Conference events are an irreplaceable experience. They offer participants the opportunity to get outside their daily work environment to interact, collaborate and exchange information with peers, vendors, customers and industry thought-leaders. Attendees learn new skills and gather insights and experience valuable networking opportunities.
As an organizer, these events offer some of the highest ROI of any marketing channel. Conferences help expand your organization’s reach, attract new customers and position your company as an industry leader.
A year of disruption for physical, in-person events
Major world events in 2020 have disrupted the in-person conference landscape, leading to nearly universal cancellation of these gatherings worldwide. Due to restricted travel and new social distancing guidelines, many organizations have chosen to forgo live events for the foreseeable future.
However, some industry leaders are adapting and choosing to pivot their virtual conferences to an online format, rather than canceling them outright. These organizers understand that the immense benefits of live events can be mirrored virtually, given the proper design and structure. Luckily, there are several exciting new technologies that are now available to mirror the in-person experience nearly flawlessly.
Is video conferencing a perfect replacement?
In recent months most collaboration and work has shifted to a remote format. Organizations in all sectors have become intimately familiar with the benefits and limitations of video conferencing technologies such as Zoom, Limelight, etc.
These platforms are limited in their ability to perfectly mirror the full engagement of face-to-face interaction, but have become a necessity to continue the smooth operation of business, healthcare and education.
There are many differences between the day-to-day internal collaboration of a business and the larger, more challenging task of communicating information effectively at scale in a virtual conference.
This is why many organizations struggle to recapture the live conference experience online, and fail to have the same impact or receive the same ROI as they would otherwise, given the right tools.
Webinars or one-way video broadcasts do not make a virtual conference
While video is undeniably a powerful communication medium, the one-way interaction of the format does not provide the same value for attendees as they would receive in a physical space. There are a number of reasons why they do not integrate the content as well without the use of proper engagement strategies.
Video conferencing tools also do not create the rich social environment of a live conference. Attendees expect to network and form real, meaningful relationships, and do not get this same experience as a passive webinar audience.
Without engagement and networking, a virtual conference is just a series of webinars. Luckily there are platforms which can build a robust virtual conference experience while fully accounting for these key considerations.
dialogEDU LMS is one such leader in virtual conferencing technology, creating immersive digital experience that mirror the ‘real’ conference experience.
Create an immersive, branded experience
Imagine how attendees feel when they first walk into a large exhibition hall or a well-designed hotel conference for the first time. There is a tangible, sensory feeling as they find themselves in an exciting new environment. This primes their brain to learn and grow, as they are transported from the ordinary to the extraordinary.
An unforgettable virtual event starts the same way, from the first impression made when attendees first log in, to the look and feel that ties the whole event together.
Your virtual conferencing platform should allow every page to be fully customized, matching your organization’s brand and capturing the unique essence of your mission and values.
This is where the experience shifts from ‘just another’ Zoom call or webinar, to something memorable and sometimes life changing. A well-designed visual look will excite attendees, and will boost the perceived value and credibility of your virtual event.
Consistency in branding will pay dividends in the future as well. Attendees who are encountering your brand for the first time will get a great first impression, and will continue to recognize your organization as a valuable industry leader for years to come. This will lead to many loyal, lifelong clients and customers.
Focus on a strong central theme
To maximize learning, it’s important to create a cohesive feel, rather than a disjointed collection of unrelated content. Stringing together unrelated sessions can lead to disengagement as attendees ‘cherry pick’ sessions to attend.
Ideally, it’s best to pick one major theme, or idea, and relate every presentation back to it. This will help give the events context as attendees go through the experience, and will lead to greater integration of the information that is presented.
Mirror a variety of physical spaces, virtually
Think of all the different physical spaces that a conference attendee would move through in an exhibition hall or hotel conference center. Each of these spaces serves a unique function, and provides different layers of value.
Luckily, most of these spaces can now be reimagined virtually within a robust virtual conference platform. Some examples are:
- Exhibit hall and individual vendor booths
- Help and information desk
- Large theaters or auditorium
- Small to medium sized classrooms and conference rooms
- Networking lounge
- Library, media resource center
This is just a brief list of virtual spaces you can and should mirror in your virtual conference. The possibilities are endless, limited only by the imagination, and allow for a full range of dynamic experiences.
Make presentations interactive
One possible downside of online webinars and one-way video interactions is a level of disengagement that naturally occurs due to passive watching and listening. Attendees will often multi-task and lose focus after a certain length of time, even if they are initially interested in the subject matter.
