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How to ensure your virtual conference gets the results you need

By 19th November 2020Blog, Virtual events
Businessman holding a graph | Axiom Communications

The ongoing impact of Covid-19 means that many of us are turning our attention to organising a conference online.

At Axiom, we work hard to ensure we fully understand our client’s business goals and their vision for employee engagement in the current climate. We then translate them into ideas to create informative, interactive and inspiring virtual conferences that lead to action and live long in your memory, long after you unplug your headphones and switch off your laptop.

Although it can seem overwhelming if you haven’t worked this way before, we can assure you that it’s possible to create really engaging online conferences that in many respects are every bit as effective as physical events, if not more so in some cases! It just takes a slightly different approach, some tech and learning some new techniques.

Thankfully, the online events world is nothing new to us. We’ve been amassing the skills needed to help shape highly creative, outcome-focused virtual conferences for 25 years.

In this article we’ll share some tips to help you get the best outcome.

Plan for success

We all spend so much time looking at screens these days and ‘Zoom fatigue’ is a real thing, so careful planning will make sure that you avoid common pitfalls and get the most impact from your virtual event.

Keep a clear picture of your overall goals and the key messages you want to communicate at the forefront of your mind as you plan your conference, they are the North Star that all your activities should point towards.

Relating everything back to your goals means you’ll avoid going off track and wasting resources. What do you want people to do differently after the event? And what does success look like? Once you know the answers to these questions, set some measures so you will know if you have been successful.

To get the most out of the time you have participants online for, it’s important that you’re focussed on their needs, particularly in these strange times. Conducting research before the event to help you determine what’s on people’s minds will help you develop and adjust your content for maximum impact. There are lots of engaging ways of carrying out pre-event research, like quizzes and online surveys.

Without confident and dynamic speakers your event will fail to engage participants, even if the content is brilliant. Presenting on a 13-inch-wide computer screen is a lot different from presenting on a 13-metre-wide stage and requires a different skill set. Most people will benefit from professional coaching in this area, from learning how to keep a virtual audience engaged to managing the technical side of online event platforms – and that’s something we can help with.

Get it right on the day

Getting the right blend of virtual technology and personality takes skill, but it’s the key to making your virtual conference success.

Your conference facilitator has a hugely important role to play, making sure that the sessions flow seamlessly, all the dots are joined up and that participants and speakers alike are fully engaged. They need to be able to inject energy and enthusiasm − no mean feat in a virtual environment!

Another essential for any conference is having a skilful, reliable and unflappable technical expert on hand to deal with any issues that might arise. This needs to be someone with experience of virtual conference software and the ability to act quickly under pressure.

Attending a conference on a computer screen is a different experience to sitting in an audience surrounded by people, so you have to work harder to keep the attendee’s attention. We can help businesses create vibrant, compelling content that is targeted to the virtual environment through specially designed workshops.

Really, there isn’t much that you can’t do online. Online event platforms have lots of amazing tools for creating meaningful interaction, like voting systems, polls, prioritisation tools, quizzes, word cloud creation, live Q&A sessions and much more. A virtual conference may even encourage people to take part who would normally prefer to sit on the sidelines, as well as stopping ‘the usual suspects’ from dominating proceedings.

Just don’t try to squeeze in too much information or make the conference too long. People can only concentrate for a few hours at a time, so it’s better to make your content focused for the biggest impact. By keeping it short and sweet, you don’t risk losing people to their email, internet shopping or other distractions. Excluding traditional activities like writing notes on flip charts cuts down on time – and avoids pages of text that lose their meaning after the event!

Anything (most things!) you could have done before; we can do online – we’ve got the modern technological equivalent.

Keep up momentum even after the event has ended

After people close the virtual conference window, you don’t want them to forget about it as they get swept back up into ‘business as usual’. The most successful events keep the momentum going in the weeks that follow.

One way of doing this is to ask people to do something that ties into your key message − tell them what you want them to do next. Follow-up on anything that’s been agreed.

We’ve always been advocates of evaluating events. Assessing the outcomes of the conference against the goals and objectives that you established in the planning phase will help you learn and improve for the future. Evaluation is even more important in this new virtual world that many people are learning about for the first time.

There’s no doubt that virtual events can be just as productive and fun as physical events, maybe even more so! We’ve specialised in all aspects of employee engagement event work for over 25 years, especially the use of collaborative technology and the virtual world isn’t new territory for us.

Get in touch if you’d like us to partner with you to create a memorable, impactful and inspiring virtual conference.