Online Conferences have become one of the most popular formats of online events, and it is because of the purposes they fulfill. They are trusted by professionals to connect with others; the reason is they don’t come with as many restrictions as their in-person counterparts do.
However, this advantage of online conferences is merely the tip of the iceberg, and there is a lot they offer. Learn everything you need to know about virtual conferences with this blog.
What is the Meaning of an Online Conference?
An online conference is more than a regular online meeting where several participants from across the globe connect together over an online conference platform through the internet. An online conference is much more than a regular online meeting. Virtual conferences are hosted over a span of three to five days, where people with similar interests in a subject meet virtually. They include discussions, webinars, panel discussions, keynote sessions, demonstrations, and so much more.
The only significant difference between a virtual conference and an in-person conference is the medium of hosting. While in-person conferences are hosted traditionally at a physical venue, online conferences utilize online conference platforms.
Here are some of the most common types of conferences:
- Academic Conferences: As you would expect, academic conferences include students and academicians, where they present their research and have a discussion around a particular topic.
- Professional Association Conferences: Though these types of conferences resemble academic conferences in some ways, the discussions they involve are around practical subjects. They are conducted by some associations or an organization.
- Training Conferences: These types of conferences are hosted by organizations and associations with a particular intent, training. It is the reason they include workshops, demonstrations, and more.
Why Should You Host a Virtual Conference?
A virtual conference can be hosted to fulfill several requirements. Some of them are:
- Addressing a long ongoing issue.
- A new field needs a conference for reasons such as the incohesive nature of the group, some new research, etc.
- Gathering of a particular group.
- Community feedback or inputs.
Who Can Organize a Virtual Conference?
Conferences have always been considered formal and official gatherings. Some groups that host conferences widely are:
- Professional organizations and associations.
- Government bodies and agencies.
- Private and individual organizations.
- Allianced organizations.
- Educational institutions and departments.
- Activists groups.
When Should You Host a Virtual Conference?
Though you don’t need to have a particular occasion to host an online conference. However, a few occasions are:
- When you wish to educate and disseminate information among some particular groups.
- You can host an online conference when you wish to have expertise aboard and discuss issues that need attention.
- To discuss work and other important issues at your company.
- To have people come together to discuss, network, learn, and celebrate.
What Are the Features of a Virtual Conference?
It is what a typical virtual conference looks like:
- An online conference includes a keynote speaker, addressing the key subject of the conference.
- Virtual conferences consist of several elements, such as panel discussions, demonstrations, webinars, and so much more.
- Breakout rooms and networking lounges for the attendees to have 1:1 networking and discussions.
- Audience engagement tools to keep the attendees engaged as well as to let them put across their say.
- Virtual booths for brands to display their products and services with tools for attendees to interact with booth owners.
- Entertaining elements such as after-party, gaming lounges, contests, giveaways, etc.
What Are the Benefits of Online Conferences?
Talking of the advantages that online conferences offer to the attendees, here are a few points one can note:
- Attendees can join in from any part of the world without having to travel.
- They can join the conference just at the scheduled time; no need to waste several minutes commuting to the venue.
- Attendees get the recordings of the sessions, enabling them to re-watch their favorite sessions time and again.
- There are limitless opportunities when it comes to interacting with fellow attendees and expanding one’s network.
Benefits organizers get with the online conference:
- Organizers get to save money they would otherwise have spent on accommodations, logistics, catering, and more.
- Planning and execution of online conferences are a lot easier than in-person conferences.
- Analyzing the success of online conferences is easier with the live analytics tool.
- Organizers can tap into a global audience and expand their reach beyond any geographical constraint.
What is the Purpose of a Virtual Conference?
Conferences are hosted to bring people with similar interests or backgrounds together on a single platform. During a conference, professionals come together to discuss ideas, subjects, and matters of common interest. With virtual conferences, organizers and attendees don’t have to travel and they can come together on one platform without actually being together. Virtual conferences fulfill the same purpose as traditional conferences; however, since they are so advantageous, virtual conferences have shown 8 times more attendee registrations.
How to Host an Online Conference?
