Redstone recently hosted a multi-day full scope virtual conference for one of its association clients. Their in-person conference had been cancelled due to COVID-19, and our team worked with the planning committee to organize and execute the association’s first ever virtual conference within just six weeks! The conference included three days of keynotes and concurrent sessions, a virtual exhibit hall, end-of-day networking sessions and live chats with speakers, with nearly 600 attendees across Canada. Based on our experience in the planning and execution of the virtual conference, we’d like to share some important tips to help you successfully transition your in-person conference to a dynamic, engaging, virtual event. And, hey, if you get stuck you can always reach out to us for help!
- Create an Agenda that Meets your Conference’s Goals
The quality of your virtual conference experience is heavily influenced by the structure of your agenda. If you’re hosting a national conference, consider the time of day when your conference begins and ends, across all time zones. Make sure all participants can enjoy the content at a reasonable time of day. Also, just like at an in-person conference, scheduling frequent breaks of at least 15 minutes helps attendees digest the content, hydrate/fuel, or take care of other business if they’re working from home. Finally, if you have virtual sponsors or exhibitors, make sure you have designated times for attendees to interact with them. Remember that they are key partners of your association, and likely paid for and expect direct interaction with participants during the event (more on this later).
- Embrace Technology, Flaws and All
The availability of technological platforms to host a virtual conference is amazing (reach out to us to help you choose the best one to meet your needs), from simple streaming services to virtual reality-type trade shows. Once you select the tool that works for you, keep in mind that while technology can facilitate a meaningful conference experience, technical issues are almost inevitable. This means you need to have multiple contingency plans, clear roles and responsibilities for your “onsite” team and an understanding of the tech support available to you. Make sure to test the technology extensively before launching. Murphy’s Law says “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.” The key to success is planning ahead, anticipating potential issues, and putting together a strong team to ensure the show can go on despite any technical difficulties.
Stay tuned for the second part of this blog next week that will cover the final two tips to make your virtual conference a success. In the meantime, check out Redstone’s Digital and Hybrid Event Services for how we can help take your event to a new realm!
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