Conferences and Events: Lessons From the Last Year
In the past year, our fully virtual world has taught us a lot about conferences and events. There are takeaways for all parties involved in events as meeting planners, presenters and speakers, attendees, and all others have all been pushed to adapt to new formats and settings. Read below for some of the biggest lessons we’ve learned through this entire process and how these lessons relate to all those involved in conferences and events.
Lessons for Event Planners
- Identify the ‘Why’: As with any event, you must first identify why the event is being held. Is it for networking? Earning continuing education credits for an industry credential? This question is even more important in today’s environment. Keeping people’s attention in a fully virtual setting can be more difficult, so make sure the purpose of the event is enticing enough to keep your attendees tuned in. As you explore this point, though, be open to all ideas – you may even find that transitioning a typical in-person event to a virtual experience may not be the best solution to your event, especially if you find the sole purpose of your event is networking.
- Timeline: Planning for a virtual event has a very different timeline than doing so for a traditional in-person event. You can always confirm speakers and content in advance, but for virtual conferences and events the bulk of the work occurs much closer to the event date. Registration is the same way – you can expect most registrations to come in within the final week leading up to the event. Prepare for the last minute rush and don’t panic.
- Training: Technology training with speakers, presenters, and volunteers (among others) is vitally important for virtual conferences and events. Typically, an in-person event includes a dry run a few hours before any presentation. However, technology platform training may occur multiple times for several weeks preceding the event.
- Reach: Virtual events do not have the geographical limitations we are used to regarding audience and speakers. This provides the potential to capture people who would normally be able to participate. Be sure to take advantage and reach as many people as you can.
Lessons for Event Presenters
- Recorded vs. Live Presentations: There may be times when it is appropriate to present live rather than showing a recorded presentation, depending on the overall objectives of the event. Likewise, it may make more sense to show a pre-recorded presentation. Regardless, having the option to record presentations in advance is a great way to avoid technical issues and ensure that a presentation is a smooth as possible.
- Engagement: Audience engagement is more important than ever for virtual conferences and events. We used to have facial expressions, clapping, and head-nodding to read the audience and gauge their enjoyment of any presentation. Without these, it is important to get creative to capture and keep the attention of the audience. Consider interactive moments in presentations, even if simple, to keep this attention. Take advantage of platform features such as live chat and Q&A as well.
Lessons for Event Attendees
- Cost: Without venue or food and beverage expenses, you can provide virtual events at a lower cost than in-person. Take advantage and promote these costs, but also be aware that it may be time to prepare for costs to return to normal as we begin to transition back to in-person (or hybrid) conferences and events.
- On-Demand: Since content can be captured more immediately without additional expense, you can now offer audiences more through on-demand recordings. If you record event presentations in advance, this is even easier.
- Fatigue: This remains a challenge will probably become an even larger one as we enter month 14 of the pandemic. It is critical not to overschedule your virtual events. Take care of event attendees by making sure you show care for their well-being.