As we mentioned earlier, online conferences and in-person conferences are similar in every way but one. As an organizer of online conferences, you need to plan them the same way you’d do a traditional conference. While planning online conferences, you should have clear goals and objectives. They require efficient and effective planning, promotions, registrations, deciding an agenda, targeting an audience, and more.
However, one thing that differs in online conferences and physical conferences is the medium they are hosted on. Virtual conferences utilize the latest technology and are hosted in a virtual space; They require online conference platforms.
What is An Online Conference Platform?
An online conference platform is simply a web solution designed to facilitate online conferences. Online conference platforms enable organizers to plan, ideate, promote, and execute their online conferences. In layman’s terms, virtual conference platforms are simply venues for virtual conferences. Online conference platforms come with all the functionalities, such as lobbies, auditoriums, networking lounges, entertainment tools, etc. They deliver real and immersive experiences to the attendees like an in-person conference, but virtually.
What Are the Features One Should Look for in Online Conference Software?
Choosing an online conference platform might get tricky, especially for first-timers. However, things can get a bit easy when you have an idea of the features one should look for in a platform. Some of those features are:
- Robust interface with functionalities to facilitate webinars and video conferencing.
- Audience engagement tools like live polls, live chat, Q&A sessions, and more.
- Gamification tools to keep attendees hooked.
- Networking functionalities such as networking tables, breakout rooms, 1:1 chat, video calls, etc.
- Customize functionality for organizers to personalize their conference as per their needs and requirements.
- 24/7 customer support.
How to Build An Online Conference Strategy?
The most significant difference between online and offline conferences is the medium of hosting. While there are several other factors that keep the attendees hooked to the conference, organizers don’t get much choice in the virtual format. Hence, there are only a few factors that organizers get to plan, one of which is content. And, since the content is the only thing that drives an online conference, as an organizer, you cannot compromise on its quality. No matter how efficient an online conference platform you choose, the content will always remain the King.
Therefore, if you plan an online web conference, keep content at the center of your strategy. Not only this but while you begin your preparation, make sure you start by making a list of all the elements you are going to include in your strategy. But more than that, it is necessary to know if the online web conference is right for your organization at the moment or not.
What Are the KPIs One Should Consider While Planning an Online Conference?
Planning an online conference is one thing, and measuring its success is another. To measure the success of your conference, and analyze the effectiveness of your strategy, you need to have some goals and KPIs that you can use to measure your success. Though it might look challenging at first, having a certain goal would motivate you to put in your best effort and plan things effectively.
You can either have one certain goal for your online conference or have multiple goals. However, it only depends on you and your requirements.
There are a few KPIs that you can use to measure the success of your online conference, and they are:
- Number of registrations and attendees
- Participation time
- Audience engagement and response
- Speaker Feedback
- Social media engagement
- Social media reach
- Post-event survey response
- Total expense and Return on Investment
- Net Promoter Score
- Sponsor Feedback
How to Build a Content Strategy For Your Virtual Conference?
As we mentioned earlier, the content is always King. Unless and until the information or knowledge you are delivering at your virtual conference is not up to the mark, nothing is going to make sense, for it is one thing that would define all the dynamics of your online conference.
Moreover, if you are hosting a virtual conference for the first time, you should know that keeping attendees hooked on the conference is a challenging task. It is because the attention span of human beings is less; hence, structuring the conference compellingly becomes necessary.
While you can experiment with things at a physical conference, everything at a virtual conference needs to be straightforward and precise. Keep your content short, crisp, and to the point; don’t add extra and irrelevant information. Deliver content and plan sessions that are engaging, and immersive and deliver value to the attendees.
Apart from that, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Keep the sessions short, and focus on delivering varied content. according to your audience.
- Make use of slide shows, ppts, videos, graphics, and other visually pleasing elements; in short, plan content in a way that looks good to the eyes.
- Deliver well-researched and thoughtfully curated sessions.
- You can stream sessions live as well as pre-recorded sessions.
- Focus on boosting two-way communication through the sessions.
How Can You Host An Online Conference?- A Step-By-Step Guide.
Follow these steps to host an immersive and successful virtual conference effectively and efficiently.
