Virtual Conferences and Events: A Guide to Success

It may have been unfortunate world events that led leaders to explore new ways to do business at a distance, but that innovation is paying off. The biggest gains are being realized by those who pivoted towards virtual conferencing and events. In fact, 94% of users report an increase in productivity when using video conferences.

However, to realize that productivity gain, the event has to go smoothly. Read this overview to learn how to make your next virtual conference a resounding success.

Win support for a virtual event

Internal support is absolutely necessary for live events to succeed. Well before the event, do some internal education about the benefits of virtual conferences over in-person events. Some talking points could include:

  • Lower cost, since going virtual cuts out travel and site expenses
  • Wider reach limited only by internet availability
  • Eco-friendly reduction in carbon emissions and paper waste
  • New revenue streams for paid events, such as advertising revenue
  • Lasting engagement through video replays

Having the team on board is the first step towards a solid event.

Think strategically

Lay out a clear goal. Consider:

  • What’s the main purpose of this event?
  • What should it achieve?
  • How will success be measured?

Next, decide how to pay for the event. Sponsorships and partnerships are popular options for paid events, as are entry fees (a “pay per view” mode). When that doesn’t work, advertising can create a long-lasting revenue stream. Use this plan to put together a budget for the virtual event.

Research the target audience. Ask questions like:

  • Who is this for?
  • What do they want?
  • What don’t they want?
  • What’s the best platform to reach that audience?

The audience should be considered at all stages of content planning. After all, it’s as simple for viewers to leave a virtual event as it is for them to join.

Timing is a major factor. The event should be long enough to get everything without forcing attendees to sit at a computer all day. Build in “breaks” as often as you normally would for “in person” events. Also, look for other events in the same space (considering both audience and time) that might pose a conflict.

Build audience excitement in advance

A virtual event shouldn’t be a surprise. “Flash events” can be profitable when there’s an attentive audience already, but they’re too risky for most hosts.

Cross-platform marketing is key. Find your audience where they are through social media, pop-up ads, and email or text lists.

It’s a good idea to offer incentives to attend a virtual conference live. Recorded views are good, but live engagement is better. Give the audience a reason to want to tune in, like:

  • Live interaction with keynote figures
  • Prize drawings
  • Exclusive content that won’t be available later
  • Sneak peeks and new announcements

Remember not to bury the lead! When advertising put the biggest draw front and center on primary graphics. Use secondary graphics to help support speakers in promoting the event toin their own audiences.

Play to the strengths of a virtual event

Virtual events aren’t just a fallback plan. They have distinct technological advantages over in-person events. Leverage that technology for greater impact.

  • Use dynamic charts and graphics instead of static displays.
  • Gamify the event! An interactive challenge tracker gives the audience a way to track their own progress and compare it to others.
  • Host live polls and a live chat to keep the audience engaged.

Building on that last point, encourage audience participation and engagement wherever possible. Getting involved creates a feeling of immediacy, helps hold a viewer’s interest, and improves knowledge retention when that’s a goal.

Like any event, virtual conferences should have “handouts” in the form of downloadable resources. These can be video resources or PDFs. It’s also a great place to repackage existing content for the new audience.

Plan to prevent technology issues

Technology is much more reliable than it used to be, but it’s not perfect. Signal issues can be a problem, and unlike in-person events there’s no option to work around faulty technology. Take steps to prevent basic tech issues.

  • Host all keynote talent and content on reliable internet networks when possible.
  • Update all connected computers and software in advance.
  • Use redundant recording in case of unexpected issues.

Do a tech rehearsal early enough to fix any identified problems. Check microphones, internet connections, headphones, visualization software, recording, playback, chat features, downloads, and anything else that might become relevant. Have backup hardware on the day just in case.

Create and distribute a plan for emergencies so everyone knows what to do. Who will take over if a keynote participant drops out unexpectedly? What will they do?

Strongly consider using a boutique streaming provider instead of a public platform. Having a rapid response team on hand goes a long way towards overcoming unpleasant technology surprises.

Learn from every virtual event

A planner’s job doesn’t end when the event does. Use every event to make the next a greater success.

  • Track participation.
  • How many people logged in?
  • Who participated actively as opposed to simply watching?
  • How long did people stay?
  • When did the most social media shares happen? Before, during, or after the event?
  • Send out post-event surveys. Ask attendees if they would attend a similar event again and why.

Incorporate all this feedback into the next planning cycle for the next event. Experience is the best teacher, so make a habit of pushing insights forward where they’ll do the most good.


Looking for a little more guidance for your next virtual event or conference? We’ve got you covered! Reach out to one of FanHero’s virtual event experts today!


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