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Do This at Your Next Virtual Conference to Maximize Attendance and Impact

It's possible to create a meaningful, interactive conference experience safely - even during a pandemic.

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Personal interaction is the foundation for just about every business partnership or venture in existence — so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the impact on businesses that rely on in-person interaction was nothing short of catastrophic. Even now, the ultimatum is still clear: Find alternate business methods or fail. 

As harsh as that reality is, the silver lining of the pandemic is clear too. There’s a fantastic opportunity for you to reassess and reevaluate every aspect of your business. The digital solutions that proved themselves to be a viable option through the crisis aren’t going anywhere. In fact, a survey by McKinsey found that most executives expect the changes made from the pandemic to be long-lasting and are backing those shifts hard financially.  

Online events aren’t going anywhere either. These events can make an incredible impact if you know how to tap into some of the revolutionary platforms and solutions available to you.

Related: How Your Small Business Can Survive the Covid-19 Pandemic

The real goal of digital events is connection

Even if you consider that some people might be more introverted than others, humans are social creatures. We’re hardwired to want to interact and connect. And part of what’s so amazing about live, in-person events is that you can feel connected to the crowd. You can look people right in the eye, drawing energy and emotion from them. 

When planning your event, your first priority shouldn’t be trying to impress the crowd with tons of bells and whistles or extras. It has to be capturing that connection — the emotional experience. 

Ways to give your audience a memorable experience online

Time to brainstorm: What’s the best way to help people feel connected during an online event? One notable option is to experiment with full stage setups where you’ve got screens delivering live feeds of attendees from around the world. You still can invite a small group of guests in-person, but you’ll up your reach by incorporating live streams. Because everything is in real time, your guests can react to one another with genuine energy and passion.

Put together a wall of monitors with various attendees streamlining from the comfort of their own home or in a conference room, taking part of your virtual event — from Australia, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, the US or any country, for that matter. As the speaker, you’ll be able to point to any one of these monitors and carry on a two-way conversation with attendees from all of these countries separately or at the same time — not just have a one-way conversation with the full global audience. Doing so will demonstrate that dedicated companies can and will find a way to reach their intended audience. And where there is an audience, there is the ongoing opportunity for business growth.

Seeing your audience — and having them see you — is only part of the picture. You need to give them the ability to interact with you beyond just visuals. At regular conferences, it’s always been tough to make this happen well: Often, a pre-selected group might be approved to ask a question, for instance. 

Don’t be deterred by limitations. Think of solutions instead. For example, with online conferences, you can be just as interactive as you might be on social media. Give people a way to chat in real time and respond to the lectures or other events taking place. One way to do this is by utilizing digital breakout rooms. Or, have attendees download free files and share additional resources amongst their group. 

Think of even more ways to mirror that normal conference experience for your guest. Most conferences take place in a large meeting room or even a convention center. Imagine virtual booths that feature the products and services you’d otherwise have set up at the conference. Offer real-time two-way conversations between virtual attendees and those managing the booth, allowing a natural flow of conversation that they might experience in person. 

With these options available, you can get a genuine conversation going that dramatically enriches the experience.

Related: Why Virtual Conferences May Be Here to Stay

You’re not done yet: do this following your event

Finally, don’t forget to consider what comes after the event. Today’s culture is increasingly focused on personalized, on-demand content. Don’t think one and done. Instead, record the presentation. Put it up on your website or any other platform you want. Make it available to attendees so they can go back and replay it in case they missed something —  or want to relive the experience. This is an especially great strategy if you’ve got an event that includes any in-depth training. 

There are plenty of ways to do this. For example, when I speak at a convention, my team utilizes a unique platform that offers virtual attendees 14 days to access our entire three-day events; they can log on and access it as often as they’d like throughout that 14-day period. 

Remember, you can always make your recorded content available to anyone who didn’t attend the conference, for a reasonable fee or as part of the event ticket price. This ensures you are able to continue providing meaningful content all while continuing your revenue stream from that event.

Related: The Four Bs of Planning a Successful Conference for 2021     

Get online now to get out ahead of the competition

Covid-19 inarguably presented a wealth of challenges for companies. Even so, the benefit of the pandemic is that it’s forced us to rethink how we operate. We’ve had to reconsider and rediscover what connection means: how to connect when being together in person isn’t an option. We have proof that digital conferences, presentations and other events are a suitable option — and not just a backup. They serve well, even as a first choice — saving guests the expense of travel, food and lodging. 

In today’s society, we consume everything digitally. What I mean is, everything is online: work, play, connecting with family and friends, education, shopping and more. At a minimum, hybrid events that are online and in-person will become the new norm. 

As you plan your next event, you can either wait for other businesses to innovate digitally and pull ahead, or you can get out in front and go online as boldly as you can. Do the latter, and you’ll be able to reach and connect with real people from all over the world like never before.

JR Ridinger

Written By

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

JR Ridinger is the founder, chairman and CEO of Market America | SHOP.COM, an award-winning global ecommerce and digital-marketing company specializing in one-to-one marketing, and creator of the Shopping Annuity®. For more information: www.marketamerica.com or www.SHOP.COM