1. Define Your Goals and Subject:
The first and foremost step you need to take in order to host an unforgettable online web conference is identifying the goals you want to achieve and the subject you wish to address. Identifying the subject acts as the foundation of the entire conference. However, while doing so, avoid including a wide range of subjects, and target a relevant niche from a relevant topic. Also, defining the goals you wish to achieve with the conference will help you plan other aspects of your conference.
2. Choose the Right Online Conference Platform:
You can never host a successful conference with the wrong technology; you need to ensure that the platform you use is the best online software available. While looking for a platform, ensure that the one you pick not only helps you deliver a successful conference but also manages registrations and management, such as Mixhub. Not only this, select software that is easy to use, self-manageable, customizable, economical, and comes with audience engagement tools.
3. Create Your Agenda:
Now that the most crucial part of the planning process is completed, it’s time to move ahead with the next step, creating the agenda for the conference. It will cover other things related to the conference, including its schedule.
Plan things such as:
- The format of your conference; would you host panel discussions, keynote sessions, etc.?
- Are you planning to host a workshop after the conference?
- Would you host 10-minute one-on-one sessions with a few attendees and the speakers?
- Are you going to include a few pre-recorded sessions, or is it going to be a complete live conference?
After deciding and fixing all these things, plan the itinerary for the day.
4. Get Your Speakers On Board:
The speakers you have selected for your conference might be experts in their respective fields, but they might have a tough time handling and managing an online platform. So, while you are preparing yourself for the conference, you need to prepare your speakers for the same. Ensure that the camera and microphone they are using are of good quality. You can invite them for a rehearsal and training session, where you can explain everything to them in detail.
5. Create Engagement Opportunities:
While getting an audience to your online conference is one thing, keeping them hooked to it is another. Since the attention span of human beings is less, it is easy for them to get distracted. Hence, if you want to ensure a constant attendee attendance rate, create audience engagement opportunities for the attendees. For that, conduct interactive sessions, and most importantly, choose a platform that comes with a set of audience engagement tools such as live chat, live polls, live comments, etc.
6. Create Sponsorship Opportunities:
While many event organizers think that hosting online events means bearing the financial costs alone. However, it is not at all true. You can attract sponsors at online conferences as easily as their offline counterparts. In fact, online web conferences offer more branding opportunities to organizers and sponsoring brands.
7. Promote the Online Conference:
Now that you have almost set up your conference, the next step is to promote it. Create a promotional strategy that ensures you hit the maximum target market, and implement it two-three months prior to the conference. Also, while we are talking about promotions, there are several techniques that one can use.
A few techniques that one can use are:
- Make use of social media extensively; use platforms like Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.
- Use email marketing; send promotional emails.
- Use digital media marketing; run ads on Google.
8. Have BackUp Plan Handy:
Errors and glitches come uninvited, and even though you have hosted quite a few rehearsal sessions, your conference still stands some chances of some glitches and errors. Occurrences of technical errors are common in case of online conferences, and they generally don’t affect your conference. However, what matters is how you will handle these glitches. Hence, you should always stay prepared for such cases and keep Plan B handy.
9. Take a Follow Up:
A virtual conference is not over until you have received your attendees’ feedback. Following up with your attendees after the conference gets over will show you the real picture of how it went and how the attendees liked it. Hence, once the conference gets over, quickly send a follow-up email to all the attendees thanking them for their presence.
Following up after the conference won’t only help you know their point of view but also help you improve your strategies.
10. Analyze the Event Data:
Now that you have followed up with the attendees and know their point of view, it’s time to analyze your conference data. There are several online conference software such as Mixhub , that come with live and detailed analytics dashboard. Analyzing the data will help you know your loopholes, profits and losses, and several other factors.
How Do You Promote an Online Conference?
Promoting an online conference is as important as planning and executing it. Without informing people about your online web conference, can you expect them to show up for the same?
Hence, promotions are a vital part of hosting a conference; here are a few ways-
1. Create an Interesting Website:
To begin with, create a website that draws the audience’s attention towards your online conference. Since your website would be the most authentic source for the audience, ensure they get the complete and correct information about your conference through it. Also, for the interested audiences to register, include sign-up details and payment options.
