Events have been an essential area for marketing, networking, and sales for many businesses for the past few years. But 2020 has forced companies to shift gears in this area. Large-sized events like conferences are now going into a virtual setting and businesses are now shifting towards virtual conferences.
Many companies, small and large, have been forced to re-evaluate their business, strategy, and how they do things.
Those that could not weather the storm, or in this case a pandemic, struggled. But by reviewing your business model and your strategies, you’ll be able to stay afloat.
At Eventtus, we had a similar experience. We used to create mobile apps for businesses who wanted to manage their on-ground events.
But by the end of March and early April, we knew this wasn’t going to work anymore. We had to make a change or the pandemic would have spelled the end of us.
Our teams sat down together – in a virtual environment – and transformed the Eventtus platform into a destination for virtual venues.
Now, it’s our turn to help you.
This article will tackle what you need to know about virtual conferences, the main aspects of physical conferences versus virtual ones, and what can you replicate in a virtual setting.
What You Need to Know About Virtual Conferences
Virtual conferences tend to be several days long and include panel discussions, keynote speakers, educational sessions, product demos, fireside chats, and more.
Conferences in general tend to offer insights and connect businesses and individuals in a certain industry.
“The purpose of virtual conferences is lead and demand generation, adoption and retention, brand awareness, and relationship building. A virtual conference is a great alternative, or companion for hybrid events, to an in-person conference,” according to Cvent.
However, many businesses are struggling with how to replicate their once-physical events online.
In the past, it was clear where everything was, how many ushers you needed, what sponsor booths looked like and where were they located.
But with everything being online, how do you, as a business imagine this?
It’s odd, in a way, that businesses preferred physical events despite the massive headaches and hassles that accompanied them compared to virtual events, where the hassle and headache are significantly less, if there’s any to deal with at all.
8 Aspects of Physical Events Present in Virtual Conferences
The first thing businesses struggle with is how they can have all the aspects of the physical event in the virtual one.
This becomes even more stressful for businesses who regularly hosted conferences.
“How are we going to create and manage virtual conferences?”
Let’s first discuss the main aspects that a physical conference boasts:
- Large venue
- An agenda
- Booths for sponsors
- Networking areas
These eight aspects are the first to be pointed out when a business wants to host a conference.
The good news is, all of these can be replicated online. Here’s a comparison on each of these points in physical and virtual events.
- Large venue: Businesses and event organizers had to search for large venues that can take the number of people they want to attract to their event.
However, large often translates to high costs, which translates into an overall massive figure for the physical event for both organizers and attendees.
Having a virtual event trims these costs greatly as there is not physical location needed.
- An agenda: The agenda is part and parcel of any event, virtual or physical. This is easy to create but when it comes to a physical event, you’ll have to create flyers and printed copies.
In a virtual scenario, the agenda can be easily disseminated to attendees via email or mobile app or both.
- Booths for sponsors: Naturally, physical events rely on sponsors, who pay big money to have their booths in prime locations of a physical event.
Going virtual, however, doesn’t mean you can’t have sponsor booths. They just look a bit different.
- Networking areas: Normally, physical events have lots of space for attendees and hosts to network.
Many people and businesses worry that going virtual means no networking. Au contraire. There’s lots of networking opportunity in a virtual setting. You’ll just have to bring your own coffee.
At Eventtus, we call our virtual networking areas “Circles” and they have been a major highlight in the events carried out on our platform.
- Speakers: One of the major aspects of a conference was the speakers. Are they local or international?
When bringing in international speakers, event organizers had to pay lots of money for the speaker, their travelling fees, and possibly their stay. In addition, these speakers tend to have limited time slots and some may not be able to attend the event.
In a virtual setting, most of these obstacles are removed. There’s no need to travel or pay tons of money to get speakers to stay for a day or two.
You may still need to pay your speakers but by comparing the costs, you’ll notice you’ve not only saved a lot of money, you’ve also significantly reduced the headache associated with bookings and bringing people to your event.
- Registration process: One of the main aspects and hassles about on-ground conferences is the registration process. Often times, attendees will register online but then there’s a confirmation of their registration and a bit of paperwork once they arrive at the conference.
