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Ten steps to success when planning your virtual, face-to-face or hybrid conference

By 29th August 2023September 1st, 2023Blog, Virtual events
Person Using Mobile Phone In Conference Room | Axiom Communications

Planning your next face-to-face, fully virtual, or hybrid event? Then these top 10 must do’s, will help ensure you and your event come out on top.

1. Define your purpose. Be clear about your goals.

Start with the end in mind.

With any event, irrespective of how you deliver it, your goal is to engage as many people as possible and give everyone an enjoyable and memorable experience – participants, speakers, facilitators, panellists, production partners and organisers alike.

Even before you think about hiring a venue, or choosing a technical partner, define your goals. If you aren’t clear about your destination, it is impossible to plot a route to get there or tell if anyone gets lost along the way.

Consider what you want to achieve, who you need to engage to achieve it, and how you’ll know you’ve successfully delivered it. Ask yourself:

“What do I want participants to be doing differently after this event?”

What will they say, see, and hear after you’ve turned the venue lights off, or they’ve switched off their screens?

Identify some hard and soft performance metrics, ideally that align with things you are already measuring because they are important to your organisation.

Undertaking ‘pre-search’ with a representative audience sample will help you meet your audience’s needs. It also benchmarks where you are before the event, so you can remeasure afterwards to see your progress.

2. Find the right format

With your purpose and goals in mind you can now consider which format will work best for your event and intended audience. Here are some things to think about:

In-person events

This is a preferred format for many, especially post-pandemic. It’s particularly impactful for:

  • Leadership events
  • Awards ceremonies
  • Team bonding events.

Fully virtual events

Tried and tested, these are proven to work well for:

  • Global launches (be it launching a vision, strategy, service or product)
  • Townhalls
  • Board and team meetings
  • Gatherings where participants have established relationships.

Hybrid events

These types of events are great for encouraging high levels of collaboration when not everyone can be in the same room. They work well for:

  • Global townhalls
  • Events with special guest speakers
  • Events facing challenges relating to sustainability, budget, travel or venue availability.

When speakers or delegates need to travel long distances to attend your event, offering a virtual element increases the chances of gaining their involvement and ultimately their commitment.

3. Align your resources

Running a great event can suck up enormous amounts of time, resource, and subject matter expertise, so be clear about what needs doing and who is doing it.

Then share both the plan and the workload. Careful planning and communication are key. The devil really is in the detail if you want to deliver a truly outstanding experience.

For example, although a hybrid conference is ‘one’ event, it takes more thought and planning to make it work equally well for those dialling-in and those there in-person.

You don’t want your virtual audience to feel they are getting a ‘second class’ service. To avoid this you might, for example consider:

  • The position of your cameras
  • Appointing conference facilitators dedicated to helping those online, or
  • Electing ‘champions’ or ‘reporters’ who represent virtual participant interests.

We also recommend creating a ‘playbook’. The idea is to create a single version of the truth, which literally keeps everyone on the same page. Your playbook should contain:

  • The reasons you’re holding the event
  • Who’s coming and where they’ll be
  • The agenda
  • Interactive exercises, and
  • All the actions that need to be taken and by whom.

4. Create clear, consistent, and compelling content

Whatever form your event takes, engaging, relevant, and excellent content, with built-in interactivity, is an absolute essential. Partnering a skilled content designer, facilitator, and event producer, will ensure you achieve the experience and results you are looking for.

Keep in mind the dynamics are different for audiences attending in-person or dialling-in. For example, those in the room might be distracted by lunch being laid out, whereas those dialling-in may be unable to resist the lure of multiscreening or multitasking.

Either way, your content, and its delivery, needs to keep your participants on the edge of their chair – ideally the front edge!

Consider attention spans, especially for remote participants.

  • Schedule frequent breaks, at least every two hours.
  • Build-in interactivity, change the energy and the tempo.
  • Give participants time to action plan as the meeting unfolds.
  • Get participants mingling and socialising, which is achievable online by harnessing interactive tech.

5. Present brilliantly

No matter how good your content, if it’s presented poorly, the whole room (real and virtual) will ‘switch off’.

You want speakers who deliver with confidence and credibility. You’ll need to help them fine-tune their delivery, perhaps by offering coaching or presentation skills development.

Not everyone is a naturally gifted presenter. Some feel unwell at the thought of ‘giving a speech’. Others think they are outstanding – despite audience feedback often suggesting otherwise! If that’s the case, don’t despair. Enlist the services of a partner like Axiom, who are skilled at preparing your presenters and shaping the way they tell their ‘story’ so they give a stand up performance – be it on stage or screen.

If time or budget is tight but you want your speakers to shine, why not take advantage of Axiom’s e-learning workshops:

  • How to present brilliantly, and
  • The power of storytelling.

Another way to brilliantly present all your content is to thread everything together so it flows logically and effortlessly. Professional facilitation helps enormously here.

“The word facilitate means to make easy.”

