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 A Lobby for Online Eventswill 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 event 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 in-person and online events 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!

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!

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!

What kind of virtual event should you host?

You have decided you don’t want to do an in-person event; you want to avoid the hassle, the enormous costs, the inconvenience. Now, you’re ready to dive into the virtual event space…but with what kind of event?

Luckily for you, virtual event platforms are malleable and any kind of event you want to host can be done online. However, before you start setting anything up for your event, you should choose the format, as that changes a lot of things down the line.

What kind of events are possible online? All. But here are a few categories to give you an idea.

Classroom-Silhouette-300pxWebinars

Webinars are typically one (or two) sessions – these don’t usually have exhibitors and
feature a smaller “footprint” with a 1-2 page registration site.  When the attendee gets to the site, they are taken to the session room during the day of the event, and to the on-
demand menu while the event is in on-demand mode.  There is not usually a conference lobby, nor are there typically exhibitor booths. However, both can be added, depending on what you envision for your event.

Online Courses

Online Courses are similar to an online university class, but shorter. These are typically several sessions (usually fewer than 15) usually offered for a fee and  starting on a specific date, with ongoing on-demand access for a period of time.  This sounds very “variable” – an example would be 12 sessions on a topic, starting on August 1 and available to attendees for a period of 30 days.  Typically, there aren’t exhibitors for courses, although sponsors and/or exhibitors are possible.  There is usually a class- or session-ending quiz and you can issue a certificate of completion if the test is passed with the score you provide.

Virtual Conferences/Online Trade ShowsProfessional-People-Silhouette-300px

These are larger virtual events, typically featuring more than two sessions/presentations.  They can include as few as 2 and as many as 150+ sessions running across many days and 12 rooms or tracks of simultaneous sessions.  Typically, with an exhibit hall, these events can also be free for attendees, paid or freemium model events. However, all aspects, including the price for attendees, are easily customizable.

Which one works for you?

This all seems very wide-open and variable – there is a lot of overlap between the events. The biggest change between them is what audience you are trying to reach. Webinars are typically free and focused on getting leads for a sponsor or yourself. Courses are focused on teaching and are usually the product you are trying to sell – there is almost never a sales message in this format. Virtual conferences are focused on educating and selling, with the sessions for educating the viewer and the exhibit hall to encourage them to talk to sponsors.

The good news is that all of these event types are extremely successful online. Each event, whether it is pre-recorded and broadcast on a schedule, broadcast live, or allows the viewer to choose when and which session to watch, at some point can allow the viewer to watch at their leisure. With an On Demand section of each event available, you can access a large international audience and spread your message further than you could with an in-person event.

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

 

Pre-Record or Broadcast Live?

In-person conferences are only slightly different from online events, but one way in which they are vastly different is the presenting style. In-person events are presented live, with the speaker on a stage or at the front of a classroom-style room, speaking to the audience in real-time. They can step off the stage and answer the audiences’ questions while being a foot or two away from them and everything they say is live. This is great for a personal touch to events, but with a larger event, the personalization fades.

For online, virtual events, you have a few different options to try to replicate this experience while broadcasting your message and knowledge to a large audience. You can pre-record your sessions or host them live. If you host them live, through a livestream, you can even use a service like Google Hangouts to invite attendees to ask questions in real time while showing their face and using their own voice.

So, what are the pros and cons of each option?

From the platform standpoint, it makes no difference if an event is live or pre-recorded. The platform will work with either and it’s all about what makes you more comfortable.

Live sessions are great because the presenter has (hopefully) rehearsed their presentation and knows it like the back of their hand. A live panel-style session can be personalized to the audience. They can submit questions before the session via social media or text chat. Those questions are then answered during the session, which adds a nice touch for the audience.

However, live sessions carry a threat to your event as well. If the presenter is late, has connection issues, forgets their slides, has background noise, doesn’t wear something appropriate, or just has an “off” day, it can reflect badly on your event and brand. This is why pre-recorded sessions have their own benefits.

With a pre-recorded session, you can approve it ahead of time, cut out background noise, ensure that it aligns with the high quality event you are arranging. If you decide to do a 100% On Demand event, where the attendees are able to choose which session they want to watch at their leisure, this is the only option – and it’s a great way to make sure each presentation is up to your high standards!

