5 Steps to Planning a Successful Virtual Conference
As a corporate event planner, your career DOESN’T need to suffer due to the COVID-19 crisis. Yes, while in-person interactions are not really feasible at the moment, you still have plenty of other opportunities available to you – including virtual services.
There are so many ways you can utilize and offer your customers virtual services. Thanks to the advancement of technology, tradeshows, expos, team-building functions, product launches, and so much more can all be held electronically!
Today, we’ll focus on the steps involved in planning a successful virtual conference for your client. With the right research and preparation, you’ll be amazed at how smooth the process can be!
1 – Conduct a Virtual Consultation
During a time when we’re all being encouraged to stay home as much as possible and practice social distancing, in-person consultations should be avoided. Virtual consultations, on the other hand, can be safely conducted from the comfort of you and your client’s respective homes!
Beyond this, there’s really no difference between a virtual consultation and an in-person one. You and the client still get to see each other, the same discussion is still had, the same questions are still asked, the overall goal of the meeting (for both parties) is still achieved.
Your client’s goal will be to learn more about you, what you can offer, and whether you’re the best corporate event planner to help bring their vision to life.
Your goal in the consultation is to learn as much as you can about the client’s business, the scope of the project, who the audience will be, etc. You want to walk away from this meeting with a crystal-clear understanding of the event they want you to help them put together.
If you need some guidance regarding which questions you should ALWAYS be asking during every consultation, here’s a free checklist that you can download!
In addition to the standard consultation questions you’d normally ask, there are certain additional factors that are especially important to discuss with the client. Virtual conferences come with their own unique set of requirements to be successful! One major one is the budget.
As a rule of thumb, almost all virtual conferences are either:
- Live-streamed, or
- Pre-recorded and then published for the audience on a content delivery network (CDN)
Now, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with holding a lower-budget virtual conference. For all intents and purposes, it could very well be done using nothing more than a webcam, a free video platform, and a white wall for the background.
But if this is what your client wants, everyone needs to be on the same page, and willing to call a spade a spade. Because realistically, while the content of the conference may still be solid, the quality probably will not. So long as your client doesn’t care about that, then plan away! (At least the process will be relatively simple, which is never a bad thing.)
On the other hand, your client may have high expectations for their virtual event. So, they’ll also need to have realistic expectations about their budget. Since virtual conferences quite literally create the whole experience for the audience, an elaborate event will require more (and pricier) software and filming equipment.
2 – Determine the Speakers and the Content
Just like a corporate event planner would when organizing a physical conference, you need to figure out who intends to speak at your client’s virtual conference. You’ll also want to decide on the various content that will be presented. Talk with your client about whether they want to have any in-house speakers, as well as what their content would ideally be.
Your client will likely want guest speakers, too. Announce a call for proposals at least a few months before the event is scheduled to take place. Market and promote this announcement through your client’s company website and social media channels. If it’s in the budget, another option is to put up ads online.
All marketing efforts will help increase the announcement’s online visibility and improve its chances of being seen by a larger audience. Once you receive content proposals from interested guest speakers, you, your client, and (if applicable) their team can go over everything and determine who should be speaking, and what content works best with the overall theme/goal of the virtual conference.
3 – Choose the Platform to Host the Conference
This can very well be the make-it-or-break-it factor for any virtual event, so make sure to do proper research! There are so many different conference-hosting platforms available online, but not all of them are going to be reputable or capable of getting the job done.
The best fit for your client will depend entirely on what their event objectives are, and how scalable they want their conference to be. When researching different platforms, ensure to read reviews, scour through websites, and even watch videos that demonstrate the software in action. Don’t ever skimp or try to cut corners on this step!
iCohere is one example that has a strong reputation and positive reviews, Should you wish to review more options and see which one is right for you, though, Capterra has a thorough list of some of the best web conferencing software..
4 – Market, Market, Market!
Once all of the legwork has been put into place for your client’s virtual conference, it’s time to start promoting it as much as possible. Just like you did in Step 2, utilize your client’s company website and social media channels to market the event.
Take out online ads, send emails, and boost any posts about this event on Facebook. These are strategies proven to help increase public exposure and gain interest!
Another important secret to optimizing the event’s marketability is to make it easy for others to promote it as well. Depending on the nature of the conference, there will often be other parties – outside of your client’s company – who have something to gain from this virtual event. For example, sponsors, presenters, exhibitors, and even the attendees themselves have stake in the conference.
As such, they likely will want to help market your conference, too!
You can provide these interested parties with specific language, branding, and selected images that they can freely share in order to promote the event. With the help of your client, you can also learn which of the company’s social media channels tend to have the most activity from the public, so that you can guide others to target these online audiences.
5 – Plan Ahead for EVERYTHING
As a corporate event planner (or any type of planner in general), you already tend to schedule appropriately and plans all tasks ahead of time. But for a virtual conference, it’s extra critical that everyone be organized and on the same page!
Make sure that reminders for all deadlines and notable dates are always sent to the appropriate parties on time – and with plenty of time to spare. Don’t leave anything to the last minute during the planning phase of the event. Doing so WILL almost always have negative consequences, and put your client’s event in jeopardy. If your negligence causes something to go wrong, it’s guaranteed to hurt your professional reputation.
Part of planning ahead is also making sure your client knows to take all the proper measures and precautions themselves. Any virtual event has the risk of running into technical errors, lags, lost connections, etc.
So, encourage your client to have a Support Team that will be working during the time of the conference. This way, if any of their attendees run into a technical problem, there’s someone they can immediately speak to who can help them through it.
Another crucial way to plan ahead is to do one or two dry runs of the conference itself – before the big day. A virtual event is made up of a lot of different puzzle pieces that all need to fit together smoothly. Without a practice run or rehearsal, it could be hard to nail down the flow of the event and get everyone on the same page.
Your client and their company have a reputation to uphold. It’s important that their virtual conference looks as professional as possible!
As a corporate event planner, it’s your job to understand your client and their business to the fullest extent, so you can properly create the vision they have in mind for their event. In light of the COVID-19 crisis, the event planning industry has undoubtedly taken a hit. But it’s NOT accurate to say that there aren’t still lots of services you can provide to clients during this difficult time.
Because the thing is, life will eventually return to normal. When it does, clients are going to want their events to proceed as normal. Virtual planning services provide them the opportunity to continue on schedule, without putting their (or your) health at risk.
Do you have other handy tips for planning a virtual conference? Let us know in the comments!
Another way to maximize your time at home right now is to earn your professional corporate event planner certification! Enroll today in QC’s leading online Corporate Event Planning Course!