Going virtual however, the hassle is no longer an issue.
Registration is done online and all attendees need is a link to access the virtual conference.
- Ticketing process: Similar to registration, ticketing can be replicated in a virtual setting using links and promo codes.
If a business is launching a virtual conference via Eventtus, our ticketing widget can be easily installed on the client’s website so attendees visiting the site can easily sign up and register.
- Attendees: Last but certainly not least, the events’ attendees.
While many physical events have turned to email and social media to attract people, attendees still had to physically come to the event.
This often meant driving long distances and, in many cases, travelling from distant cities or even countries.
But with a virtual conference, who needs to travel? Travel barriers no longer exist and attendees from far and wide can attend the virtual conference.
In addition, hosting virtual conferences means you can widen the scope of your attendees and attract viewers from various countries.
There are no limitations to the options you get when you go virtual.
Now that we have those points out of the way, let’s go deeper into the types of virtual conferences and their benefits.
3 Main Types of Virtual Conferences
When considering a virtual conference, there are three main points you have to consider first before going into the deets of the event itself.
Is this going to be a
- Pre-recorded virtual conference?
- Live-streamed virtual conference?
- Hybrid virtual conference?
Let’s explain what each of these three options means.
- The pre-recorded virtual conference: For this type of event, the organizer creates an agenda, pre-records the videos, and publishes them based on the agenda.
- The live-streamed virtual conference: Here everything is done via live streaming.
The event organizer creates an agenda and then each session is live-streamed and followed by a Q&A session with the speaker(s).
Usually, there are multiple sessions in progress with attendees participating in the fields or tracks most relevant to them.
- The hybrid virtual conference: This is a mix of pre-recorded and live-streaming.
It may include pre-recorded sessions and a live Q&A session afterwards or some pre-recorded and some live-streamed sessions followed by the Q&A.
As a business, you get to decide of these you’d like to run. And you can experiment with the different virtual conference options to see which suits your audience best.
The pre-recorded or hybrid virtual conference options can be helpful if you have a small team.
At Eventtus, we’ve worked with all three of these. But the ones that got the highest engagement were the live-streamed virtual conferences such as Techila Con and RiseUp from Home.
Still not sure which event suits your business? Get in touch with the Eventtus team for expert advice.
7 Benefits of Virtual Conferences
As you have probably seen thus far, there are many benefits to hosting virtual conferences. But let’s highlight the main ones with more detail.
- Global reach and audience: By going virtual and removing boundaries of distance and travel, you are not able to invite more and attract more audience to your virtual conference.
Your audience is no longer confined to those of the country hosting the event, but rather, people from all over the world can attend your online conference.
- More attendees than a physical event: Physical locations often come with limitations to the number of attendees. However, with virtual events, those limitations aren’t needed.
Instead of having 1,000 people attend your conference, you can have double or triple or more in your virtual venue.
- Cost effective: You’ve cut down on the costs of renting a physical location and on many costs associated with bringing in international and even local speakers. You’ve also reduced spend on billboards, printouts, banners, and other forms of physical advertising.
You also don’t need as many – if any – ushers because everything is online.
- Less chance of catching a cold or worse the coronavirus: With many people fearing closed spaces and as COVID-19 cases continue to spike, a virtual experience means there’s no chance of anyone catching anything.
- Easier data collection: Data is easier to collect when it’s online. You can see the exact number of people who bought tickets to your event, those who attended, among other metrics.
In addition, and specifically during physical events, companies tend to collect data on notepads and papers that may get lost.
Virtual makes this process easier and facilitates the follow-up process.
- Using analytics and measuring results: Online conferences allow you, as a business, to measure the impact of everything you do, every landing page, every ad campaign, even your entire virtual conference.
You can use analytics to track almost everything, see how many attendees visited sponsors’ virtual booths, which sessions had the highest attendance, which speakers were attendees most interested to talk to…etc.
After the event is over, you can measure and see what worked and what didn’t and use this information to improve your future events. Event organizers also get to have real-time reports.
- Environmentally friendly: This benefit differs from one country to another but generally speaking, going virtual is more environmentally friendly than attending a physical conference.
