A virtual conference allows remote attendees to join live meetings or webinars from their computers or tablets and interact with others who are doing the same thing. It’s hosted entirely through the web, meaning no need to gather in one specific, in-person space.
In addition to live presentations, such as keynote presentations, a virtual conference can include digital networking opportunities, forum discussions, live chat rooms, and other features that allow attendees to experience many of the same benefits they'd receive at an in-person event.
Live streaming is just like broadcasting, except live streaming delivers content over the internet instead of airwaves. Think of a Zoom meeting as an example of everyday live streaming.
With the average global consumption of video per day at 84 minutes, learning how to live stream a conference is a no-brainer. Increasingly, live streaming is replacing traditional avenues of content distribution because it's real-time, more engaging than static content, and less expensive than bringing an audience together in a physical location.
For organizations seeking success with a live, virtual event, it’s important to work with easy-to-use tools, such as a learning management system (or LMS), to flawlessly launch — and later host — your digital content. We’re here to walk you through the steps you need to take to host a top-notch virtual conference (and look like a pro doing it).
A virtual event is much different than a traditional, in-person event, so it's crucial that your team is aligned on goals from the get-go. In addition to team alignment, the real key to a successful virtual event is to prepare early and thoroughly. (You honestly can't prepare enough.) Our recommendation is to meet with your team regularly and have a set, clear agenda for each meeting. As you're just getting started, here are a few agenda items you'll want to tackle with your team:
Confirm the theme and/or look and feel of the virtual event and determine what visuals will be used in promotional materials as soon as possible.
Assign and define key roles and responsibilities among your team. Who will handle content? Who will handle sponsors? This is truly a "divide and conquer" project.
Decide what tools you’ll need to actually host the virtual event. (See “What tools do you need?” section below.)
To ensure interest in your virtual event, you need to build an agenda packed with valuable, educational content. But keep in mind that with a virtual event, attention spans are typically shorter, so as you're building your agenda, identify ways to keep attendees engaged. Can you spark discussion in a chat room? Can you add in a social media component? Get creative with how you can keep attendees interested and engaged.
Is being live on stage, or in the middle of an in-person workshop, the same as being in front of a camera on your computer? Not even close, which means you’re going to have to help your presenters (and team) to adapt to the new status quo. A couple of suggestions:
Have your entire team practice being on camera, showing and maintaining good energy, and running through key talking points
Consider how your virtual event will meet the needs of the visually and hearing impaired. (The applies to both the live stream component and the post-event content distribution.)
Create a contingency plan. Identify what you'll do if someone's internet connection goes out, you suddenly lose sound, one of your speakers is running late, etc. Little hiccups are bound to happen, so it's always best to be prepared.
A virtual conference yields a lot of valuable content, so you and your team need to consider how you'll manage and distribute that content. (Think session recordings, PowerPoint slides, handouts, etc.)
With a virtual conferencing solution like MC | LMS, you can take code from live streaming and live webinar providers to design a user experience that mimics an actual live conference, giving you and your team a content advantage even after the event is over with post-event, on-demand delivery.
With a virtual conference, the goal is to provide your members with value and generate revenue for your organization. But to successfully do that, a few specific tools are needed:
First, you need some kind of event platform to actually host your virtual conference. When evaluating solutions, think about how it'll meet your needs both during and following the event. For example, with something like a learning management system, not only can you host a live event, but you can also use that same tool to house the content for on-demand access. (Less tools often means less trouble.)
MC | LMS is a prime example of this. With a platform like that, you can live stream content, manage a content library, set permissions, and streamline delivery...among many other capabilities. And we can get you up and running on that in less than a week! First, we'll build your custom site and set up your live stream with custom benefits and features. Then, we'll integrate with partnering software to make your live stream function properly (within the learning management system). We work with a number of tools, such as Zoom, StreamSpot, and TelSpan — for a full list of platforms we integrate with, or to hear a few of our recommendations, reach out to us here.
When it comes down to it, hosting an in-person conference and hosting a virtual conference are two very different beasts: one relies on in-person interactions, and the other has no in-person component at all, relying on live streaming videos, chat rooms, and engaging speakers for a personal connection. With that in mind, it makes sense that the benefits of a virtual conference are vastly different, too.
However, you don’t always have to choose between hosting an in-person conference and streaming a virtual one. In fact, building a strategy that includes both is an excellent way to optimize your resources, engage your audience, and see better returns on your investment.
So, whether you’re focusing on a virtual-only event, or looking to host a hybrid event (with both in-person and virtual components), here’s what you can expect to experience (and gain) by going virtual with your conference:
By taking your conference online, you drastically increase your audience reach. Instead of being hindered by travel costs, both attendees and speakers from all over can join instantly.
On average, a virtual event can be up to 75% cheaper than an in-person event. Whether your intention is to create a virtual-exclusive experience or create a hybrid, virtual + live event, you’ll save money...and likely also generate more!
With a virtual event, your engagement is just getting started. After the original event has passed, you can take your sessions, keynote presentations, and more, and host it online to be redistributed across a number of other platforms.
With in-person events, getting feedback can be hard. With virtual events, your audience is online, engaged, and more likely to take a poll about how their session is going. Plus, since everything is housed online, attendance, revenue, and engagement rates are easily trackable.