Switch to online conferences to save your physical events

Online Conferences webcasts

With COVID-19, a lot of event organisers lost months of work because of sanitary restrictions. All the energy and effort needed to gain sponsors, attracting delegates and working with venues can seem lost.
A lot of money can be invested and team time spent into planning and organising physical events. Some are even huge revenue generators for your company. The good news in all of this is that your event doesn’t need to cancel.

You have the possibility to switch your physical event to an online event and save part of your investment. This option was always there but what we’ve seen in 2020 is that there was a huge increase in remote conferences being delivered. This means that a lot of event organisers chose to pivot to online events. This blog can help you understand how it all works and how you can prepare for this.


How does an online conference work?


Online Conferences can be delivered in two ways: presenting on camera or presenting with audio only. When presenting on camera, slides and presenters are shown alongside each other to guarantee that the audience can watch, listen, and learn. When using audio only, slides are more important. Your audience can focus more on the content. Online tools can help you boost engagement such as polls; Q&A sessions, chats and surveys.

Online conferences are very sophisticated events that are aimed to replicate and replace physical events. You don’t need to think of them as video conference meeting only. We train speakers and presenters on our platform, you have a all registration process in place and your attendees cannot easily cut in the presentation like a physical conference.


I need my conference to run for 2 days – how can I do it?


Even if a conference is running for a long time, you can have it online. You just need to think outside the box and think with the attendee in mind first.

You need to work with the specificities on the online environment. Putting attendees behind a computer screen all day is difficult to do online. Physical events have less distractions and we usually are fully available to them. We are also usually more available to engage with other attendees. That’s not possible in the same way online. Try to work around your speakers to adjust to their calendars. They might be very time poor and swamped with other demands. You can also give your attendees some control over the content by using live events which are more interactive.

You can use a mix of live content and pre-recorded content to make your online conference more lively. We have worked with a customer who was running three back-to-back live speakers which will run from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm. When the final sessions were over, they decided to redirect their attendees to on-demand content that was pre-recorded for them to go through.

Their attendees can watch the on-demand when they want which makes your conference more flexible for them.


I was planning to have breakout rooms at my conference, will this work online?


When switching from physical to online conference, you need to think about your agenda to make the difference between the different formats. While keynotes, presentations and even panel discussions work great, break out rooms and other collaborative sessions may not.

You can open chat functions in order to let your audience ask questions to replicate breakout rooms. This decreases the risk of technical issues and is the best way to replicate your physical event.

You can redirect attendees to other video conference rooms in order for them to continue the discussion using another format.


How can I set my speakers up for success?


Presenters in your event are critical to the success of your event. You want to make a good first impression and you want to make it easy for them to present. As soon as you decide to switch online, you want to communicate to them about this and get them as familiar as possible with the platform. You want to organise briefing sessions between them and the organisers.

During those sessions, they can get a chance to test the following:

You want to test how their internet connection is. Is the audio clear, how is the video quality. You also want them to be aware of the different functionalities in the platform. Make them easy for them to move the slides and understand how to take questions and use other features. You also need to make sure that they have back up set-up in case they have issues with the internet connection. You can use telephones in order to bridge the gap in case of problems.

Testing needs to be done in the same environment and with the same equipment as the day of the presentation in order to make sure that this exact set-up is working. For example, if your speaker is presenting from home, make sure they conduct the testing from home.

From our experience, we can give you other tips to make sure your speakers are set for success. A small but important thing you can do is make sure that there is a break between sessions (at least 5 minutes).

This will make it easier for your attendees to follow but also give time for the speakers to quickly test their set-up before. If you want to organise a panel discussion, we advise you to run a test with all panelists.

Also, make sure you have a facilitator that helps your panel keep track of the sessions.
Think about having an online MC that will make the transitions, keep the timing and keep the sessions on track.

Finally, do not manage all this by yourself. Choose a provider that is to going to provide you with this training, this way you can focus on your content delivery.


How can I make sure the technology will work?


Technology is often the unknown factor in an online conference. Most webinar platforms are built to be reliable under a lot of load but the quality of our internet connection is often unknown. With everyone working from home, the stress on the bandwidth is huge and puts a strain in the already limited capacity. You need to make sure that your family members are not using heavily the network while you are presenting.

We know from our experience that you cannot control the quality of the connection. The only thing to do is to have a back-up solution in place just in case. If the video is no longer possible due to limited internet, you can still catch up through telephone.

Also think about what’s really important for your audience. Video is not absolutely necessary a lot of the time. If you know that your speakers are presenting from risky locations, it’s better to switch to audio only and have the audience enjoy a clear content delivery.


Can I make money with online conference?


An online conference is also a good platform to enjoy revenue. Online also gives you more opportunities to improve revenue.

When you create an online conference, you create content that you can reuse as an on-demand piece. This mean that you can allow your sponsors to advertise longer than during a physical event. If you have paid content, this also means that you can add revenue as long as your content is available.

Even if you put your content online, does not mean it’s free for all. You can still charge delegates for your content. The content is the same, just the format and the channel are different. If you deliver paid content during your physical conference, it should not be different online. Charge, but consider providing a discount as you will no longer require social activities or catering.

Switching online gives you new opportunities to interact with your sponsors. You can create online trade halls, one-on-one meetings between sponsors and delegates, and ensure sponsorship dollars live beyond the live event itself.

2020 wasn’t the easiest year for physical events but it doesn’t mean that you need to cancel everything. You can still continue to engage with members, customers and employees with online events, you just need to adjust to the online environment.

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