How to Get Sessions on Time

Coordinating successfully with speakers

The most difficult part of any online event is coordinating the content. It’s far more difficult than any marketing challenge, getting sponsors, or any other aspect of planning the event. 

Without your speakers and their presentations, you wouldn’t have an event at all – which is why they are absolutely integral to your event. However, they’re difficult to coordinate with leading up to your event. More than one client of ours has described it as ‘herding cats.’ How do you make this process easier?

  1. Make your expectations clear from the beginning.

You’ll have to contact your speakers a few months before the event to make sure they’ll have time to even participate in the event, so the moment you contact them to ask them to speak, make your expectations clear. Tell them when the event is, when your deadline for title/abstract submissions is, and when your deadline for the recorded session is as well (if you’re doing pre-recorded instead of live). 

If you’re doing a live event, tell them what days the event is, ask when on those days they’re available, and lock them in ASAP. 

     2. Have a contract – and get them to sign it.

The moment they say they’re interested, send them a contract that you’ve created specifically for the event. The easiest way to do this is to leave the name area blank and
 have them sign their initials on every page. You can do this with an online signature service or just have them print it out and scan it back to you. If they’re unable to scan it back, just get an email from them saying that they agree to it and they understand the terms.

Inside of that contract, reiterate the deadlines from above. This way, you make it extremely clear with them that your expectations are written in stone and they understand. 

     3. Keep in contact with them frequently.

Especially if you’re doing a pre-recorded session, which will likely be submitted two weeks before the event, keep in contact with your speakers. Ask them how the recording is going, how the slides are coming along, if they have any questions. You can come up with many reasons to contact them. 

You should also create a graphic that your speakers can use on their blog or personal website; this way they can say that they’re speaking at your event. Presenters love to brag about the events they’re involved in, and that’s great marketing for you as well. 

The bottom line is, though: be patient. Without your speakers, you wouldn’t have an event. Make sure they know they’re appreciated and they’ll come back for your next one, too! 

Have any questions? Send me an email at caitlin@vconferenceonline.com and I’ll be happy to help out!

How to Incorporate Online Events into Your In-Person Events

While online events are gaining traction, there still are many reasons to have in-person events. Some sponsors prefer in-person booths, some attendees enjoy the chance to leave the office for a few days, and other reasons. However, you may still want the opportunity to reach a larger audience – sponsors who like the option of online downloads in their booths, attendees who prefer to learn from home or their offices, bosses who don’t want to pay for travel costs. 

You can combine the two very successfully to get the best of both worlds. Here are a few of our tips to do so.

1. Live stream your sessions

To make the online attendees feel like they’re really a part of the action, live stream your presentations during the in-person event. You can do this using any number of applications, such as YouTube Live (which now has taken over Google Hangouts), LiveStream, etc. Anything that gives you a live stream link will work successfully. 

Make sure that you have a good quality camera (a GoPro or a good smart phone camera will both work great) and that your audience can see both the slides and the presenter’s face. 

2. Make the slide decks available online.

This will benefit both your in-person and your online attendees. Whether they’re sitting in
the back of the room and forgot their glasses or they simply follow along better when they have the slides in front of them on their computer, always make sure you have slides available. 

This will be great for after the live portion of the event as well. Those who attended the sessions live will like having the deck to refer to in the future and those who missed the session will be able to look back and see what they missed.

3. Make the presentations available On Demand for both in-person and online attendees

Just about every in-person conference I’ve been to has more than one presentation going at a time. Because of this, it’s impossible for any attendee, no matter how meticulous, to
 see all of the content live. Your in-person attendees will be excited about the opportunity to be able to catch the presentations that they missed, and your online attendees will be more likely to view all of the presentations at their leisure. 

4. Allow your online and in-person attendees both to participate in Q&A

You can do this a couple of different ways. Your speaker/presenter can have an online chat room that they can refer to during the Q&A with the in-person crowd, so that they answer questions from both audiences; alternatively, you can ask your speaker to answer questions from the online audience after the event using a chat room. 

Either way, you’ll want your online audience to feel as much a part of the action as your in-person crowd. In-person attendees tend to try to catch the speaker after they are finished with their presentation, whether by the stage or in the lobby afterwards. Your online audience does not have that opportunity, so you need to make sure that they have the option to ask their questions as well. 

5. Work with your sponsors

You have more sponsor real estate, so to speak, utilizing an in-person and online event simultaneously. It’s quite easy for sponsors to send you materials for an online booth – typically online downloads, links to their site, online giveaways, and graphics. This opens up a lot of opportunities for different kinds of sponsorships. 