2. Leverage Content Marketing:
Email marketing is the most effective promotional tool, and this is the reason it is trusted by several marketers across the world. Send promotional emails to your audience with all the information about the conference. Also, you can include promotional codes and discount codes to attract more attendees. You can send weekly and fortnightly emails, don’t bombard emails.
3. Optimize the Website:
While you are creating your website, ensure you add content to it keeping the SEO guidelines. Add keywords to your content so it appears on the top of search results.
4. Leverage Social Media:
The entire world is on social media these days; hence, use it to create a hype around your online conference. You can either create a separate page or use the existing page of your organization to promote the conference. To ensure the word about your conference reaches maximum potential, create your own hashtag. Update your target audience using different tools and ideas such as reels, videos, graphics, threads, etc.
Some Expert Tips to Host a Virtual Conference:
Hosting an online conference is one thing, and hosting a successful conference is another. Here are some tips shared by experts that you can consider for hosting a successful online web conference.
1. Spend Enough Time in Planning the Web Conference:
One of the most commonly noted things among organizers is they think one can host an online conference very quickly, which is kind of true. Online conferences are known for their quickness. However, it gets wrong at a point when people start thinking that online conferences require less planning. Be it an online conference or an offline one, both formats need the same kind of preparation and planning.
Hence, give enough time and attention to your planning.
2. Consider Time Zones:
One of the most prominent advantages of hosting conferences online is you get to tap into a global audience. But, it also means that various time zones can become an issue if not considered properly. Hence, while you are planning your online conference, you need to have it in mind that while it is 10:30 AM in India, it is 9 AM in Dubai. Though time zones don’t have an impact on in-person conferences, they can affect virtual conferences vastly.
3. Deliver Synchronous and Non-Synchronous Content:
To deliver an immersive experience to your audience, deliver both synchronous and non-synchronous content. Where the attendees interact in real-time with synchronous content, non-synchronous content is what is not happening in real-time. Providing both formats of content will give the attendees a comfortable experience, as they will be able to attend the conference at their convenience.
4. Facilitate Networking:
One of the most prominent reasons people like attending online conferences is networking. Networking is where they get to interact with others and expand their personal networks. Hence, as an organizer, it becomes important to ensure that they don’t face any issues with it and have a seamless experience. Make networking an integral part of your online conference.
5. Add Liveliness and Fun with Quizzes and Competitions:
Add a fun factor to your online conference with quizzes and competitions. It will serve two purposes, keeping the attendees engaged and adding liveliness to the conference. Not only this, but it will also allow them to know each other better.
6. Provide Recording:
One of the biggest advantages of hosting an online conference is you get to utilize your content in ways more than one. Provide recordings to your attendees and even those who couldn’t make it to the conference. Distributing recordings will ensure the visibility of your conference even when it gets over.
7. Don’t Try to Achieve Perfection:
Though it is always suggested to plan things to the best of our capabilities, striving for perfection might not always work. Plan your online conference with a human touch; attendees will enjoy it more.
8. Include Immediate Feedback:
Online conferences enable organizers to have immediate feedback. Include features and tools such as live comments, reactions, and emoticons for attendees to express their thoughts and give feedback. Not including these tools will only make your attendees feel like watching a movie.
What Are The Tips One Should Keep in Mind While Attending an Online conference?
If you are an attendee attending an online conference for the first time, here are some tips one should keep in mind:
1. Know the Conference:
If you are attending a conference, make sure you know about it. Learn about the organizers, the objective of the conference and who all are going to be there. For that, you can either go to their website or scroll through their social media pages. Not only this, we are sure the conference organizers have provided you with some documents with information about the same. Refer to them, and go through the information once. It will increase your effectiveness, and you will be seen as a well-prepared attendee in front of others.
2. Familiarize Yourself with the Platform:
Moving ahead with the tips, always familiarize yourself with the platform if your organizers have provided you with the meeting link. Learn how you can log in and out of the platform. Not only this, an online conference platform has several elements and segments; know about them beforehand. Also, if you can log in on the platform, go through them, and find your way through the platform. It will make it easier for you to join sessions during the conference.
