Moving to Virtual Blog

Meeting Your Conference Attendees’ Needs, Part 1

February 25, 2014 | Posted in Conferences, eLearning Best Practices by icohere

Lance A. Simon, VP Client Solutions

moving 2 virtual icohere creating a sense of placeWhat are the top things that your conference attendees expect out of your annual (physical) meetings, and how does this translate to a virtual or hybrid event?  Studies have shown that attendees expect the following from any event:

1.  Knowledge sharing.

2.  A sense of place.

3.  Networking opportunities.

Simple enough for a physical meeting. But how do you meet these expectations for your virtual event attendees for a hybrid or pure virtual event? The first item is easy enough to cover when producing a virtual event.  In many ways, this is no different from an in-person conference– you are still providing a subject matter expert relevant to your event.  In fact, since your conference is no longer limited by travel restrictions, you might be able to provide your audience access to a subject matter expert previously out of reach.

This two-part blog series will explore ways for you to incorporate these expectations into your event, providing your attendees with both increased opportunities to virtually network and grounding them in a sense of place– even if they’re “attending” from home. This week, we tackle creating a sense of place in your virtual or hybrid event.

Replicating the sense of place during a virtual event can seem like a daunting task.  There may not be an exact way to replicate the flavor of a conference in a city such as, say, New Orleans, but there are many tricks you can utilize to give your attendees a sense of place.

A virtual poster session.  Poster sessions are becoming more and more common amongst physical conferences.  They provide a unique chance to showcase attendee projects and research, while providing another opportunity to network.  In an ePoster session, attendees are given the opportunity to present their work in a powerpoint or other formatted presentation (like an Articulate).  Events can even run “open” hours for these ePoster sessions, where the authors of the ePosters will be on hand to discuss their work and answer questions. Another benefit of running a poster session virtually is that you don’t have to restrict the number of presenters– you can have as many presentations as you want!

Graphic touchstones. Conference sites can be designed so that a graphic sense of place can be rendered.  If you’re holding a hybrid conference, some providers will be able to integrate pictures of the physical location into such areas as your virtual background, SSO pass-through and conference pages.  These visuals serve as a reminder that this is a real event with an established sense of place.

Online tradeshow/exhibit hall. Another tool that can be used to help establish a sense of place is an online tradeshow or exhibit hall.  In a hybrid conference, this can be achieved easily through video or photographic footage of the physical location.  Some conferences even include a television feed, with conference reporters and attendees speaking to and interacting with tradeshow vendors.  These can include demonstrations, a two minute introduction to particular vendors (which can be another way your organization to generate revenue!) and more.

For a purely virtual conference environment, this must obviously be transmuted to a slightly different experience.  Since there will be no physical hall to capture, the experience must be rendered virtually.  One method involves the sponsoring of virtual tradeshow and vendor spaces.

Conference blogger.  A trend that is becoming a lot more common is the incorporation of a designated conference blogger.  This person interviews conference attendees and presenters, blogs about sessions, breakouts, and exhibits.  This blogger can focus on whatever is most helpful to your organization and mission, but it’s another way to keep virtual attendees connected to the experience of the conference. This doesn’t add a lot of cost to your webcast team and adds a whole new dimension to your virtual experience.

What are some ways that you’ve seen, or have tried, to incorporate a sense of place for your virtual conference attendees?

Check back with us next week as we cover ways to create a networking experience for your virtual conference attendees!

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