Leadership Strategy

How To Make A Virtual Conference Succeed During Pandemic


Many organizers of conferences are facing a dilemma: cancel the event or do the pandemic pivot.

The pandemic is forcing many conferences to make the event work in the online world. Despite the social distancing, the business reasons for the event probably still exist. So that means finding the best way to virtually host the event.

“Use programs with Zoom or Skype that will help create a unique experience,” advises author and business trainer Dino Watt. “Be willing to learn how to engage the audience with programs like Ecamm and StreamYard. It will enhance the experience and make you look professional.”

Ecamm and StreamYard are apps that can stream an event to multiple platforms at once such as Facebook, YouTube or Periscope.

Make the events engaging. Remember to make it an interactive event, not a low-budget television program. 

“Virtual events lack the kind of interpersonal communications attendees get from in-person events,” says frequent presenter Rick Sharga, executive vice president of marketing at RealtyTrac, a leading provider of foreclosure information. 

Some ideas to get participants engaged include networking breakout rooms, polling of participants, and town hall style opportunities for asking questions.

“Do what you can to keep the attendees engaged and give them a chance to participate, rather than just watch,” says Sharga.

Juan Negroni, chair of the Institute of Management Consultants, is facing just such a challenge with the group’s national conference, ConsultCon, scheduled for November 6 and 7 (Negroni and I met through IMC USA and have both spoken at several IMC events throughout the country). 

IMC USA has a more than 50-year successful track record. Rather than cancel the 2020 conference, Negroni and his board of directors felt it was important to help consultants connect with other consultants. 

“We’re going to have breakout rooms and we’re going to have panels,” says Negroni. “We’re going to make it as interactive as possible. People who participate will have the chance to establish a relationship and follow up later, which might not have been as possible to the extent that I personally believe that it will be.”

In addition to running the IMC USA, Negroni is a bilingual labor relations consultant. “I help organizations before, during, and after labor strife and organizational change. I help them reconnect with their teams, something that’s often not done.”

Also a professional speaker, Negroni recommends to all speakers that they record themselves speaking and analyze their performance before the conference speech. 

“Sometimes we have awkward mannerisms and we don’t realize the impact that’s having on an audience until we play the tape back and see ourselves,” says Negroni. 

Oh, another tip: Don’t be afraid to make the event fun.

“Have a theme for the day and ask people to dress accordingly,” says Diane Pleuss, a consultant with FranChoice and a former district director with Toastmasters. “For example, for a sports theme, have people wear their team’s favorite jersey or hat. For tropical day, wear flowered shirts, leis and sunglasses.”

A final thought: leave time in the program for restroom and snack breaks. Just because you can fill every minute of the program does not mean you should fill every minute.



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