Top Virtual Conference Tips, from Start to Finish
The virtual conference has become all the rage and is now becoming common practice within many businesses working routine. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced business owners in all sectors to reassess how they communicate with their clients, colleagues, and audiences.
For many, the pandemic has brought fear—fear of losing their business. And more specifically, fear of virtual conferencing. For those people, the idea of speaking to an arena of thousands is comforting in comparison to navigating the uncharted technical territory of virtual meetings.
Virtual conferencing is here to stay and brings many opportunities with it Long after the last positive Covid test is logged, digital gatherings will be the new normal. Those who choose to embrace this new trend will be tomorrow’s leaders.
You can be among them. All you’ll need are some practical tips for producing a seamless virtual conference, from start to finish.
Preparation: The Virtual Conferencing Pre-Game
As with most successful projects, preparation is key. be sure to secure the help of a web conferencing professional to assist you—or at least someone who’s done this a few times. Before staring your first virtual conference, be sure to have the following:
Conferencing App/Software Account
Zoom is just one example of a popular online conferencing software. There are many more, like Hopin, WebinarJam, Microsoft Teams, ClickMeeting, GoToWebinar, BigMarker, WorkCast and many more.
When you’re choosing one, look for features like file sharing, shared screens, app integration, messaging and recording, at a minimum.
Also think about software that can measure engagement. The metrics available for gauging a live event’s success are limited. Of course, there are enrolment numbers, but how many comments and questions are logged? How many top users are identified? How many of those attendees are conversation starters? How much feedback is gathered? And how much of that information is compiled in a report that will guide presenters in designing future conferences, summits and classes? Consider these questions before choosing your conferencing software.
Strong, Reliable Internet Connection
There’s nothing worse than interruptions during a web conference. It can be frustrating for you, and that will affect your delivery. It will be annoying to your participants, and may affect their decision to sign up for your next conference. Overall, a poor internet connection is just unprofessional, so get that worked out before your first video conference.
Most laptops and desktops include webcams. If yours does, open the webcam app and run a test to make sure it’s working. If it doesn’t have one, secure a separate camera. A simple Google search for “webcam” will result in lots of options.
It’s also important to open your camera ahead of the event where you plan to sit and take note of your background environment. What’s on view, what can you see? Feeling comfortable in the place you’re going to speak virtually is crucial, for you and your guest speakers. Make sure your background aligns with your brand / company, there’s nothing worse than seeing a cluttered background that draws the focus away from you, just like an empty white background won’t be ideal either.
As with a webcam, most desktop computers and laptops have built-in microphones. Test yours to make sure it works. If you don’t have one, or yours isn’t operational, you can purchase an external microphone. It’s also important to make sure that any guest speakers also have a good quality microphone ready and in place ahead of the conference. Many will, but it’s important to check in to make sure external participants have everything in place and ready, there’s nothing worse than technical faults on the day of the conference – especially if they can be avoided in advance.
Visualise and Market your Virtual Conference
What will be the purpose of your virtual meeting? Will you be replacing a live event with a virtual one? Will you be using it to network, because networking events have been cancelled? Or will you be creating an entirely new operation for your business, using virtual conferencing as a way to deliver it?
Your online conference must have a purpose, and that purpose must be communicated clearly to your audience. As with any other business function, it must pinpoint and solve a problem for your followers.
After you have a distinct vision for what you’ll deliver, start marketing. Google Ads, social media, blogs, third-party endorsements…whatever works best to reach the people who will need this the most.
Give yourself ample time to design and market a quality product—at least a few weeks.
Provide a link for those who wish to participate. The page where they’ll land should include all the details about the conference, as well as a secure way to pay (PayPal, Venmo, Cash App, etc.), if you’ll be charging a fee.
Schedule and Share the Meeting
The exact procedure for scheduling your meeting will depend on the platform you’ve chosen to use. However, one thing is universal: you must use your account to set up a conference.
After you’ve chosen a date and time, you’ll receive a link from the video conference host. Share that link with those who have registered.
Host a Test Conference
Your scheduled conference should not be the first time you’ve ever run a video conference. Set up a meeting in your hosting app and invite two or three friends. Host a short test meeting to make sure cameras and microphones are working. Test features that you intend to use when you go live, for real.
This will not only ensure that things go as smoothly as possible, it will boost your confidence.
Create an Outline for Your Conference
Certainly, much of your virtual conference will be unscripted…especially if you plan to welcome questions and comments. However, you should always have an outline of what you wish to cover, in the order you’ll cover it. Otherwise, rabbit trails will run through your conference and you may not get to everything you promised in your marketing, leaving participants disappointed in the content.
Launch the Conference
You wouldn’t be late to an important speaking event, so don’t be late to your virtual conference. Be the first one there, so no one arrives before you and wonders why the host is late.
Open the hosting software (through the app or through the link to the meeting) and sign on. Give those who have registered a few minutes to sign on, and then start the meeting no more than two or three minutes after the advertised start time.
Try to stick to the broadcast end time; however, if there are important things to be said, or if the conversation is scintillating, take those interactions to your forum or social media group.
Thank everyone for joining you, and follow up with people who want to continue conversation or develop a deeper relationship with your business.
Think Like a Lean Startup and Go for It
It Does Not Have To Be Perfect The First Time.
Going into virtual conferencing with the attitude of “it’s not quite right yet” will end badly. In fact, it means it will never start. Instead, go with the idea that a “lean start-up results in a mean, viable product.” Forgive yourself for not knowing everything about digital meetings. Expect challenges and slip-ups. Be willing to experiment and go in bold. Know that something is better than nothing, and that your desire to solve a real problem outweighs any temporary complications. Even if you’re a seasoned entrepreneur running a decades-old practice, revert back to a start-up mentality and give up the pursuit of perfection…if just for a moment.
So get out there. Set up that first virtual conference. It will not only mark a stupendous accomplishment for you, personally and professionally, it will mark the beginning of a new era…one that you’ll be part of.