Practice Social Distancing by Hosting an Online Conference

Skull shaped stones on tray

With many offices turning to remote work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, now is a great time to update your marketing strategy for events. Hosting an online conference can be an accessible way to spread information to partners or prospects while maintaining social distance standards. If strategically planned, the set up cost and effort can be minimal compared to a large on-site event. 

Types of online events

There are many formats for online events depending on your business type and goals. For example, a B2B company offering a software solution may find more benefit doing a demo style recorded webinar. Here are a few general options for event types:

  • On-demand webinar: Pre-recording a webinar may be best for first timers as you will have the opportunity to edit or redo pieces before it’s available to the public. This can work well for demos or educational/training sessions. If you have a complex topic to discuss, consider using a panel format where experts or thought leaders discuss. Consider where your potential viewers fall in the customer journey.
  • Live event: Drive excitement and create buzz if there is a need for people to tune-in at an exact moment. Live events work best for new product announcements or substantial company updates that will be announced at a specific time. According to Google, “just because you decide to do an event digitally, doesn’t mean you have to do it live”.
  • Full virtual conference: Was your in-person conference cancelled or postponed? A virtual event can allow you to set up breakout sessions, livestream talks and host a live Q&A. It creates a lower barrier of entry for the attendee as they no longer have to build in travel time to attend. There are several examples of successful transitions from on-site to online events here.

How to: Hosting an Online Conference

There are many options available to help you host your event with many offering deals or expanding features during this challenging time. Regardless of your desired event format, there are several key points which apply to all digital events:

Research your audience: The most important piece of the event is the message and content. Consider your target audience and what topics they are researching or problems they are attempting to solve. Is your messaging correct for the attendees and where they are located in your marketing or sales funnel?

Consider your equipment: Do you have a stable internet connection and high quality audio equipment? While you may not need a full sound-proof room, it’s crucial to ensure that background noise is minimized and speakers, headphones and your internet connection are functioning as expected.

Practice makes perfect: Always do a test-run before the final recording or live event. This helps you practice your delivery as well as identify any potential technical issues. Many platforms allow you to host a simulated event or record a test-run prior to the final recorded or live event. 

Presentation is everything: Find a professional and non-cluttered place for your video call with limited background noise. With many people working from home, there are distractions everywhere and you want the viewers to be able to easily focus on your video and message.

Re-purpose supporting content

Create new or repurpose content to help drive home the purpose of your online event. Think about supporting content which will help the viewers in understanding your topic after they log off. This might be a good time to repurpose a blog article or direct users to an existing white paper or case study on your website. Your marketing team can be a great resource in developing follow-up emails reiterating topics discussed in the online conference. Think of your target audience and the various formats which resonate well with them. Would they find a downloadable piece, video format or slides more useful?

Many event hosting systems allow you to determine who was and was not able to attend the event to ensure you are sending them content with the correct message. For viewers, this could be a screen at the end of the event giving them additional training resources or a offer specific to the event message. This could be followed by a “Thanks for attending email” with a link to key white paper or case study. For non-viewers, they could be sent an email with other options to attend the event or links to resources they can visit at a time which works better.

Use these strategies to connect with your audience and change your way of thinking about virtual events. Now, more than ever it’s imperative to be creative with your messaging and consider what your audience wants, needs and the best format to deliver it to them. Companies who think out of the box will be in the best position to endure these difficult times while being responsible in social distancing.