Virtual Events: A year behind the screens

In April 2021, we hosted our second B2B marketing virtual conference, DigiConf. Last year, we originally set out to create an in-person event for like-minded B2B marketers in East Anglia to come together for a packed one-day event in Cambridge. With the impact of COVID-19, we had to quickly rethink our strategy, turning DigiConf virtual. 

If you haven’t read our blog from last year, be sure to give it a read. I talk through the benefits of why you should host a virtual conference, the best platforms, our learnings from our first year, and much more. With two global virtual conferences under our belt now, we’ve got lots more juicy insights to share.

Good things take time

We all know the phrase “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, well that has never resonated with anything more than a virtual event. Start as far in advance as possible with your topic planning, speaker outreach and initial concept planning, ideally a year in advance. You don’t need to have the date set in stone at this point, but you need a rough idea of when you want to host it. Ensure you do thorough market research before choosing your date, check school holidays (this affects many people as they take these weeks off holiday), competitors events and public holidays.

Your event team needs to have clear responsibilities and a project plan set out from the get-go. Having a timeline of deadlines and goals to hit is crucial to keeping on track with timings. Your event month creeps up on you quickly, preparing as far in advance gives you time to plan for tech issues, speaker prep, and promotion.

Everything under the surface takes months of hard work and organisation. Without a detailed, solid project plan for every item that needs to be organised, the event will not run smoothly.

Keeping those eyes on the screen

We all know that staring at a screen for eight hours a day listening to someone talk can get tiring and let’s face it… boring. Zoom fatigue is a real phenomenon, and we’ve all experienced it this year.

So how can you keep your audience engaged? 

We had an average watch time of almost four hours at DigiConf 21, almost three times longer than last year. We believe this was due to keeping our sessions short, 20 mins max for a single speaker or 30 for a panel discussion. Also, ensuring your speakers engage their audience with strong presentations and utilising the platforms chat tools to ask questions. We only chose the very best speakers in the industry to talk which obviously is a pull in itself. We also held multiple technical tests with all speakers before the day to ensure they were confident using the platform as well. 

Getting bums on virtual seats 

We had a similar experience this year with the success of our promotion, with the key factor being email marketing. We ensured we had multiple emails going out each week with updates, teaser videos from some of our speakers and highlights of DigiConf. With virtual events, it’s important to strike a balance between not being forgotten, and being too spammy.

Ensure you utilize your speakers’ networks to avoid this, create strong graphics which highlight speakers, they will be more likely to share content with their face on, rather than a generic event graphic. 

Organisation with speakers

Ensuring your speakers are comfortable and having clear instructions on using the virtual events platform of choice is really important. We went through a technical test with each speaker prior, ensuring they were comfortable, joining, leaving, sharing screen. We also created our own guides, they were specific for panellists, hosts and speakers. Giving them a clear checklist of arrival times, FAQ’s, troubleshooting and OST contact details for the day. 

Communication timing with your speakers is also something to keep in mind. Your speakers are most likely extremely busy people, you need to spread out your communication to not bombard them with 5 emails a day. Also when creating deadlines, give yourself leeway for delays on their end.

We are already planning some exciting things for DigiConf22, taking our own advice and starting early. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about virtual events.

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