Lance A. Simon, VP Client Solutions
This is a continuation of the two-part series we began last week. For tips on how to create a sense of place in your virtual or hybrid conference, please see last week’s post.
What 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 real opportunities for your attendees to interact and network with one another.
Virtual “Happy Hour.” One way to add a forum for networking is to provide an open happy hour with your attendees. This is similar to a Google hangout, and of course no alcoholic beverages can be served across the board, but presents a fun tongue-in-cheek way for your attendees to come together and network across virtual space. This is usually moderated by an appointed conference staff, who might provide thought-provoking discussion topics or help keep conversation flowing. If the phrasing of a “happy hour” isn’t right for your organization or conference, you can always frame it however best fits your event.
Interaction During Sessions. Another benefit of a virtual or hybrid event is that chat feature capability during live presentations. While chatting during a live workshop would be considered disrespectful both to the presenter and your fellow audience members, the ability to highlight ideas over chat or questions that might come up during keynotes creates a more-connected viewing experience for your attendees.
Presenter Q&A. An in-person conference lacks the true opportunity to really interact with session speakers. True, one or two people might be able to catch their ear in between the hustle of sessions and exhibit rooms, but the majority of attendees will not have the opportunity to personally interact with your subject matter experts. With a virtual or hybrid event, you can hold specific Q&A sessions to ensure that interested attendees can interact with your speaker personally.
Create a post-event Community of Practice. The best way to ensure an ongoing virtual networking and professional development experience is to morph your event attendees into a community of practice. By keeping the members of your event in touch with post-conference communications, opportunities and even events, you can transform a once-a-year learning environment into something much more sustaining. Keep the learning going!