Hosting a Virtual Conference? Here’s How to Get Started.

A guide for everything you need to consider in the early stages of virtual event planning
August 5, 2021
5 mins
hosting a virtual conference
Jenna Gulick
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To get the most out of a new virtual conference format, you’ll want to feel confident in its benefits, from savings on T+E budgets to a hub of living event content, from granular data analytics on engagement to global accessibility—with virtual events, anyone, anywhere, can attend and anyone, anywhere, can present. 

Once you’re clear on your biggest priorities, it’s time to get started. First stop, pick a platform!

How To Host A Virtual Conference

Choosing a Platform and Planning a Program

There are a variety of platforms available, from Zoom and GoogleMeet for basic videoconferencing to On24 and Hopin, which offer a variety of additional features such as registration and webinars, and Touchcast, which specializes in creating immersive experiences with virtual venues, interactive agendas, and real-time translation via artificial intelligence.

We may be biased, but there’s a huge benefit to choosing virtual event software that comes with expert support every step of the way. For example, with Touchcast, a team of designers, engineers, and event managers will bolster your efforts throughout the entire process. 

Once you have your team and platform in place, you’ll want to plan your program. Organize speakers into panels based on their expertise: You may want a balanced panel that reflects various vantage points within the same industry or a representative of different experts that appeals to specific occupational niches. For example, you could present a panel of leaders from various technology start-ups or digital marketers who are all experts on Facebook advertising. 

Once you have your speakers and panel topics planned, you’ll want to construct a flow for each day or portion of your virtual event. If you’re hosting a one- or two-day summit, try planning four to five hours of programming a day, and be sure to factor in breaks for lunch and networking. Consider a platform that offers an interactive virtual agenda, so attendees can mix and match presentations and create their own schedule. 

Attract the Right Registrants and Keep Threats at Bay 

After you’re satisfied with a lineup of speakers and an event agenda, connect with your support team to create an action plan for promoting your virtual event. Provide speakers with graphics that are sized properly for platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn. The easier you make it for others to market your event, the more organic attention you’ll generate! 

You should also consider setting aside a portion of your budget for paid ad placements on both social channels as well as Facebook and Instagram. Traffic ads will be beneficial for driving visits to your registration page, and retargeting ads will ensure that visitors who leave on the fence have a second opportunity to RSVP. You may also consider digital or print advertisements in a trade publication that include discount codes to help track traction. 

As you drive welcome visitors, you’ll also want to plan ahead and keep threats away from your virtual event. Check your platform’s security infrastructure to ensure it offers data encryption and other customizable security features to ensure nobody can steal the metaphorical mic.

Practice Makes Perfect 

The right support team will go beyond helping you as a host—they will help your speakers and moderators too. Some platforms allow for integrations with Zoom, Teams, Webex, and beyond, so speakers will feel comfortable with their capability to stream. Event managers can help facilitate run-throughs with panelists and panel hosts as well as share helpful instructions for collecting questions and comments via live chat features. As much as it’s important to brief speakers on the opportunities to maximize audience engagement during your virtual event, you should also let them know that they won’t need to experiment with new technology. Guidance from experts matters—priming presenters for success will make all the difference in helping your event run smoothly. 

Don’t Forget the Details 

In the weeks leading up to the event, dedicate a day to exploring all the detailed features that your virtual conference software provides. You’ll also want to think about your planning process from an attendee’s point of view. Consider their busy schedules, and be sure you don’t skimp on email, SMS, and social media reminders. You’ll also want to have strong customer-support representatives on hand to help attendees through any learning curves or bumps in the road. You’ve worked hard to pique your attendee’s interest, you don’t want to lose them in a moment of frustration or uncertainty. The right platform will provide you with an experienced support team and easy tech solutions, so you won’t lose audience enthusiasm.

Across the board, you’ll want to treat attendees like valued collaborators. Incorporate features like live polls, emoji reactions, and real-time chats to collect feedback and help drive discussions. At the same time, the right cutting-edge platform will also collect valuable data on your attendees’ actions, so you can learn what matters to them most. 

Be sure to share your event hashtag and organization’s social media handles with both attendees and sponsors. When they share content, be sure to use native social platform features to repost or retweet their testimonials and takeaways. Not only is this a great way to create a showcase of your virtual conference’s impact, but it will also create an automatic archive of your event’s standout moments—all captured through your attendees’ eyes.

Plan Around Virtual Benefits 

Ultimately, the benefits that virtual conferences offer can actually serve as guideposts in your planning process. For example, the ability to provide truly global reach should reflect in an inclusive lineup of speakers that might not be possible at an in-person summit. Similarly, because you aren’t constrained by hotel bar, meeting room, or restaurant hours, you’ll want to use features like Touchcast’s 1-on-1 appointment bookings and live chat to encourage endless networking that could get cut short in person. Finally, you’ll want to incorporate interactive webinars and soak up live-time data. Not only will participation keep your audience engaged, but it will also inform your future event planning. By then, you’ll be a total pro! 

Ready to start planning your first virtual conference? Our team is here to help. Get started by contacting Touchcast today!

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