How to Plan a Successful Virtual Conference (Part Two)

Learn how to find and select digital conference speakers.

Zight | March 20, 2020 | 8 min read time

Article Last Updated: June 25, 2023

How to Plan a Successful Virtual Conference (Part Two)

As Covid 19 continues to become a growing health concern, more companies are taking measures to mitigate the risk of employees and customers getting sick. Unsurprisingly, more and more companies are embracing virtual conferences to ensure attendees around the world can participate in events from the comfort and safety of their homes. There are several benefits of virtual conferences, but in order to get the most out of a conference, it’s essential that you know how to get started with planning virtual conferences.

Streamlining processes, ensuring clear communication, and providing value to your participants is key in effectively understanding how to plan events for virtual conferences. If you’ve ever attended or hosted an in-person conference, you’re well aware of the enormous value they provide attendees, including tons of resources, and loads of opportunities for networking and conversations.

If you’re wondering how to host a digital conference without compromising on the interactions and engagement that make conferences so valuable, you’ve come to the right place. In our last post, we covered what a virtual conference is and the basics needed to create a successful digital conference. We also went over some digital conference tools to make your conference successful. Check it out if you’re looking to generate the same value while mitigating the risk of spreading sickness. The next step is how to find and select digital conference speakers, and how to plan events for virtual conferences.


How to Find and Select Digital Conference Speakers

With all of our time commitments, it can be a serious struggle to arrange a time when everyone is available to meet at a certain location at a specific time. This can be for a variety of reasons, but one of the biggest barriers is travel time or physical distance between all attendees. Perhaps you’ve missed an event that you thought would be transformative because you weren’t able to physically attend. Imagine if that same conference had been offered online and how much easier it would have been to attend. When you consider how difficult it can be to arrange schedules and traveling time, the benefits of a virtual conference is crystal clear. Similarly, really busy and highly sought after speakers, are more likely to say ‘yes’ for the exact same reason.

A great conference, whether it’s in-person or online, hinges on knowing how to find and select digital conference speakers. The great thing about hosting a virtual conference is that speakers can participate from anywhere, which eliminates any huge time or travel commitments. It’s much easier and less time consuming for speakers to prepare and deliver a conference speech virtually. Plus, this powerful partnership offers them an amazing platform to reach audiences, a wider audience, and the chance for massive exposure. Consider seeking out experts within your company as well as outside speakers if that’s available to you.

Having a clear picture of your target audience will help you narrow down appropriate speakers and topics. The better you know your audience, the easier it is to understand how to find and select digital conference speakers. Once you’ve got a clear idea of your audience, your target number of attendees, then you have the tools to pitch your event to potential speakers. Providing them with the expected reach is key in attracting the best speakers. Obviously, you need attendees, but what attracts attendees is creating a line-up of interesting events and speakers. Make sure you take the time to really narrow in on them if you want to understand how to find and select digital conference speakers.


How to Get Started with Planning a Virtual Conference

A great line-up of speakers is key, but even the most experienced speakers require guidance, feedback, and practice. When navigating the world of digital conferences and learning how to get started with planning virtual conference, excellent communication is essential. Since everything is hosted online, your speakers need to have a clear picture of the event and the expectations for their session.

When connecting with speakers you wish to speak at your conference, explain the purpose of the event, the benefits of aligning with your virtual conference, and anything that you require from them, such as potential topics. It’s also important to create a system where you can follow up with them, and once you’ve agreed, a system where you keep in contact with them. Since everything is typically organized online, it’s important to have systems in place to keep you and your speakers in the loop and on track. This also helps and reminds your presenters to promote the event.

Consider scheduling a couple of calls with speakers in the prior weeks leading up to the event to ensure you’ve provided them with everything they need to be prepared. Talk through the expected points the speaker plans to discuss during the session and provide feedback to ensure each session is engaging, smooth, and successful. This can be achieved in a number of ways, choosing willing attendees to provide feedback during a live session, or collaborating with presenters to deliver part of the session, either pre-recorded or live. The basis of the call is to ensure the material and presentation lines up with the expectations initially set out. The content call ensures the presenters have actively thought about their material, how it is being delivered, and doing so in an engaging and valuable manner. It’s not meant to be a completed presentation at this time, but rather an overview of what the presentation will look like. This call is the perfect opportunity to provide feedback and time to help fill gaps, or revise accordingly based on the ideas you generate and the feedback you provide.