Attendees don’t have to drive to and from the event, there’s a lot less travel involved, and zero waste in a virtual conference.
How to Engage Attendees in Virtual Conferences
One of the top areas that worry conference organizers, especially when shifting to online, is how they will engage their audience.
The areas that get the most engagement in a virtual event are:
- Q&As: You see how many people are asking questions, making comments,…etc.
- Virtual Sponsor Booths: You can easily track how many attendees visited each sponsor’s booth.
- Networking areas or as we call them in Eventtus “Circles” where attendees get together for talks. You can divide these Circles based on themes, tracks, ideas, or create a general networking space.
Other ideas can include an area where event organizers chat directly with attendees, market their products and more.
You can also reach out to people who visited your organizer booth or a sponsor’s booth and connect with them.
KPIs for Virtual Conferences
When launching a virtual conference, or any form of marketing event for your business, you need to set a number of key performance indicators (KPIs) so you can measure the success – or failure – of that event or move.
These KPIs may differ based on industry or the type of event.
You need to ask yourself first: What do I want to gain from this event?
Your goals need to be clear.
“It is more challenging to attempt to achieve multiple, segmented goals when virtual. Instead, create a single goal that drives the mission of the virtual conference,” states Cvent.
You’ll then need to set KPIs for two sets of goals: Your business goals and attendee goals.
Here’s a list of ideas for each type of goal. You may use one or more of the goals listed. Remember: You can use some ideas as a broad goal with others as sub-goals.
For business goals, you might want to:
- Increase brand awareness
- Generate more leads
- Unveil a new product and get leads for it
- Grow your customer base
- Increase loyalty and customer lifetime value
- Increase your revenues and profits
For attendee goals, ideas include:
- Learning or attending workshops
- Finding entertainment
Whatever your KPIs are, you need to highlight them and discuss them with your team before the event starts. It would be even better to do this step before launching your event and inviting speakers and attendees.
That way, everything you do would be to serve the goal of your event and be measurable through the KPIs you set.
Learn more about how to measure the impact of your virtual conference with Eventtus
Successful Virtual Conferences with Eventtus
As a virtual event platform, we have had the opportunity to conduct multiple virtual events and virtual conferences.
Some were hosted at the peak of the pandemic. Like Techila Con, which is more about TECHnology and less about tequila.
Spanning two days in June 2020, Techila Con was a hybrid event, available online and offline, and aimed to offer innovative ideas to connect techies to their workplaces, businesses and startups.
In its 2020 edition, Techila Con gathered techs and professionals from tech startups, who delivered workshops, masterclasses, tools as well as community exhibitions.
The two-day event saw 1,300+ attendees, which was three times the initial goal, 60 speakers from Dubai, Dublin, Berlin, Cairo, and more, and over 29 sessions.
Techila Con’s event was ready within three days of contacting Eventtus. Their team found the onboarding process to be “effortless” and “user-friendly.”
“Everything we needed was at one place – ticket registration, attendees database and profiles, and the event itself, were all on one platform. The UI and UX were all clear and organized – the feed, sessions, backstage – making navigation very easy and seamless.” — Nour AbdelAal, Co-founder of Techila Con and CEO at Code Geist.
Another virtual conference hosted on the Eventtus platform was RiseUp From Home. It’s worth mentioning that RiseUp’s annual event due in December will also be hosted via Eventtus.
For their From Home event, RiseUp were able to invite international speakers, conduct multiple sessions and workshops simultaneously and watch their attendees network with sponsors, organizers, and each other.
They even wrote a guest post about their experience designing a virtual booth on Eventtus.
Host Your Virtual Conference
It’s clear that virtual events including virtual conferences are going to be a major trend in this coming decade.
From cost-cutting to a lower carbon footprint to less hassles and headaches, virtual conferences do comes with a host of benefits. They pretty much guarantee a successful virtual experience even for businesses just exploring the virtual event scene.
They are also tailored events, and nothing is difficult when designing tech-related options.
Host your virtual conference with the Eventtus Virtual Platform today and enjoy many perks and analytics.