With the new year just over the horizon, many companies will be entering the first stages of planning their 2021 kick-off conference. Lockdown restrictions make it likely that businesses across the world will be holding their event online, with many organisers daunted by the task of making it as engaging as an ‘in-person’ event.
So how do you host a virtual conference that is inspiring and impactful?
We’ve looked into some key ways to ensure your remote event is a success.
1) Plan your virtual conference around your goals and objectives
Online conferences may seem a world away from a physical conference but planning them is actually very similar. One of the main areas to focus on before planning anything else is the goals and objectives you want your conference to deliver.
Some key questions to ask include:
- What do you want attendees to take away?
- If attendees only remember one or two key elements, which are most important?
- What feeling do you want your audience to leave with? Do you want to inspire/motivate/inform/reward?
Once you have an idea of the main objectives, you can then ensure the agenda and delivery of your conference are designed to make the most of them.
2) Keep agenda items short and snappy
When consuming information digitally, our attention span is much shorter, so meeting sessions should be limited to around 30 minutes maximum and include interactive elements. However, optimal attention span peaks at just 7-10 minutes.
To keep your audience taking in as much information as possible, try to keep each speaker or business agenda item to just 30 minutes before taking a break or moving to a new topic. Within each 30-minute session, include an interactive element every 10 minutes, to stop your audience zoning out. This can be something as quick and simple as:
- Asking the audience a question
- Including a short, relevant puzzle
- Involving the audience in a Q&A session
A study found that participants who had an active part in their learning were able to retain more information than those who had a passive role – an important stat when delivering a kick-off conference with lots of important information to be delivered.
3) Consider some team building as an icebreaker, energiser or post-conference networking event
Leading on from breaking up sessions and keeping attendees focused, it’s worth exploring team building options to keep everyone moving and thinking differently. A short burst of physical activity is shown to improve brain function and memory significantly, and this is particularly important on virtual events when attendees are isolated and seated for the majority of the event. It also gives your team time to connect with each other, providing a positive impression and increasing the chances of everyone staying engaged. A short conference icebreaker, such as a virtual haka will get delegates active and excited for the day ahead. Incorporate a conference energiser around mid-way through your conference, like an online game show, and finish the night with a networking and reward activity, such as a virtual race night or virtual escape room like ‘Ransom’, that will keep everyone discussing the days’ conference and feeling appreciated for their time and input.
4) Send a branded gift to event attendees to introduce a physical element
One of the main things virtual online conferences can lack is that physical and personal element. Combat this by sending a package out to everyone before or after your conference. This doesn’t have to be expensive. A simple package of branded stationery, food or drink, to use and enjoy whilst the conference is underway, is a great way to keep everyone feeling involved. Similarly, sending out prizes or awards for high achievers will stop delegates missing out on the celebration of a physical event.
You could even incorporate this in a post-conference event. Host a cocktail making night or culinary master class with a package of ingredients (and even some novelty items) delivered straight to attendees doors.
Who doesn’t get excited when they have a parcel delivered? It’s a great way to peak your teams’ interests and keep them invested in the conference.
5) Organise your agenda for maximum impact
Once you’ve decided on the agenda items to include, any team building activities and the running times for each part, it’s time to put a rough agenda in place that makes the most impact.
Think about including an ice breaker or conference energiser to keep attendees focused and engaged. Also, remember to include plenty of breaks to space out agenda points and make the most of those 30-minute bursts of attention.
Here’s a sample agenda that incorporates the points we’ve discussed so far:
- Surprise Icebreaker
- Short 5 min coffee break
- Year in Review
- 10 min break to get a drink and organise breakout rooms
- Breakout Sessions
- Lunch – have everyone in breakout rooms or in one big session to promote relaxed communication
- The Year Ahead
- 5 min ‘networking and coffee’ break
- A Competitive Review
- Reward and Recognition – a look at the best performers
- Short 5 min coffee break
- Content Recap
- Closing Speech
- Post-conference team building activity
6) Consider how your online conference will look
It’s true, looks aren’t everything, and you should never choose style over substance, but the way your conference looks is just as important (if not more) as a real-life event. When your attendees are essentially staring at a screen for hours on end, it can really help increase engagement to consider aesthetics.
You could incorporate a theme that links into your conference: a subtle football theme to represent ‘kick-off’, or space theme to ‘launch’ a new year, or just something that represents your trade or business. This can be carried through your conference branding, presentations, and any physical elements you send out to compliment the event.
If you are focusing around one main speaker, such as the CEO or business owner, why not hire an event space to stream the main parts from. You could even have a branded set built especially for the occasion and team it with branded event banners and printed materials.
7) Keep the conversation going
Once your virtual conference is over, it’s important to keep the discussion going and any key points at the forefront of your attendees’ minds. A follow-up email the next day – to get any feedback from your audience and give everyone a chance to ask any questions that may have come up in the time since – is a great way to make sure your message is continued. You could also send out a physical summary of the event – a small, printed leaflet or booklet with your key messaging, for attendees to keep with them, or an optimised version of the presentation to refer to as a resource.
Why not record important parts of your conference and upload them to a page on your site or internal server as a resource point or for those who couldn’t attend?
At Eventurous, we’re here to help you with all your virtual event needs. We have our expert events team, supportive sales team, and creative tech team, all ready to deliver your best virtual conference ever!
If you’d like our support in creating and delivering a virtual conference, then get in touch with our friendly team and we’d be happy to help.