3. Mark Exciting Sessions in Your Calendar:
The conference you are going to attend is going to have several sessions. Also, there might be chances when the timings of the sessions will clash. Moreover, attending all the sessions would become too hectic for you. Hence, filter things out beforehand. Mark the calendars, and choose the sessions you find exciting. Marking the sessions in your calendar will not only help you sort things out, but it will also ensure that you get a reminder and don’t end up missing out on any prominent session.
4. Test Your Equipment:
One thing you would never want to happen is missing out on an online conference you have been looking forward to for several months due to a glitch in your equipment. To test if your equipment is working fine, log in a few minutes early before the conference.
Apart from testing your audio equipment, you should also check how you place your webcam.
# Here are some tips you should take into consideration while placing your webcam during an online event:
- Sit in a well-lit space; avoid backgrounds that are too bright.
- Use a ring light or a table lamp to minimize your face shadow.
- Keep the background clutter-free. Though you can keep a few objects to add to the character, you should avoid objects that can distract the audience.
- Also, if you don’t have time to prepare for the conference and adjust the background, you can use virtual backgrounds provided by the online conference platform.
5. Minimize Distractions:
Having too many distractions will allow neither you nor your fellow attendees to enjoy the conference. Having minimum distractions will ensure you have a fruitful experience.
#Here are a few tips you should consider:
- Reduce distractions in the background. Sit in a quiet spot at home with no noise.
- Make it clear to your family and friends in advance that you will be in the middle of a conference during some particular hours of the day.
- Turn off your notifications on your mobile phone.
6. Refer to an Etiquette Guide:
To ensure you leave a good impression on your fellow attendees and make the most of your online conference, here is a list of etiquette tips you should follow:
- Show up a few minutes earlier than the scheduled time for the conference. It will give you enough time to make yourself comfortable with the platform, test your equipment, and make yourself acquainted with fellow attendees and even the organizers.
- Keep yourself on mute unless not being asked to speak. Along with it, keep your camera on. Remember, microphone off, camera on.
- There are several features available on the platforms for online conferences to raise your hand or raise a query during the online conference. Use them, and speak when you are allowed to do so.
- Don’t compel yourself to attend the entire sessions; if you feel like taking a break, do so.
- Even though it is a virtual conference, dress appropriately and professionally.
Events are meant for socializing; make the most of attending an online conference by socializing and connecting with people. Online conference platforms such as Mixhub offer users several audience networking tools. You can use them and connect with your fellow attendees. However, there is a certain way to do so; maintain professionalism while you are talking to someone. Introduce yourself with civility.
Host Successful Online Web Conference with the best Conference Software- Mixhub
Online is the present as well as the future of conferences, and there’s no reason you should hold yourself back from hosting one. Virtual conferences have the potential to transform your business and help you touch the skies. The best part is there are several resources readily available that you can use to host conferences for your organization. One such platform is Mixhub, a free & self-managed online platform you can use to host conferences easily and immersively.
Online Conferences- Frequently Asked Questions
Online conferences are simply the conferences hosted in a web space. Online conferences are different from meetings; where meetings are hosted for a day or two, conferences generally last for three to four days. Not only this, web conferences include keynote sessions, panel discussions, workshops, etc.
Online conference platforms are simply the software and applications that enable organizers to plan and host their conferences in web space. One can understand them as the venues for hosting conferences digitally.
There are several advantages of a web conference; some of them are –
· They eliminate the need to travel, and reduce the importance of meeting in person.
· Hosting web conferences is a less expensive affair.
· Enables organizers and attendees to maintain a balance between their private and public life.
· Quantifying the strategies and success of the conference is easy.
· The content produced during the conference is relevant even after it gets over.
Attending a conference can be very advantageous for you; here are a few advantages that you should note.
· It helps you know the latest trends of the industry.
· You get to meet several experts and influencers.
· While attending a conference, you get to learn new things, and apply them in your business.
· Helps you know what your competitors are doing right now, and what you can do to stand out from the crowd.
You get to meet new people, and expand your network.