In March 2020, Elastic transformed a client’s in-person conference into a virtual conference in under 6 weeks! Throughout the process we learned many best practices that we are taking forward into the rest of 2020 and beyond. We have been talking to our clients a lot lately about what virtual will look like moving forward. Here are our top 3 best practices to help you get started with your virtual planning.
Set an Agenda that fits with your NEW conference goals
Unlike physical conferences, virtual events are not strictly in one time zone. Understanding where your attendees are geographically can help frame the agenda for your conference. If most of your attendees are on the west coast then setting a conference to start at 9 am PST would be ideal for your attendees. If your attendees are a global audience maybe starting the event later in the afternoon would work better for a more global audience.
The second thing to think about when setting an agenda is online fatigue from your attendees. Setting sessions in smaller time blocks (30 mins vs 1 hour) or having shorter 10-minute talks back to back will help online attendees absorb the content better. Being intentional with stretch breaks and/or coffee breaks allows online attendees time to reflect on the content they just watched or network with others as they would when walking between sessions at a physical conference.
Understand the power of digital education in your marketing plan
Virtual events are at an advantage when it comes to affordable content available post conference. In a physical event often times some or few sessions are recorded and available for attendees or association members post conference. If an attendee is interested in learning from a particular session they must ensure to be in the room which could mean skipping out on other areas of interest. The new virtual format sessions are almost always recorded. The value of attending these events have gone up, and it is your job to ensure attendees realize this benefit. Instead of going to 8 sessions throughout the event now attendees can attend all sessions at their own time and pace. Marketed in the right format this can be used as an attractive bonus for attendees.
Don’t forget about the power of connection
The number one piece of feedback we receive from attendees is that they miss connection with colleagues and friends at physical events. While we are firm believers that face to face connection can never be replaced, we are also excited about finding creative & responsible ways of connecting right now.
Whenever possible use video connection over chat-based networking as this creates a human approach. Schedule in virtual happy hours, conversation cafes, member meet-ups as part of your event agenda. Create community by opening up forums and chats for members to engage before, during and after the event ends. Virtual yoga, stretch breaks, games all create a sense of belonging while also helping the attendees stay engaged. Live polls, Q & A, virtual whiteboards are all ways to keep engagement flowing during the session.
If your organization is looking for a partner in moving your event to a virtual or hybrid format contact us to discuss how we can help you achieve your next event goals.