If from the beginning of the health crisis we’ve been able to set up solutions for the organization of virtual conferences, this has not been an easy ride. Convinced that nothing could replace human interaction and the rapport that people build when they meet face-to-face, we thought that we only needed to replicate the format of a face-to-face conference to successfully run a virtual one. A simple copy/paste is not always relevant. The 150 conferences that we’ve organized since the beginning of Covid-19 have shown us that this was not always possible… just like our speakers and their audience, we’ve learned!
If you’re not familiar with virtual conferences and their subtleties, don’t panic, we’ll give you the four key elements that you’ll need to organize your virtual conference.
- No successful conference without interaction
It goes without saying that a conference should not be limited to a speaker’s monologue, which can make it very boring to follow. The key to a captivated audience resides in the exchange and interaction between the speaker and their audience, and this should be done in different ways. With this in mind, the exchange should be as direct as possible, and limiting yourself to the basic use of chats is obviously not the most suitable solution to achieve that… Fortunately, we have more than one trick up our sleeve to enhance virtual conferences.
The idea is therefore to reproduce, as faithfully as possible, the conditions that exist in a face-to-face exchange using various virtual tools. This is great… but practically speaking, what does this look like? As one picture is worth a thousand words, we’ll provide a few examples. For instance, it is possible to reproduce coffee-breaks in a virtual environment, in which each participant is represented by an avatar which can move around as they wish to discuss with other participants in small groups. Alternatively, a virtual conference will be more lively by using opinion poll tools to directly collect participants’ views. These are just a few examples of the tools that we can use!
Obviously, to make a virtual conference more attractive also requires a change in the speakers’ presentation style, as they need to engage more with their audience instead of merely presenting their slides to the public.
Morality of the story: the interaction generates commitment and interest for a conference in a virtual format, which is sometimes too formal.
- The format
The program’s structure is an essential parameter for the successful organisation of your virtual conference, because experience has shown us that participating in a virtual conference is more tiring than attending a face-to-face one. We therefore encourage you to extend the length of your program for the event. For example, if the face-to-face program was intended to last three days, then the virtual conference should be spread over more but shorter days, such as for example five half-days. There is no valid reason to refuse to do so! Indeed, it’s much easier to attend a virtual conference by clicking on a button, rather than attend a face-to-face conference which will generate travel and accommodation expenses.
Also, one should absolutely not skip coffee-breaks. We actually recommend doing one every hour and a half to allow each participant to breathe and stretch.
If, despite all of this, you still have difficulties to evaluate the needs necessary to reach the outcomes of your virtual conference, PremC will be able to propose a plan tailored to your needs.
- Tools and platforms
The disadvantage of organizing an online conference remains the technical barrier that the use of the tools and the dissemination platform may represent for some participants. It is therefore important to simplify as much as possible the access to these tools and the connection because not all users have the same level of understanding of virtual communication. The complexity of the tools and platform could result in a loss of audience. It is therefore essential to use a platform that is intuitive and easily accessible. Our experience of organizing virtual conferences has allowed us to develop our platform to facilitate connections from a single URL. This platform brings together all the tools required for a conference (documents, chat, conference link), thus preventing users to be overwhelmed by information distributed across multiple channels.
- Technical support
There is indeed nothing more frustrating than the inability to connect to a conference. To avoid such frustration, it is important to offer different forms of help and support to participants, which is why we offer a range of support services on the same platform. This includes an e-mail address that can be used to contact us ahead of the conference, as well as a live chat to which we will answer in real time, and most importantly, a live help service and a human link through a welcome desk opened during the entire time of the conference, so as to reassure participants and bring them all the logistic support they need. . Out of sight, but near to everyone!
Obviously, this article is far from being exhaustive, and writing a paper that pretends to give all the answers to successfully organizing a virtual conference would be impossible. Because each conference is specific and unique, we are offering you the tailored support that will allow you to achieve your goals. Please, do not be hesitate to reach out to us to discuss your project and your objectives!