Once again, conferencing experts, like Axiom, are ideally placed to help. We can partner you to provide professional facilitators or upskill your own colleagues to confidently facilitate.

6. Get the technology right

Interactive technology can drive highly engaging, inclusive, and outcome-oriented events for everyone.

There are a multitude of ways to use event technology to create an outstanding experience for both in-person and virtual audiences. Such as:

  •  On-screen meeting navigators that allow participants to track where they are in an event schedule.
  • Participant and speaker profiles available online or on an app to aid networking, with AI matchmaking.
  • Built in exercise countdown clocks to keep everyone on track
  • Quizzes and polls that check for understanding
  • Online ‘rooms’ that replicate traditional breakout rooms for virtual delegates, or augment breakout rooms at blended or in person events.
  • Interactive chat and Q&A features, which democratise participant contributions by giving ‘quieter’ audience members a ‘psychologically safe’ voice.
  • Agreeing priorities and making decisions collaboratively, instantly, globally.
  • Beaming remote participants live into any real or virtual room.
  • Virtual ‘green rooms’ where you can prep presenters – to not only survive but thrive.
  • Live simultaneous (picture in picture) translations (into spoken language, via audio or captions, and sign language), that make your event truly inclusive.
  • Going ‘holographic’ on stage or creating 3-D virtual studios online.

Properly facilitated, innovative tech takes your event to new heights to make it an enjoyable, interactive, and memorable experience for all.

Did you know for in-person events Axiom can provide you with technical expertise including lighting, staging, set and sound?

And, if you are delivering virtually, we can help you find the perfect platform, at a price that suits your budget.

Either way, we can take care of all the technical stuff, so it’s one less thing for you to worry about.

7. Get the timing right

Timing is everything.

One of the great benefits of modern conference technology is that people can watch from all over the world, but don’t forget they may be joining from different time zones.

However strong your content, it’s likely less engaging straight after lunch, at 5am, or 5pm – regardless of whether you’re going from London, San Francisco, or Mumbai.

It’s an especially good idea to schedule Q&As and fireside chats with senior leaders that are time zone friendly.

Recording your content and offering an on-demand playback option, means people can catch up at a more convenient time or remind themselves of your carefully crafted content.

Irrespective of how you are conferencing, be it face-to-face, fully digital, or hybrid, keeping to time is vitally important.

  • Remote presenters will have set their watches and schedules for when they’ll be required. And participants always appreciate events that run to time.
  • Starting late is the height of rudeness in many cultures.
  • Overrunning presenters are often described as ‘stealing’ others time.
  • Finishing late is universally unacceptable.
  • Staying on track and on time within a three-minute window shows respect and discipline. To achieve it technical and performance rehearsals are essential.

8. Deliver a seamless production

In-person attendees have a right to expect a flawless event. They’ll be comparing their experience to the best events and shows they’ve ever seen.

Remote participants want something that differentiates your event from their most recent ‘Zoom’ or ‘Teams’ call, as an absolute minimum. But they will likely be benchmarking against live TV or Ted Talks.

All the production facilities associated with a back of room control desk can be recreated in the virtual environment; intro music and videos, mixing between speakers, slide progression, video cueing, moving to break out rooms, cutting to interactive elements, playing in remote contributors.

Axiom can make all this technical delivery seamless and stress-free for you. You name it and we’ve got a proven physical and virtual way of doing it.

9. Generate genuine action post-event

Your event is the catalyst for ongoing action, otherwise why are you doing it? Event success should be evident long after your participants have gone.

This is the stage at which you should go back to step one – to your purpose and goals.

What do participants need to do to bring your key messages to life, so that they ripple out to your colleagues, stakeholders and customers?

What helps inspire post event action?

  • Personal and team action plans – generated during the event and implemented after it.
  • Reporting and metrics that hold people to account.
  • Ongoing communications that harness all your internal channels, will help reinforce new ways of working.
  • Sharing the event recording to extend audience reach, reinforce messaging, and increase your return on investment (ROI).

10. Measure success and ROI

It doesn’t matter how good you think your event was, if you can’t assess if it met your goals or evaluate the ROI, you’ll never really know.

Again, return to step 1 and ask:

“Did you get to your destination, or did people get lost along the way?”

Has awareness of your strategy improved? Is morale better? Is customer satisfaction up? Are new employees staying longer? Has compliance improved? Are fewer sick days being taken? Is waste at an all-time low or quality at an all-time high?

To find out, ask your event participants, or colleagues not fortunate enough to attend. The employee experience matters, and it can help you drive your customer experience up too. You can’t credibly suggest your event had a part to play in achieving success if you can’t measure its contribution.

‘Ten steps to event success.’ These steps may sound simple, but event organisers everywhere know it’s anything but.

So, if you’d like a helping hand planning your next in-person, virtual, or hybrid event, Axiom can help. We’ve been designing and delivering world class live events and interactive conferences for global brands for nearing three decades. We’d love to partner you – CONTACT US TODAY!