After the call has been completed and the presenter has some actionable feedback to improve or tailor the presentation, schedule a practice presentation. This is great to do about a week or two prior to the scheduled session and once they’ve had time to apply the feedback. This provides both the host and presenters with an opportunity to run through their session, or as much as they deem necessary, get final feedback, and ensure everyone is comfortable with the online platform used during the virtual conference.


How to Plan Events for Virtual Conferences

So you’ve got your speakers, you’ve got an idea of what topics they can present on that will interest attendees, and you know exactly who your ideal attendee is. Now it’s important to understand how to plan events for virtual conference. If you’ve ever attended or hosted an in-person conference, you know that the events and networking aspects are vital. How do you recreate that space online?

Spaces to Interact

Platforms that allow for a chat feature, as well as a Q&A portion of the talk, will promote meaningful conversation and connections. Encourage conversation with well-thought relevant and provocative questions throughout the session, and make it easy for attendees to participate. One way is to periodically respond to the chat, pose relevant questions for the attendees, and provide ways for them to continue the discussion.

More importantly, providing a place for attendees to discuss and interact between sessions is the online alternative to events and networking opportunities typically present at an in-person conference. This can be a private FB or Linked-In group that is only open to attendees, or a discussion board plugin that is integrated into your website. Direct attendees to discussions and forums with a newsletter that highlights active discussions on the forum with a direct link and more content or questions to keep the discussion going. It’s important to make this aspect of the virtual conference meaningful, active, and relevant. When done well, this will provide a ton of value and is a space for attendees to share what they’ve learned, key takeaways, ask questions, and connect with hosts and other attendees. Without this, attendees may feel some of the value is missing from the virtual conference.

Live Feed

Another key component in understanding how to plan events for virtual conference is mixing in live video recordings with pre-recorded webinars. The live aspect of an in-person conference helps make your virtual conference feel personal and intimate. As virtual conferences have skyrocketed in popularity, more and more platforms have made it simple to seamlessly incorporate pre-recorded videos with live videos.

Be strategic with your live recordings as a meaningful connection is a key component if you want to truly understand how to host digital conference that is successful. We suggest streaming a live video at the beginning of all sessions to introduce speakers. As a result, you will increase the chances of attendee engagement. Once you’ve introduced the speakers with a live video and inspired attendees to engage, then transition to the speaker’s actual presentation. Intermittent live videos remind attendees that the event is being hosted by real people, but more importantly, people who value and want to provide value with real teaching, discussion, and learning.

Attendees and Target Market

A successful event requires attendees, but more importantly, attendees that are interested in your event. Narrowing in on them is key if you really want to know how to get started with planning a virtual conference. Facebook ads are often one of the most common ways to promote a virtual conference and reach your specific audience.

It’s essential that you have a clear idea of who your attendees will be before you begin to reach out to event speakers and venturing into how to find and select digital conference speakers. The better you know your audience, the easier it is to understand the kinds of topics and speakers that they are interested in. If you have a clear range of how many people you expect to register, that will help sell your event to potential speakers, as it will provide them with the expected reach.


Mitigate Covid-19 and Learn How to Host a Digital Conference

In an effort to mitigate further exposure, a number of upcoming events have been cancelled and transitioning to online-only conferences to ensure attendees around the world can participate in events from the comfort and safety of their homes. As more and more conferences are being cancelled or postponed, it’s easy to become discouraged. However, we’re finding that many of the events are transitioning to online-only events, which might require a crash course on how to find and select digital conference speakers and how to plan events for virtual conference.

If you’re looking for ways to ensure attendees remain healthy, and learn how to host digital conference, we hope the information and tools provided will help you host a successful virtual conference. Check out our list of recent events that have been cancelled, postponed, or hosted as online-only events due to Covid 19.

In today’s world, we have access to so many platforms and tools that’ll help streamline the process of creating a successful virtual conference including Zight (formerly CloudApp), Asana, and Slack. Transform the way you participate or create virtual conferences, and stay connected with more people using the right tools and practices.

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