Your in-person sponsors may want to have both virtual and physical booths as well. You should approach them and see if they would be interested in having an online and a physical presence at your event. 

Keeping these few tips in mind, you can have a truly successful online event to accompany and broaden the audience for your in-person event!

Have any questions? Send me an email at caitlin@vconferenceonline.com and I’ll be happy to help out!

Case Study – Online Events and Membership Sites

Today, we have a great free download for you. 

We’ve created a few different case studies based on some of our most successful events hosted on vConferenceOnline. Today’s is about a technology membership site who wanted a way to communicate more effectively with their audience as well as give them a great way to access the ever-changing information in their sphere. 

Using vConferenceOnline’s online event platform, they were able to reach their goals and create a fantastic international online event the size of which their industry had never seen before. 

Just fill out the form below and we’ll email the case study to you!


 
      




 
  • Should be Empty:

 

Combining Live and Simulated-Live Sessions

As technology advances and events transition smoothly from in-person to online, one thing remains certain – there’s just something our presenters enjoy about giving their sessions live. Online events have a great way to simulate this experience with simulated-live presentations. These are recorded ahead of time at the presenter’s leisure at their home or office with a neutral background, then scheduled for the event. This is a great option because it allows the speaker to interact with the audience in real-time, answering their questions and engaging in deeper discussion with them.

However, many speakers like to present their session via a live stream of some sort – YouTube, Google Hangout, etc. This gives them the same feeling as speaking at an in-person conference, allowing them to end the session with about fifteen minutes for a Q&A.

With this in mind, how do we make sure that both of these kinds of presentations are successful and streamlined?

Over-communicate with your presenters

For both live and pre-recorded sessions, you need to be in frequent communication with your presenters. For both, they will need similar guidelines. Dress-code, a neutral background (preferably without a window behind them), a quiet surrounding – and of course they need to have their slide deck ready.

One tip that we’ve found very successful to make both types of sessions look streamlined is to have the same theme on the slide decks for all presentations. It doesn’t have to be fancy – in fact, it shouldn’t distract from the speaker’s presentation. A simple grey background, a teal ombré, or even black would be fine – and don’t forget the event logo!

You also want to leave a space for the presenter’s webcam on the slide deck. A square in the lower or upper right corner is typical. If you prepare the slide deck theme for your presenters, you can ensure a great-looking session. 

 

Make sure they know the schedule

For pre-recorded, you’ll want to make sure that the presenter knows the due date for sending you the recording. This way, they will have lots of time to prepare their slide deck, set aside an hour or two to do the recording, and polish it if necessary. Most speakers are used to live presentations; this will likely go pretty smoothly.

  • You’ll want to take tip 1 into account here, though – keep in contact with your speaker to make sure they know the date is coming up and ask if they have any questions.

For live streamed sessions, you’ll want to schedule a walk-through with the presenter to make sure they are comfortable with the live stream service you have chosen. This typically only takes about ten minutes as most live stream services are made with us in mind. You should schedule this for a few days before the event so that the how-to is fresh in everyone’s minds.

As long as your speaker has all of the information that they need and you know that they are prepared, you will both feel less pressure on the day of the event. If you and they are less stressed, the event will be a breeze!

 

Utilize your resources

Depending on the online event platform that you’ve chosen, you’ll have a variety of resources at your fingertips. With vConferenceOnline, we provide a full library of how-to resources that guide you step-by-step through creating and setting up your event. We also provide a project manager who will be available by phone and email leading up to and during your event to make sure that everything goes smoothly for you and your event is a hit.

Your job is to bring the ideas and the materials to the platform – our job is to make sure that your event is fantastic and your audience looks forward to the next one! With that in mind, ask any questions you have for your event. We’ll be happy to help out and even give you ideas for how to make it even more successful. With nearly a decade of online events under our belt, we have lots of data and a bevy of analytics in our pockets.

If you keep these three tips in mind, you’re sure to make both live and simulated live sessions look fantastic to your audience; your speakers and audience will have a great time discussing the topics, too!

And always, if you have any questions, feel free to email us!

Talk to you soon!

Why Is Customization Important?

One of the more important options you have when selecting a virtual event platform revolves around customization options.  You’re already putting in major effort in creating and providing your virtual event, so the customization (being able to contribute your own look and feel on several key elements) is the fit and finish to your event that can make a huge difference.

This is part of a series of posts that supplement the “5 Things to Ask…” free planning guide, available at the top of the right column of this page. Get your free copy here.

