Follow these 12 easy steps and host a Virtual Conference in the new normal that will deliver an exceptional experience for your attendees.
“How can I keep hosting events in today’s new world?”
That’s the question on the mind of every admin, organizer, and membership-driven group.
After all, we’re in a whole new environment. Physical conferences are still off the table for most groups, in most locations. And even after this whole situation dies down, you’re going to have to accommodate some sort of remote capabilities for any event you host.
Just think about it…
- Some people will be afraid to go to events for a long time.
- Some organizations just won’t allow their people to go to big events again.
- Much of the world has adapted to the new, remote work environment, and are starting to prefer virtual meetings over physical meetings.
This puts you in a bit of a bind.
How can you keep your community together—and keep hosting those big tentpole events that give your members value, bring in a lot of publicity, and generate revenue—when physical conferences are off the table for so many people?
The answer is not easy, but it is simple: You need to start hosting virtual conferences.
Why Virtual Conferences are the Future of Your Live Events
If you learn how to host virtual conferences, you will solve a few problems.
- You get to host conferences again ASAP— without depending on unpredictable reopening plans or nervous event locations.
- You get to save at least a few of your planned 2020 conferences— and set the stage to host a full schedule in 2021, no matter what happens next.
- You get to give your members and speakers options going forward— those who want to show up personally can, those who don’t can log in virtually.
While hosting a virtual conference might feel intimidating at first, it’s really not as big of a challenge as you might think.
After all, you already know the core principles of how to host a great conference. You’ve got to provide stellar content from the best speakers that’s presented with top-notch Audio/Visual tools. You’ve got to provide opportunities for your attendees to meet, mix, and mingle. And you’ve got to make the whole process of signing up, signing in, and attending the event as smooth as possible for your attendees.
You’ve already mastered all this for live events. So now all you’ve got to do is find the right way to take these core principles, and replicate them in a virtual environment in a manner that provides your attendees, your speakers, and your sponsors the same—or greater—value as they’d get from a physical event.
Here are a few top-level strategies on how to pull it off.
How to Bring the Core Principles of Great Live Events to Your Virtual Conference
There are only a few top-level things that you really have to get right to deliver a great virtual conference.
- Deliver the same level of value. If you’re charging the same price tags for tickets for your event and membership fees, then you must justify it by delivering the same level of value… if not even more.
- Allow ample networking opportunities. A lot of the value of an event comes from attendees getting the chance to meet each other, so you must find a way to connect people—formally and informally—in different physical locations.
- Keep your sponsors and exhibitors happy. It’s going to be harder to demonstrate ROI when you aren’t giving them physical presence, or an easy way to attract passersby at physical conference venues.
- Ensure reliable, high-quality presentations. Your speakers are mostly going to connect from their homes. You must make sure there aren’t technical issues with their connection, or low-resolution unprofessional streams.
- Don’t let the technology take over your job. Finally, even though virtual conferences are tech-enabled, you can’t get lost or bogged down trying to juggle dozens of new tools to recreate a physical experience.
And most important— don’t get overwhelmed!
We know you’ve got a lot on your plate. You have to rethink your whole job. You have to learn new skills and put new processes into place. And you’ve got to do all of that while handling your own personal experience of this crazy situation.
It’s a lot.
And that’s why we’ve put together something new to make the whole process of creating virtual conferences much, much easier.
How to Host a Virtual Conference: A Simple, Unified Approach
To help you out, we designed a whole new solution.
We took all of the core features and functions required to host a virtual conference, and bundled them together into a single end-to-end platform.
It has everything you need to run a complete virtual conference under one roof, so you don’t need to learn and stitch together a dozen new tools. All you have to do is sign up, and go through every step—from assembling the virtual conference agenda, to fulfilling ticket orders, to hosting the event itself—from one intuitive dashboard.
To help you see just how simple hosting an online conference can be, let’s walk through a very practical, tactical list of the 12 key ingredients of any great virtual conference and how you can easily bring them to life in your day-to-day work.
Ingredient 1: Simple Registration
A great conference doesn’t come out of nowhere— it’s put together by a great administrative team who has a full suite of tools on-hand.
We built our new virtual conferencing tool to provide everything your admins need to put together the back-end for your conference. Our platform can integrate with your existing CRM to provide a customized, tiered approach to virtual conference pricing that offers a different ticket price to different attendees based on their membership status, ticket types, discount codes, or other conditions.
Slayte also gives your people the ability to build out a high-converting registration and payment page for their conference that integrates seamlessly with their ticketing tiers and registration guidelines.
Ingredient 2: Customizable Schedules
Attendees need the same simple, seamless, and intuitive ability to assemble their own custom schedule that lays out all of the sessions they enrol in and plan to attend.
We give your attendees the ability to browse through all of your sessions—grouped together by interests and tracks—and to select the sessions they wish to enrol in. They will be able to build out their own custom schedule, and review or edit it at any time, by logging into an attractive, well-ordered portal.
And if you have extra sessions that require an additional fee, you will be able to collect extra payments from your attendees through this same portal.
Ingredient 3: High-Resolution Video Conferencing
Every virtual conference needs to be built off of remote sessions shared through reliable, low-latency crystal-clear video streaming platforms that can be joined by both attendees and the speakers themselves.
Your attendees will be able to join each of their sessions through excellent video conferencing services. We have built custom integrations into Slayte, so you can build your virtual conference around popular platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, Cisco WebEx, and Go-to-Meeting. We are continuously building out this list with new integrations, to make sure you can use all of your favorite platforms.
What’s more, Slayte is device-independent, to make sure that all of your speakers and attendees can join sessions and receive the same high-quality video stream, no matter what hardware they are using.
Ingredient 4: Interactive Sessions
Excellent conferences are all about providing opportunities for direct, personal interaction between a session’s speakers and its attendees.
