead For Technical Difficulties

As previously discussed, technical difficulties are bound to happen. No technology is perfect, and you need to be aware that these problems may happen during your conference. Having an employee on hand to help combat these difficulties and work to fix them immediately will keep the ball rolling. You won’t have to waste too much time working through the issues!

5. Plan Engagement and Networking Activities

Networking is an important part of conferences, and the old way of networking is mundane. Turning networking into some sort of game will be fun for your guests! Having your guests try and find another guest from the same hometown, or using games like two truths and a lie will allow guests to talk to someone they normally wouldn’t have! 

6. Empower Stakeholders To Spread Word About Your Online Conference

Stakeholders play such an important part in the creation of your virtual conference. Once they invest in your conference, you can make them feel empowered by letting them know the benefits that are in it for them. They will receive exposure to every guest and therefore will possibly receive new clients!

7. Use Live Video

Live videos are great marketing tools for event hosts to use. They can spread information to every guest, or they can have video chats with guest speakers. Whichever way you choose to use live video, you can be sure that your guests will receive the information they signed up for. These live videos can also be recorded for future use! 

8. Plan For Strong Customer Support

Customer support, throughout any event planning platform, is so important! Customer support is there to help with any issues that may arise, or even to listen to the concerns any guests may have. Event hosts can let guests know that there is a strong customer support system there for them, if they need it.

9. Prime Your Presenters For Success

Virtual conferences will have guest speakers of all types, and they should be set up for success, just like your guests. Event hosts should make sure that speakers know what time they are speaking, how many people they are speaking to and they should also prepare for a Q&A session. This will help presenters when they begin to plan for their presentations. 

10. Treat Attendees As Collaborators

Attendees, when joining your event, should feel like they are contributing to the event, just as much as event hosts are. By treating them as a collaborator, they will be more than willing to engage with event hosts, presenters and other attendees. Ideas can come from anyone within the event, and some attendees may have great ideas that event hosts will want to use in the future. 

11. Leverage Sponsors As Partners 

Sponsors are the ones who are responsible for funding your event, either in monetary value or in-kind donations. By treating them as a partner within the virtual conference, they will be more likely to donate more funds or even attend your event as a presenter. These sponsors can not only spread the word about the virtual conference, they can also market their company to the attendees. The sponsoring company will receive exposure and possibly new clients from the attendees!

12. Partner With A Dedicated Team Of Virtual Conference Experts

There are now industry professionals who are experts in planning and hosting virtual conferences. If you, the event host, are stuck in the planning process, turn to one of these experts! They can help you in the planning process and suggest certain aspects that will be a success within your conference. If you need any sort of insight with the planning process, don’t be afraid to reach out to one of these experts!

13. Don’t Skimp On Reminders

Don’t be afraid to send reminders out for your virtual conference! Reminders can be sent through email or a calendar reminder, and it will ensure that your guests won’t forget about the event. Reminders can be as formal or as lighthearted as you’d like - catering it to your event’s tone is key! 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): 

Are virtual conferences worth it?

Virtual conferences are definitely worth it! They are a great way to gather attendees from all over the world- something that might not have been possible before. Information that needs to be shared with attendees can be done through chat portals, video demonstrations or even live video chats. 

How long should virtual conferences be?

In-person conferences typically last over the course of a few days, but your virtual conference doesn’t need to be that long! If you plan the event well enough, all of the information can be done in a day or two. Plus, all of the information that is shared at the virtual conference can be recorded and saved for future reference. 

How much should a virtual conference cost?

The cost of a virtual conference can vary, depending on what you wish to have at your conference. If you choose to have several speakers, that can drive the cost up. However, every company is different, and everyone has different budgets, so it’s all about finding that balance and how you wish to spend your funds. 

What is the difference between a webinar and a virtual conference?

While both information sessions are both online and are a gathering of people, they have a few differences. A webinar is typically one person presenting at a time, speaking on a specific topic. At a virtual conference, there can be smaller breakout sessions, or booths, with several people speaking at once within these rooms. Webinars are usually smaller in size, while virtual conferences can hold hundreds of people all at once, depending on your virtual hosting platform. 

How to make a virtual conference engaging?

Virtual conferences have many aspects that need to be considered when planning. In order to keep your guests engaged, you need to have content that your attendees will want to learn about. If your budget allows, you may be able to have high profile guest speakers that will draw in a larger audience. Marketing your virtual conference in a fun fashion will also draw in attendees who may not have normally attended!

What does sponsorship look like for virtual conferences?

Sponsorship for your virtual conference can come in many ways. Sponsors can choose to spend their funds on a virtual booth, or obtain a high profile guest speaker. Sponsors can have their company name on the landing page for the virtual conference, which is guaranteed to be seen by all attendees. Event hosts can also create levels of sponsorship for potential sponsors, and they can choose the one that works best for them. 

Conclusion

Now that you have all of the tools and information to plan a virtual conference, you’re on your way to having the most successful event! Event hosts can market themselves to a much larger audience, as they can use social media to spread the word of the event. Sponsors can also spread the word, which in turn will give them more exposure. Whatever information you wish to provide to your attendees, you can be sure that with the use of this guide, you will be able to successfully host a virtual conference that guests will remember and want to attend in the future. 

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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