The solution is active engagement. Virtual conferencing platforms such as dialogEDU LMS can make presentations and lectures a two-way interaction by engaging attendees with surveys, Q&A sessions and other dynamic, interactive content.
Encourage meaningful interactions
If you polled the average conference attendee and asked for their primary goal of attending an event, they would all say one thing. Networking.
One of the biggest criticisms of virtual events is that they sometimes fail to recreate the social atmosphere and networking opportunities of an in-person conference. To give attendees the full social benefits they signed up for, organizers need to actively encourage meaningful social interactions virtually.
During live sessions, speakers should engage their audience and provide frequent prompts for participation via live chat or polls. Content should be followed up by open dialog in discussion forums, with active participation stimulated by conference speakers and members of your organization.
Attract Bigger and Better Sponsors
As an organizer, here is where the ROI potential of a virtual conference can surpass that of an on-ground equivalent. It is easier than ever to reach attendees with effective marketing messages, while also facilitating long-term connections with value-adding vendors and service provider.
Exhibitors can now connect 1-on-1 with attendees, giving them their undivided attention, rather than having to compete with the distractions of a busy exhibition floor.
Immersive multimedia content such as live product demos, 360 degree rendered mock-ups or virtual reality tours can showcase new technology and innovation in ways beyond the limitations of a physical booth.
Instead of coming home with a stack of business cards and struggling to remember which interactions were meaningful and required follow up, participants can exchange contact details and information instantly and without human-error. This leads to better exhibitor-attendee connections, creating sales leads that are more qualified and improving the experience for both parties.
When you build your event on a robust Learning Management platform such as dialogEDU, you can transform the conference space into a giant virtual classroom, leveraging the power of rich content libraries and related course work. The conference can serve as a launching point for a long and fruitful educational journey.
Rather than experiencing a one-time seminar session, attendees can expand on what they learn by transitioning into an e-learning course that can apply towards a certificate, CE, or other educational credit – all seamlessly on one platform.
Positioning your event as an opportunity for continuing education will help skyrocket your registration numbers, and allow you to increase ticket prices since you are filling a valuable need for education that is required by many industries.
Provide Technical Support
New technology might be intimidating for some participants. Don’t let it be a barrier that prevents these users from reaping the full potential of the virtual conference experience.
If this is your first virtual conference, plan on a few growing pains and bumps along the road, as your organization, exhibitors, presenters, and attendees get their bearings and adjust to the new format and processes.
To help everyone transition smoothly into the digital space, it’s important to choose a technology partner who can provide dedicated and 24/7 support through the entire planning and execution of your event.
Use Your Data
Analytics and real-time data reporting allow for deep insights into attendee behavior, in a way that would not be possible in the ‘real world’. By measuring and acting upon this level of access and visibility, your organization can discover countless opportunities to optimize growth.
Some meaningful metrics include:
- How many registrants actually showed up?
- How long did they attend? Which presentations?
- Which content received the most audience engagement?
- Which audience segments resonated with particular content?
- What questions did people have? What were people talking about?
- What booths and which sponsors were most popular?
Organizers can conduct additional polls to gather audience feedback on what worked and what didn’t, helping to re-engage individuals who could be served better in the future, and to plan future decision making.
There is a whole world of valuable insights at your fingertips, when using a platform that accurately measures and reports data in a simple, user-friendly way.
Keep The Experience Going
One of the greatest advantages of pivoting to a virtual conference is the ability to roll a one-time event over into an evergreen community and educational resource.
A robust LMS virtual conferencing platform will allow for the creation of content from the original archived event assets, providing year-round revenue streams and engaging new audiences that were unable to attend on the original date.
By providing ongoing value by re-engaging previous attendees, and by continuing to expand the reach of the original content, you can also find new partnerships with industry sponsors to continue to monetize your initial investment.
Choose a partner who will help get the most ROI out of your virtual event
dialogEDU LMS is leading the way in the global digital-conference revolution. This communication and learning ecosystem seamlessly integrates live conferences with continuing online education, all in one complete enterprise solution.
The dialogEDU platform is helping organizations across the globe to create dynamic virtual events; without the unsafe travel, expensive airfares or overhead costs of physical venues.
This internationally-acclaimed platform is digitally revolutionizing training, education and now full-scale live events, for corporations, associations, health systems, academic institutions and thought-leaders in all industries.