We’ve baked live chat and Q&A features into Slayte, to make it easy to give attendees of any session the ability to voice their questions and engage in real-time discussions with the session’s speaker and other attendees.
We’ve included all of the staples of virtual Q&A chatting, including read-receipts, archiving, and dynamic muting to give your admins and speakers the ability to control the flow of their sessions.
Ingredient 5: Organized Networking
Whether in-person or virtual, your attendees want the opportunity to meet each other, brainstorm around session topics, and form new connections.
We make it easy to create your own organization networking events—hosted right on our platform—including breakout sessions, virtual coffee breaks, “Meet the Speaker” sessions, topic-specific networking sessions, and even awards ceremonies. Your attendees and speakers will be able to live chat with each other in virtual conference rooms, and share video meetings to feel as close as possible, no matter the physical distance between them.
Ingredient 6: Unorganized Networking
Attendees and speakers also relish the opportunity to informally meet and get to know each other outside of organized, formal networking sessions.
We provide a host of features to encourage casual networking between everyone at your event. Attendees can build out their own profiles (with complete privacy control), view the profiles of other attendees, and send connection requests. Attendees can initiate direct 1-on-1 chats with their connections, and even host their own self-organized breakout sessions.
Attendees will even be able to exchange virtual “Business Cards”, and once your event is over they can quickly and easily export all of the contact information they collected and even link it to social profiles on platforms like LinkedIn.
Ingredient 7: High-Quality Content
Content is the heart-and-soul of your event, and in some ways hosting virtual conferences makes it easier to source the highest quality content possible, as you can open up submissions to global speakers who might not have been able to reach the physical location you had planned.
We include a complete submissions tool that makes it simple and easy to collect, organize, score, and select the best content that’s relevant to your event. You will be able to create your own custom submission forms and gated review process to make sure every submission you receive includes all the information you need to review it properly.
This tool integrates seamlessly with the rest of your conference-building toolset in Slayte, and allows you to convert submissions into sessions as soon as they are collected, reviewed, and curated.
We also give your speakers the ability to edit their own sessions, allowing them to add a description to their session, attach hand-outs, and distribute their presentation slides before or after they present.
Ingredient 8: Speaker Management
No matter how understanding and flexible your speakers might be about the current situation, they will still desire to be treated professionally, and managed in an empathetic, high-touch manner.
Slayte provides a robust suite of communication tools that allow you to message with speakers, confirm their availability, and walk them through how to use the tools they will utilize to connect to your conference when it’s time to present their session.
We provide admins with a complete suite of tools to invite speakers to the conference, and to track their progress through Slayte’s self-service setup functions to make sure everyone is fully prepared to deliver a great session.
Ingredient 9: Connected Technology Systems
Virtual conferences require multiple tools, and produce a lot of data. It’s important to make sure every tool speaks well with every other tool, that siloes don’t form, and that data from each tool can be easily shared.
We made sure Slayte integrates with all popular AMS/CRM systems, and can act as a single central hub for every step of your virtual conference planning, production, and follow-up activities.
Ingredient 10: Exhibitor and Sponsor Support
You aren’t the only one who has to adapt to the new world of virtual conferencing. Your virtual conference exhibitors and sponsors need to see the value in continuing to invest in your events, and that this new virtual approach can still deliver a great ROI.
We provide a complete suite of sponsor-friendly functionality, including the ability to easily create new sponsorships, control the features they receive, and give them the most effective positioning to deliver their message. You can apply sponsored branding to each of your sessions, and create digital marketing assets and promotions to include in each attendee’s virtual Conference Bag.
You can also give each of your sponsors and exhibitors their own page that will act as their “booth”, and allow them to engage in live chat with attendees. And once the event is done, Slayte provides detailed ROI reports that demonstrate in clear, dollars-and-cents terms.
Ingredient 11: Attendee Feedback Collection
How you treat your attendees after your virtual conference is just as important as how you treat them during it. By collecting feedback, you help your attendees feel “heard”, and receive valuable information on how to continuously refine your process, work through the inevitable hiccups, and ensure your next virtual conference does an even better job delivering to your attendees’ expectations.
We include a fully-integrated set of feedback collection features. You will be able to send questionnaires at any point during or after the conference, and collect both a unified picture of how your attendees felt about your event as a whole, and how they felt about your conference at the granular level of individual speakers and sessions. You can provide every attendee with a digital Conference Notebook where they can log their notes and feedback, and export them at any time for easy sharing.
Ingredient 12: Hybrid Physical/Virtual Conference Capabilities
One day, you will be able to hold physical conferences again, with the understanding that at least some of your attendees will still prefer to attend virtually. To serve this complex new environment, you will need to develop the capability to deliver your conferences in hybrid formats that serve both physical and virtual attendees equally.
Slayte is fully mobile responsive, and we are in the process of completing a fully native mobile application, to provide both physical and virtual attendees with the same seamless conference experience.
What Do You Need to Host Virtual Conferences?
We’ve baked every virtual conference feature we could think of into our virtual conference platform, and have done everything we can to give you a tool that makes hosting virtual conferences as smooth, simple, and headache-free as possible.
But here’s the thing. We’re sure there’s something you would like to see that we might not have thought of yet, or that we do offer but forgot to include in this blogpost.
So we invite you to learn more about our new virtual conferencing solution by clicking here. Read all about it, and see if it has everything that you need. If there’s anything missing, shoot us a message and we’ll do our best to fold it into Slayte, to make sure we’re offering one of the best and most comprehensive virtual conference platforms around.
And if you simply think that Slayte might offer a useful solution to help you start launching complete, high-value, and profitable virtual conferences, then get in touch with us today and we’ll get you up and running ASAP.