How to Create Successful Online Conferences

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So many businesses are shifting to the digital realm to host their biggest event experiences: Online conferences.

Why Create a Virtual Conference?

There are several reasons why an organisation might switch to virtual events. Some of these include greater access and ensuring that the event can still go on in the event of a disaster. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated this. Whatever your reasoning, virtual conferences are now easier than ever to host.

Virtual conferences differ from other online events (such as webinars) in that they are more intensive. Virtual conferences, which are frequently multi-day and multimedia interactions, involve many moving parts as well as the coordination of different key players.

Web conferencing tools allow you to gather your employees, your customers, your suppliers and your other partners around a virtual platform for a work meeting or a seminar. All participants in the web conference can communicate and exchange data in real time from a distance. Web conferencing is a more complete tool than videoconferencing because it allows you to exchange documents live.

With this being said, do not let the intricacy of hosting a virtual conference deter you from doing so. Conferences are an excellent way to share a wide range of information with members in a single convenient package.

Online conferences take this a step further. They allow your company to provide the same level of experience to members without requiring anyone to leave their homes.

Advantages and disadvantages of web conferencing

Advantages and disadvantages of web conferencing

The advantages of an online conference

Online conferences are a direct consequence of the digital transformation that has been taking place for several years now. So, they allow you to facilitate your work on many levels.

Web conferencing is a tool that has two major advantages: saving time and money.

Holding an online conference avoids travel for participants who, instead of physically meeting at one location, will only have to connect from their office to the virtual meeting. Participants don’t waste time traveling, which also saves companies travel costs. For a group with entities all over the world, these benefits are significant.

Participants must be properly equipped to participate in a web conference: they need a computer and, above all, good access to the Internet.

Finally, the exchange of documents and between participants is more difficult to secure. Be careful about the confidentiality and security of information exchanged during a web conference. For more information on computer security, you can consult your government website on this subject.

Save on the costs of organizing a conference

Organizing an online conference requires little equipment and expenses of any kind. Once you have a powerful computer, tablet or smartphone, the essentials are done. All you need to do is make sure you have a good internet connection and you’re all set. For a successful online or face-to-face conference, you can turn to specialized providers such as

Expand the audience of your conference

Online conferences are one of the best ways to make your events accessible to a large number of people. Participants can follow you from anywhere in the world without any difficulty, so you can reach a wider target audience without participants having to travel. In addition, many platforms allow you to record the entire course of your online conference as it happens. This way, you can allow those who could not follow it live to catch up.

Share with your team or your audience in all circumstances

In these times of pandemic, web conferencing makes it easier to work remotely. This way, you can maintain good communication and a good work rhythm within your team. Also, several platforms or dedicated companies allow you to make your conference a real interactive seminar.

This, notably thanks to certain functionalities such as :

  • screen sharing ;
  • chatbox ;
  • microphone and camera options for participants;
  • document exchange.

These are all features that make your online conference more interactive and thus more interesting and desirable for your audience.

The disadvantages of holding an online conference

Lack of physical contact

One of the major disadvantages of online conferencing is the lack of physical contact. This lack of physical contact hurts team cohesion in a very real way. The other equally important disadvantage is the technical problems. These can happen at any time. However, you can avoid them as much as possible by testing your material in advance.

Face-to-face conferences: a sometimes tricky option

Being able to communicate in front of your audience is one of the best features of face-to-face conferences. You can easily get an idea of your audience’s receptivity. Also, the various meetings as well as the exchanges carried out are richer. They are a good complement to your conference program.

More expensive

However, face-to-face conferences are more expensive for both the organizers and the participants. In addition, the number of participants is limited in this type of conference. Online conferences, on the other hand, make up for the shortcomings of face-to-face conferences. They still offer a unique experience and a human contact that remains essential in certain situations.

In short, it is up to you to choose the type of conference to hold, depending on your objectives and circumstances. Also, the option of hybrid conferences can be considered to get the best of each type of conference.

Content is King

Content is King

Content is crucial for any event and the same is true for virtual events.

In-person, conferences include keynote speakers, lunches, product launches and exhibits. In a virtual conference;

  • Presentations become webinars
  • Speaker panels become live-streamed events
  • Networking events become video chats
  • Sponsored exhibition elements become virtual trade shows. They will have sponsor pages and areas rather than physical exhibits.

Planning for a virtual conference? Be sure to include the same key elements and experiences that you would have included in a physical event. Simply alter these elements to make them more web-friendly.

Focus on Engagement

A difficult aspect of hosting online conferences is keeping members engaged. At a physical event, members are confined to a single location, whereby they are compelled to participate as a result. Even if they are not paying close attention or engaging, they are interacting with the event by simply being present.

However, with virtual events, it is easy to lose that engagement completely. Members can easily open a web browser, log into the event, and then walk away from the computer, effectively “walking out” of your event. It is up to you to mitigate that risk.

It is important to add some context to the subject matter of your event. Showcase where the event fits into the overall experience that you are offering. This proves to attendees the value of what is being offered. The more value they see in your event, the better the engagement and the more successful your event will be. After all, you still have your own agenda to profit from the event and that will only be possible if there’s enough engagement and participation from the audience.

The right web conferencing application

There are several web conferencing tools that allow you to make presentations, meet online, collaborate and share documents in real time with your employees, customers and suppliers.

To better filter web conferencing applications, here are some points to consider:

  • What are the functionalities you need (video exchanges, audio, document exchanges? If yes, what is the size of the files in general? Do you need instant messaging?…)
  • Does the proposed tool allow for a free trial period to verify that the product corresponds to what you are looking for?
  • How many participants will usually attend your web conferences?
  • Do you want the web conferences to be recorded?
  • Are the network connections of your employees and partners compatible with the possible requirements of the application you are interested in?
  • Do you want to be able to customize the web interface as you wish?
  • What budget are you willing to spend on the web conferencing application?

Choose a solution that offers a free trial for a few days, so that you can judge the application before committing yourself.

Quick Tips

To liven up your conferencing sessions, consider the following:

  • Webinars can be pre-recorded or live. Sessions can be replayed using expertshares platform, allowing greater flexibility for attendees.
  • Panels of speakers with live chat features. Expertshares live chat functionality creates a sense of community amongst attendees.
  • Gamification and social learning features are added to enhance e-learning experiences. Use expertshares poll function to get live votes from your attendees.
  • Exhibitor booths and virtual trade shows are available. With expertshare, you are able to create exhibits and immerse your attendees in a complete virtual experience.

Session resources, such as transcripts and educational content, should be available for download.

Expertshare makes resources and downloads easily available to participants. 

These include;

  • Full-day networking chats and forums, as well as small group breakout sessions
  • Virtual member-to-member meetings.

In summary, online conferences are a multi-faceted approach to conferencing. It requires exceptional content and a powerful virtual-events platform. Excellent community-building features should be available to keep attendees engaged. Check out our hybrid events article on how to best combine these features with an in-person event.

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