Virtual conferences provide an opportunity for professionals to connect, discuss industry trends, and network with like-minded peers cost-effectively. Their popularity is increasing, but they are still not mainstream.
A virtual conference differs from a more traditional live event. It is usually available on-demand after the live broadcast has finished, meaning you can enjoy it when it suits you with no need to commit to specific days or times when trying to balance attending with your existing professional life.
There are numerous benefits of organizing a virtual conference, including reduced costs, increased participation rates, reaching out globally, and cutting edge technology use. However, some considerations should be taken into account before committing to hosting one yourself.
These include time needed for set up, security assurances, and client support, among others.
This article lists ten questions to ask your virtual conference provider when interviewing them to determine if they are the right fit for your needs and organizational culture for your virtual conference ideas.
What is the background of the company? What were their previous conferences like in terms of content and quality?
Virtual conferences tend to be more informal than traditional live events. Therefore, a strong track record in virtual conferencing is an essential criterion in selecting a host platform. The most important properties to consider with any virtual conference service include:
- A history of successful virtual conferences.
- The ability to create and publish custom URLs with unique access codes.
- Abundant multimedia options for individual or group presentations, including webinars, audio, video, and images.
- Attendee access to transcripts for all presentations.
- Availability of printable versions of slides and audio files after the virtual conference has concluded.
Virtual conferences offer attendees several opportunities to actively participate in the event. The more choices are given to the speakers and attendees, the better! It is important to provide many options, which include:
- Live chat between participants.
- Polls & Surveys.
- Real-time voting on favorite topics/speakers/presentations etc.
- Online games.
- Sharing ideas through social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.
- Bringing up-to-date industry information via RSS feeds or newsletters sent directly into attendee inboxes before an event (and reminding them of this during the virtual conference itself).
Multiple groups may share one virtual conference host platform to set up their event profiles organized in an on-screen tree structure. Alternatively, the virtual conference provides one master account from which all additional accounts and links can be generated.
A key consideration is whether you would like just a few users to use it at once (e.g., for your marketing department only) or across your whole organization simultaneously. Any system chosen must be user-friendly with easy navigability between main options and auxiliary features alike to not interfere with the business flow.
Virtual conferences are more interactive than traditional live events, meaning that video choice is vital. This includes the ability to host your videos or share videos from YouTube – with the full option of embedding them into presentations and chat boxes available on-screen.
A virtual conference provider should offer several presentation tools, including:
- PowerPoint slides, audio files (podcasts), MP3s, MP4s, etc.
- Whiteboard features.
- Text chat (similar to instant messaging).
- Screen sharing.
- Webcam capabilities.
- Flash files for games and quizzes.
- Image slide shows.
- Mobile phone conferencing with global calling rates included in pricing to not be overbearing on attendees with international call charges.
Virtual conferences can be hosted from anywhere globally, so it is essential to know precisely where your host company’s offices are located and who you would reach out to should any problems arise on the day.
The ideal service provides 24/7 support, a trained team available during setup and throughout the virtual conference itself, and a ticketing system for reporting issues that all employees can monitor at once.
The virtual conference itself must take place on an encrypted network (SSL) with several layers of security technologies, including firewalls, DMZs, AAA servers, etc., for maximum protection of all data.
It is also essential that the virtual conference provider has an established track record of running online events with a high level of security which will reassure you and your team about safety during the event itself.
Having an easily operable virtual conference service is vital, especially if you are looking to engage potential clients or industry professionals from around the globe at once over several days.
The software should function well on desktop browsers, Windows & Mac OSs, tablets, and mobile phones alike – including iOS screens giving independence to Apple users in this regard. Your virtual conference provider should not limit you to just one device!
It is essential to know all of your legal rights and responsibilities both before and after the virtual conference itself. The host company should be fully GDPR compliant, giving you complete ownership of all data collected during the event and ownership over any intellectual property such as slides, presentations, etc., produced for this specific event.
The more options you have in terms of engagement & interactivity, the better!
There are many opportunities with a virtual conference, including polls, quizzes, games (e.g., trivia), live chats with industry professionals/speakers/panelists – or even your coworkers or clients themselves.
Video clips and presentations via social media or just embedding a Twitter feed into your page to allow for real-time communication.
Virtual conferences should be accessible to all visitors, including those with disabilities, mobility problems, coeliac conditions, etc. If it is impossible to meet specific criteria, there should be a plan to improve this over time.
Plans for increased accessibility may include screen readers, sign language interpretation services, subtitles during video clips, etc. This will not only encourage more people from around the world to participate, but it will also give you access to a broader range of experts in all areas!
The host company should provide a comprehensive and detailed report which covers all aspects of the virtual conference: speaker details, social media analytics, polls results, etc., as well as graphs and other visuals to support key performance statistics such as registrations, engagement levels, etc.
Your virtual conference must precisely be what you need to do: engaging attendees from around the world in an interactive way while collecting data on their feedback and preferences – then using this to improve future events!
It would be best to take your time out before choosing a virtual conference provider to research what they can offer and improve plans. The more you know about your provider before signing a contract, the better.