Both types of presentations – live and pre-recorded – have their pros and cons. Make sure you figure out what the aim of your event is before you choose which will fit the best for you.

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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

Happy event planning!

Your Speakers are Your Biggest Assets

A conference relies heavily on its content to market the event – which makes a lot of sense. If you see a movie trailer and hate the concept behind it, you aren’t likely to pay money to go see it, let alone waste your time with it.

Therefore, it is extremely important to have talented, comfortable, knowledgeable speakers for your event. If they are well-known, active in whatever community you are a part of, this makes them an even bigger asset. How do you use their influence to your benefit?

Many virtual event coordinators create banners or badges for their speakers to put on their website or blog. These will say something like “I am a speaker at x event” and link to the event. If you want to track how many people use the links from your speakers’ sites/blogs, you can always use a VIP or discount code.

Most public speakers have active social media accounts as well – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or a blog. These are another great opportunity for your speakers to proudly announce that they’ll be participating in the event and to encourage their peers and audience to join in on the event. With virtual events, this is even better – the followers are used to interacting with this person virtually, so communication during the event will be very effective.

Are your speakers running/part of their own companies outside of your event as well? That’s a great opportunity to set them up with a virtual event booth. They will be able to interact with attendees not only through their presentation and the chat you set up during/after, but in their booth as well. Curious attendees can learn more about the speaker’s company, which can be a huge selling point to get those popular speakers to participate in your event as well.

Make sure that your communication with your speakers is effective and frequent. This builds a relationship between you, ensuring that the speaker is having the best experience possible, encouraging them to participate in your events again in the future. Well-known speakers in your community often discuss with one another their experiences at events and if yours has been excellent, your speaker may have contacts that would be happy to participate in your future events as well!

Most of all – remember that without presenters, you would not have an event. Your speakers are very important and should be treated as such!

First Steps to a Virtual Event

In my company, we’re working on setting up our next virtual conference, so I figured I’d start writing some blogs about the whole process. I’ll go step by step as I personally start setting up our event, and you can see really what there is to do for it. At the end of it all, I’ll write up a quick bullet point post that shows all the points in order.

First step is making sure you really have an event. I’m positive you have the audience you need – all you have to do is to reach out to them – so that’s not even a step. You already know your goal with the event, you know you want to save money and time by doing it online – and reach more people.

You can watch the video below, or keep reading underneath it!

Truly, the first thing you should do is contact your speakers. What takes the most time during the setup for an event – especially a virtual event – is gathering your speakers, getting confirmation, contracts, session names, powerpoint slides, session abstracts, and of course the actual recording from your speaker.

You need to contact your hopeful speakers.

  • Contact more speakers than you’ll need, because there are bound to be some that will not be able to participate.
  • Have a date in mind – but do not set it in stone yet. If nearly all of your hopeful speakers can’t make the exact date you want, well, what’s the point?
  • Be flexible. Allow varied topics from the exact ones you’re looking for.
  • Make it relevant. The topics are actually more inviting than the speakers themselves to most attendees. If someone has never heard of Billy Bob but loves hearing about how to build your own spaceship, they won’t mind that they don’t know the speaker.
  • Get excited. Your speakers will reflect your energy. If you’re just going through the motions of another virtual event, if you’re already stressed, or you just plain don’t want to do it, you need to get into a better mindset and send more positive emails. If you sound excited, they’ll get excited too, and they’ll be more likely to participate.

Keep in mind – you won’t get all of your dream speakers – and that’s okay! You’ll get great people participating in your event, and you and your attendees will have a blast.

Everything tends to fall in place in the end – just keep your plans flexible.

Where Do I Begin?

Getting your first virtual conference or event up and running can be a daunting task – but it’s really not as big of a hill as it may seem initially.  Remember the old adage, “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time*.”  It’s the same with an event.