There are several areas to consider for your customization: they include items that are based in the platform, but also items that are things you control entirely for the presentations.  Here’s a quick look:

Slide templates – make sure your slides have a common theme and look and feel.  While this seems perhaps tedious and odd, it’s important to have your event (even if it’s a webcast), have your logo information, your branding, you “look and feel.”   These things reinforce to the attendee who is providing the event, and where to turn with questions on the overall event and information provided.  Creating templates in your presentation tool (like Powerpoint, for example) is typically pretty straightforward.  Taking the time to create the template and distribute it to your speakers is a small step that has a big branding and consistency pay off for your event.

On-screen elements – talk with your provider about options you have for customizing the environment.  Things to ask about include:

  • Your logo placement throughout the event environment
  • Your graphical backgrounds and designs (1)
  • Your graphics and designs on the registration pages and microsite

(1) examples of this include one event where we were doing some work with school busses.  We changed the lobby to include a school bus and used the windows of the school bus as the navigational elements in the event (instead of conference room doors).  Consider using your offices, or your campus or other items that relate to your business and the industry you are serving.

Exhibitor booths – if you’re having booths inside your virtual event, consider the options you have for booth designs and how much your exhibitors can easily take advantage of those options.  Graphics sizing, options for using the “margins” on the page (some exhibitors like to include coupons in these spaces), custom menu and button options, custom videos and assets, along with general customization to the look and feel are the things you’re looking for here.

Emails, (Attendee Correspondence) – How much control do you have over the branding, look and feel and other elements that make up the email contact capabilities for notifications, announcements, etc.  These are important because you may be able to offer sponsorship opportunities (as an example) where you can include sponsor logos in the emails about your event.  In addition, you will want to make sure your branding is prominent and consistent.

There are many different components to customization.  While most platforms will indicate that customization is allowed, the “how” of it all – the options available – vary widely, as do the tools and approach to implementing the customization.  Ask lots of questions, find out the various things possible and make sure they align well with your company and show branding and functionality requirements.

Should you charge for your online event?

In your to-do list for your event, one of the first things is to decide: are you going to charge attendees to view your event, or are you going to find other ways to cover the cost of hosting? When this question comes up, usually there are two options:

  1. Charge attendees to cover the costs
  2. Charge sponsors to cover the costs

If your event is well-established (you’ve been hosting it for a while either online or in-person), it’s easy to justify charging an attendance fee. Your content is consistently worth the attendees’ time, you’ve been in the game for a while so your name is known, and if you haven’t been charging yet, the attendees are likely surprised that you’re “giving away” your content.

If you’re just starting out or if your audience balks at the idea of paying for attending an online event, you may want to approach sponsors in a different way and view them as benefiting from the event just as much as you and your attendees do, turning it into sort of a ricochet effect – your attendees benefit, so your sponsors benefit, and so you benefit. 

 

Let’s say your event is established and you’ve decided to charge for it. How much do you charge? Your first step would be looking at other events in your sphere.

  • What similar events are there?
  • Are they online or in-person?
  • If they’re also online, how much are they charging for their content?
    • How many presentations do they have lined up?
    • Are the speakers going to several different events and repeating those presentations at each (are the presentations not unique to the event)?
    • How well-known are their speakers?
    • How well-known is the event?
    • Are they competing with another event happening at the same time?
  • If the event is in-person, consider the other fees that the attendee or their company will have to cover (hotel, food, travel, car, time out of the office).

If you find one very much like yours (online, similar renown, etc), that’s your best reference point. If they are a competitor, this is your chance to slightly lower your price (while making sure that your costs are covered and you will profit from the event).

If you can combine the profit from the sponsors AND the profit from the attendees, I would recommend that you lower the price for the attendees. If the price is lower, more attendees will be able to attend and you’ll actually profit more!

Have other questions about hosting an online virtual event? Not sure about the difference between virtual tradeshows, virtual conferences, webcasts, or classes? Shoot me an email at caitlin@vconferenceonline.com and I’ll be happy to answer your question – it may even end up on this blog! 

Virtual Events are Too Expensive!

The cost of virtual or online events is a really big factor when deciding whether or not to host an event this way. Marketing budgets are always pretty tight and approaching the Powers That Be for a budget boost or with a new idea can be nerve-wracking.

Luckily, I can set your mind at ease with just one sentence: online events are far more cost-effective.

If you’ve ever hosted an in-person event, you’ll know how tedious, frustrating, and expensive they are. Without exception, in-person events just end up with nickel-and-dime costs like coffee, lunches, security, space for the event, bathrooms, staff for check-in, and so much more. Sometimes you’ll even hear the dreaded phrase, “food and beverage, plus-plus.”

meeting-469574_1280

“Pens will be extra.”

