How virtual conferences are becoming a new reality for corporates


Seven Events’ Sarah Hill offers her thoughts on the current state of events industry, and advises how planners can adapt to cater to a pandemic stricken market.

Social distancing has caused a massive shift in the way that companies run their day-to-day operations. 

Everyone from small businesses to large corporations has had to rethink how they operate, as well as how they get the most out of employees that might be forced to work from home in the foreseeable future.

The good news is that at least today, there are plenty of technological solutions that can at least make working remotely more comfortable, having the potential to minimise the drop in productivity and the ability to take care of the regular responsibilities that each employee has.

One of the technologies that have seen a rapid rise since the start of the pandemic is virtual conferencing.

Corporate event companies are being called to by businesses of all sizes to help figure out the best way to get people in the same room, even if that room is hosted on a server.

Everything from simple meetings, to complex presentations or an even entire conference, can now be hosted online, which might turn out to be an excellent opportunity for companies to explore how feasible it might be to use virtual conferencing technology even when everything goes back to normal. 

So, to help you get started with virtual conferencing technology, let’s explore what it is, how to prepare to host your first virtual conference and the most important things you should consider.

What is a virtual conference?
A virtual conference is a type of event that allows people to participate without the need to be at a physical location. Unlike traditional conferences where people would fly in from all over the country, virtual conferences offer the opportunity to gather people from across the globe in a virtual environment.

These types of solutions were becoming increasingly popular even before the Covid-19 pandemic, but they’ve really taken off in the last few months, when almost all conferences have had to be cancelled, leaving corporate event companies scrambling to find alternative solutions.

The good news is that even though you may not be familiar with virtual conference technology, there is actually a wide range of available solutions, and most of them can serve as an excellent alternative to in-person events, offering a lot of the same benefits without the need for people to leave the safety of their homes.

You can host presentations, speeches, discussion forums, and anything else that you might need to reach your goals. You can even provide plenty of networking opportunities for attendees, which can be essential when trying to make your offer more appealing.

If you’re unsure about how to put a virtual event together, you can always consult more experienced conference organisers who have put together similar virtual events in the past.

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Essential tips for organising a virtual conference
Now that we’ve understood what a virtual conference is and learned more about how you can make it happen, let’s explore some of the most important considerations that you must take into account if you want everything to go smoothly.

Provide value
The primary factor that conference organisers use to determine whether an event is viable is whether it solves a specific problem and provides value. That same principle applies not just for virtual events, but all events in general.

So, before you can start thinking about specific technologies that you might use, you must first look at the primary purpose of your event and whether you can serve that purpose using the tools that are available.

In some instances, a virtual event might actually be a more logical option even if a lockdown wasn’t in place, while in others, you may find that having an in-person event would make things much more manageable.

However, no matter what type of event you may be organising, you can always find ways to provide value to virtual audiences if you just use the tools that are available and aren’t afraid to experiment less orthodox approaches.

Go global
Because of the current economic climate, chances are that your virtual conference won’t attract as large of an audience as it otherwise could. At least if you only use traditional marketing methods and market to the same audience that you would usually.

However, because of the unique nature of virtual conferences, you can significantly expand the reach of your events and attract people from all over the world.

Whether it’s business partners, colleagues, sponsors, employees, or experts, having the opportunity to market your event across the globe will open up new opportunities for developing new partnerships, expanding your reach, and building towards more substantial success in the future.

Create an online event hub
Just as an on-site event has a venue, so should a virtual conference have a dedicated place where all of the information and key details can be found.

Therefore, on top of using your social media channels to put out information about your event, you should also create a website specifically dedicated to your event, which could then become a sort of hub where you could post updates, provide resources, and point people to when running promotions.

The website doesn’t have to be complicated and can be set up relatively quickly. Still, it can provide immense value by helping prospective attendees learn more about your event and providing social proof such as testimonials about why attending is worth it.

Collect and analyse data
One of the best things about virtual conferences is that you can measure the specific performance of different parts in your program.

For instance, if you have a range of presentations, you could see how many people tune in to each one, how long they stay, and the actions that they perform while observing. 

This can provide you with valuable data about what people care about the most, giving you insights for future conferences that you can use to make your events better and more engaging.

What’s more, this type of data can be used as a way to show sponsors how promotions in your virtual event could provide them with tangible returns.

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