(source)

The really great thing is that there are several areas you can focus on  – and they typically happen sequentially.  This can give you the time you need to put the effort into each area:

  1. The public site – these are the micro-pages, the web site devoted to getting the word out about your event.  Put this up as quickly as possible and begin taking registrations.  Remember, you can update this page (or pages) as you go along, adding speakers and other information about your event. However, the most important thing is that you provide information about your event.  As you talk with speakers and potential sponsors, they’ll want to see what your event is about and this will be the starting point.
  2. Speakers – who is presenting the content?  Whether you’re hosting a single webcast/webinar session or a full virtual conference event, you’ll need to have content and speakers.  The speakers (and, more specifically their content) drive attendees.  Attendees drive sponsors.  Sponsors base their expected attendee counts on your content.  Speakers and their topics are key.
    One interesting thing we found in talking with attendees at various events is, while the speaker is important and big-name speakers can help an event, it’s really the topics that drive people to register for and attend your event.  In nearly every survey we’ve conducted, we’ve found that attendees look at the content (the session title and abstract) to be presented, then the speaker to see if they are qualified to talk about it.  If so, and it’s a topic they’re interested in, they’ll register.  People don’t typically register solely based on the speaker’s name and reputation.  There are clear exceptions to this for celebrities and such, but generally, it’s all about the content.
  3. Sponsors – who will be sponsoring your event?  Start talking with them early, but the real process of signing them up will get underway as you beef out your content and show your attendee interest.  Create your packages, know what you’re offering, but talk with them as your event starts to fill out in terms of content, direction and the style of event you’ll be having.
  4. The event platform – there will likely be things about the platform you need to set up.  This includes getting the content into the system, doing housekeeping and making setup decisions that will impact attendees during the event.  This can be done fairly late in the setup process as no one will be seeing this until the event is open.  Know what you have to do, but save this to the last portions of your set up calendar.

By attacking the things you need to do in a serial way – instead of looking at all of it at once – you’ll be able to work through the steps and have a great virtual event, without losing your sanity.

* Of course I’m not saying you should actually eat an elephant.  That’s just not a good idea on so many levels.

Do Virtual Events Hurt Your In-Person Events?

This question comes up quite a bit.  The short answer… if you do it right, is…

No.

If you can market the virtual event in conjunction with the in-person event, you end up boosting the value of the in-person event.  If you market one, then move to the other, then back again, the messaging can get very confusing to your audience.  You need to work the shows together, then you can clearly show how your audience benefits from each venue.

One of the successful things that is done is using the online event as a promotional tool, but also as a pre-event tool.  Using this approach, you can help your audience attend the in-person event in possibly a more prepared, informed way.  Here are some ideas to help integrate the two types of events:

  • Hold pre-conference pre-sessions.  These sessions are presented by your speakers and include information that will get the audience ready for the in-person event.  Of course you don’t need (or want) to present the entire in-person session, but you can present the items that help people better understand what will be shown.
  • Consider pre- and post-conference classes or supporting sessions.  You can offer these as an add-on to your in-person registration.  These can be multi-session presentations and provide deep information for attendees.  Then, when they come to the event, they can learn how to apply and further use the information from the pre-con.  These can also be a way to get deeper involved in the materials presented, since the multiple sessions will be focused on a single topic whereas sessions in the in-person event typically are single sessions and stand alone.
  • Use pre-sessions to introduce topics and introduce homework to get people thinking along common lines.
  • Use virtual events to provide additional information about and by your vendors and sponsors.  These virtual events are great ways to further leverage your relationships with your sponsors and provide additional opportunity for the sponsors to interact with and gain information from your audience.  Keep in mind, you can keep the virtual event online after the in-person event, so your vendors can continue working with your audience in on-demand mode.
  • Consider adding “best of” type sessions after the in-person event has completed.  You can add them to the virtual event and use it as an additional touch point to work with your audience.  Simply capture the sessions at the in-person event, then announce that you’ll be adding the top 5 (or 10 or whatever works well for you) sessions to the virtual event in the weeks following the event.
  • Consider live-streaming your keynote presentations or key presentations from industry experts – this can further integrate your events (online and virtual) and show why people should attend both.  They get to see the live session and they get to experience the online virtual event.

There are a whole host of ways you can leverage virtual conferences, webcasts and webinars and in-person events.  From marketing to extending content to outreach to follow-up, the virtual event platform can significantly boost your in-person events.

As you write up your attendee and sponsor offerings, consider adding an option to add the virtual event items you’ll be offering.  Do the inverse on the virtual event registration – adding options to include the in-person event.  By integrating the two, you can leverage your audience, not split your messaging and gain additional ways people can take in your events, talk with sponsors and more.

Virtual events can be a powerful add-on and powerful marketing tool for your in-person events.  So many people make the mistake of assuming it’s one or the other for their audience.  Done right however, it allows you to extend your in-person event’s interaction with your audience in exciting ways.