With an online event, nearly all of those costs vanish. The online event platform becomes your venue. The security is built into the event and is mostly for the purchase of event admission and moderation in chat. Check-in desk is null and void because it’s done automatically with a login. Coffee is supplied by the attendee’s own office. They likely brought their own lunch (or you’ll have an hour break for them to go get it). There is no plus-plus with an online event.

Some platforms will cost a little extra for customer support chat. However, in-person events have the same thing – staffing. No in-person event allows for a self-service set-up (what venue would allow that?) and yet most online event platforms have some form of it to give you even further discounts.

In the age of technology, where we all carry a micro computer in our pocket and are in constant contact with our friends and coworkers, the convenience of an online event will also make it more profitable. You open the doors to a wider, international audience, inviting more success and leads (which is what we all want from these events anyway). It’s a busy world and if an attendee doesn’t have to take half a week off to fly to your conference and be unable to work for the whole time, they will jump at the chance.

Not only will an online event save you money, but it will likely make you more money as well. Take that to your boss.


Have any questions about hosting a virtual event and want a great platform that will help you every step of the way? Email us directly at sales@vconferenceonline.com 

Looking for a subscription-style virtual event platform? Check out our new pricing model here.

Simplifying Online Events

Continuing with the theme of “biggest concerns about online events,” another worry I hear from clients is that hosting virtual events just seem so complicated. This is understandable when you’re approaching a medium you haven’t utilized before or even changing hosting platforms. There is a bit of a learning curve usually when starting a new type of marketing strategy, but a lot of virtual event platforms have one or three great solutions to that for you.

  • A Best Practices Guide
    • Typically this is a PDF or document that answers most of the questions you may have about hosting an event with that particular platform. Many online events are self-service, which means that they are simplified as much as possible.

      As someone who’s just purchased an online event, you’re not expected to know how to run the show. You’re expected to know your presenters and exhibitors, as well as to market the event, but actually putting together the event should be as simple as it can be. The success of your event is the paramount concern for the company you bought it from, so they really want to help you as much as possible.

      This document usually is FAQ style, with common questions addressed in step-by-step fashion to help you navigate through the platform. If it’s in PDF format, it usually has links as well, to help you to move through the process in a easy and painless manner.

  • A Project Manager
    • For a lot of platforms, a project manager is an add-on. This is a person who is assigned to your event(s) and who is available for you to call, email, contact however you see fit.

      This person will have helped out with a lot of events before and has been trained extensively on the platform. Not only can they answer your questions, but often they will actually either help you set up the event or take most of it off your hands.

      For instance, with vConferenceOnline, the project manager can actually set up the entire event for you. You will send them abstracts for sessions, information about speakers, even contact information for speakers or exhibitors. They can then contact them directly for all of the information and set everything up for you.

      One great thing about project managers is that they have access to information about previous events. This means statistics and analytics about similar events to your own, allowing you to find out things like: how many sessions will be best? How long should your sessions be? How do you encourage attendees to speak to the exhibitors?

      As above, none of these platforms anticipate you knowing how to host your own online event – that’s why the platforms exist. It’s their job therefore to help you succeed with your event so you’re happy (and they’re happy to!)

  • Live Support
    • For platforms who don’t have project managers, often they will offer live chat or email support to help you out with your event. Similar to the project manager, this will be a team of customer service representatives who are trained on the platform and know the answers to most, if not all, of your questions. If they don’t know the answer, they have access to project managers who do have the answers.

      As with the project manager, this option is typically an add-on for other platforms, not included with the purchase of the event itself. However, the knowledge and experience you can access is well worth it for those who aren’t comfortable with the platform yet!

These three options are usually available on all platforms in some shape or form. The best practices guides are usually included with any event, while the project manager and the live support are typically add-ons. These give you three ways to access the platform’s expertise and experience!

How to have Successful Interaction with Virtual Events

The most common concern people express about virtual events – webcasts, online classes, or virtual conferences/trade shows – is the apparent lack of communication between the hosts/speakers and the attendees of the event. Without face-to-face interaction, many are concerned that they will be unable to truly connect with their attendees and will therefore not have a very successful event. To help to ease these concerns, I’ve put together a few tips for how to make sure you get the most out of your online interaction.

