We recently wrote a blog post about the benefits of hosting a virtual conference at your association. But let’s say you do decide to host one. What happens next? How do you actually plan and execute an online event?
We’ve taken the process and broken it down into five specific steps:
1. Identify your audience
Before doing anything, it’s crucial to nail down who you’re targeting for this event. Is it members of your association only? People in a certain industry? A small sub-group within your membership? It’s important to hash this out first because everything else - your content, your promotional tactics, your delivery, etc. - will stem from this.
2. Determine speakers/content
Just like a regular, in-person event, you’ll still need to identify speakers and content. Several months before the event, announce call for proposals - on your organization’s website, on your social media sites, and via email. You want the word to get out there, particularly if this is a first-time event.
Then, once all your proposals are in, sit down with your team and determine who would be a good fit for this particular event. And not only that, but what topics and content would be the most valuable to your future attendees. That’s the whole point here - to provide your attendees (and members) with value.
3. Select a conference-hosting platform
This is where things start to get a little different. In order to host a successful virtual conference, you’ll need a reliable conference-hosting platform. You’ll want to pick a company that’s reputable, and ideally, that can help out with the event logistics.
iCohere is a great option for this. They offer an all-in-one learning management system (LMS) that allows you to host webinars, virtual conferences, online courses, and more. (More about the company here.)
4. Promote your virtual conference
Once everything’s in place, it’s time to promote. Just as you would an in-person event, promote your virtual conference on your organization’s website, on your various social media platforms, via email, and perhaps even through some print marketing tactics, such as a well-designed direct mail piece.
Marketing tip: Really sell the fact that this is a VIRTUAL conference - that attendees can attend the event in the comfort of their own home or office AND at a lower cost than an in-person event. That’s a big perk for some people, especially for those who may have wanted to attend one of your events in the past but couldn't due to travel costs.
Once all of the above is complete, it’s showtime! Now don’t be nervous. If you partnered with the right software company, they can (and should) help during the event (and particularly in the off-chance that something goes wrong - there’s an issue with sound, connection, etc.).
Now this is a pretty high-level overview of how to plan a virtual event. But like any event, there’s a little more to it than that. For a full breakdown of tips and best practices, check out our free guide, How to Plan a Virtual Conference at Your Association!