  • Utilize text and/or video chat for Q&A’s throughout or after your presentation.
    • This feature is a fantastic way to make sure that any questions are answered thoroughly and possibly even better than they would be during an in-person event. If you pre-record your presentations – which is already highly recommended – you have the full duration of your presentation to interact with viewers.You can make connections with them at the beginning, by asking where they’re from, what companies they work for, what the weather is like where they are. You can then easily transition into answering questions. If they don’t seem to have many questions, I highly recommend having a few points to encourage discussion in the chat, such as additional tips or anecdotes. This makes everyone feel at ease and encourages questions and deeper discussion, allowing the attendees to get even more out of the event than an in-person one.

      If you choose to do a video chat Q&A, using a tool like livestream or Google Hangouts, you can really easily make the online event feel nearly identical to an in-person event. You can even invite viewers to join you on the video chat, allowing them to really be a part of the event.

  • Utilize chat in exhibit booths as well.
    • This is another way to make the transition from in-person to online seamless. As a booth administrator, you can reach out to attendees as they enter your booth, just as you would at an in-person event, and offer them some information about your company, services, or simply talk about the event.If your company has sponsored a session, that’s a great time to talk about it. Mention that the session is either coming up, or has happened (and is going to be available On Demand for their leisure), discuss the topic and what they can get from it.

      This approach is great because, instead of poking at the attendee with sales pitches, you’re making a connection with them. People with a connection to a company are far more likely to purchase from them, without the cognitive dissonance that comes from a guilt-based purchase made only to quiet a sales pitch.

  • Set up chat rooms outside of the presentation rooms.
    • This acts as sort of a networking lounge for the attendees and speakers. Instead of being boxed into the topic of a presentation, people are able to find others that are interested in the same topics, but move beyond them. Private chats are a great way for these attendees to ask further questions of the speaker or to connect with a possible business partner.These function exactly the way the outside hall of a conference center does, where attendees go to fill up on coffee and charge their laptops. This too makes the transition from in-person to online seamless.

Have you hosted online events before? What did you find helped you the most with encouraging interaction between attendees and the host/speakers?

 


 

Have any questions about hosting a virtual event and want a great platform that will help you every step of the way? Email us at sales@vconferenceonline.com

Find out all about our platform with this interactive demo. Or, go beyond the surface with this in-depth self-guided tour.

Happy event planning!

Getting beyond Marketing Emails

Every marketer’s dream is to have their ideal audience and potential clients come to them.

manhammock-300px.png

Living the marketer’s dream.

No banner ads, spam marketing emails, or annoying commercials necessary – and it make an advertiser’s job easier. Hands-free marketing is the goal, right?

 

How do you make the marketing process so easy that your clients find you before they even know they’re looking for you?

Connect to your audience through education

That is a very broad way to say that your marketing strategy should first and foremost involve teaching your audience something that you know extremely well and that they want to learn about.

If you try to convince your audience that they should choose you you before they realize they want the services you even offer, you’ll annoy more people than you’ll close. Proving your trustworthiness and knowledge gets you in front of the competition before your potential client even knows they need you.

How do you do this?

  • Find a topic you know like the back of your hand (and they don’t).

In your sphere, there are problems that your audience is looking to solve. Chances are, you either have the solution to those problems or you know where to look to solve them. Do you have a large number of problems you know how to solve? Great! You can create an online class or a series of articles on it. By proving that you know what you’re talking about, you establish yourself as a trustworthy source. Your audience will come to you for solutions (and you’ll already be at the top of their list when they want to spend money).

  •  Talk about easy-to-tackle issues.

Don’t try to overwhelm your reader/viewer with too much information at once. Try to break up problems into smaller step-by-step solutions. If your audience comes to a webcast and realizes you’re going to be talking for three hours, they’re already checked out. Take it by small steps to make your information more accessible to your audience.

  • Don’t brush off your own expertise.

Whatever your end goal, whatever you aim to sell to your potential client, you are confident that it’s a good product or service. Don’t play down your knowledge or forget to mention how you can be so helpful to your audience. If you’re a doctor discussing what a symptom could mean, it helps the patient to trust you if they know you actually are a medical professional. Make it clear why you’re an authority on the topic.

Your ideal audience doesn’t necessarily know who you are, so if you approach them by telling them that you’re great, they’ll just ignore you like a flashing banner ad. Offer them something they need – like knowledge, helpful tips, etc. – and they’ll be much more likely to become a good lead for you.

This way, you also connect with people you know will be good, qualified leads. A smaller number of quality leads is better than a huge number of terrible ones that will never pay off. Don’t waste your time (or theirs).

Want to educate your audience with a virtual event? Check out how to get started here. Questions? Email us at sales@vconferenceonline.com