Learning at conferences can happen in two ways: peer-to-peer and from subject matter experts. Often, what initially attracts us to a conference are the impressive keynote speakers or interesting sessions that contribute to our professional development. Subject matter experts facilitate that kind of learning.
We are also drawn to the social aspects of a conference. The opportunity to network and discuss your field with peers is incredibly valuable. This is peer-to-peer learning. However, something we often hear about at CommPartners is the fear that virtual learners will miss out on peer-to-peer learning, the learning that happens in the hallways, at networking events, or during the meal breaks. While nothing can make up for a face-to-face conversation, it is possible to create a community within your online learning environment.
CommPartners’ LMS, or Learning Management System, Elevate, seamlessly integrates with Higher Logic, an organization specializing in interaction and engagement. Higher Logic allows your Virtual Conference to have a dedicated space for free-flowing conversation between learners that can move beyond the classroom and be as structured or as casual as you want. Here are some ways to facilitate peer-to-peer learning using Higher Logic’s community learning tools:
- Include a discussion board in each session, adding a new dimension to the speaker’s presentation. This will facilitate a conversation that is specific to that session’s content and won’t get lost in other conversations.
- Speakers can pose thought-provoking questions before a session to get learners thinking before the session begins or will engage learners before the session for more buy-in during the presentation.
Integrating With Your LMS
- LMS’ that have paired community with learning have a more sustainable education system. Education and conversation become cyclical as topics are presented and discussed and then evolve into new ideas for future sessions.
- Include a Higher Logic badge as part of your conference to certify attendees as community builders.
- Include discussion boards on multiple areas of your site to facilitate networking and socializing that extend beyond the classroom. Learners can discuss advances they see their field, new technologies or topics, make connections with peers, etc.
- Open up the discussion; this is an opportunity to ask your members for feedback about your organization or the conference or get them talking about the conference with other members.
Integrating Higher Logic discussion tools creates a dynamic community of conversation and knowledge among your learners. It provides the peer-to-peer learning that many conference attendees search for at a virtual event.
To hear more about Higher Logic and how to make your Virtual Event engaging, join Higher Logic’s Heather McNair for Make Your Virtual Event More Interesting Than What’s Inside the Refrigerator, a free webinar on May 28 at 1 p.m EST. Register here.
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For more information about peer-to-peer learning and how to integrate Higher Logic’s community learning tools, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Keeping your learners attention during a Virtual Conference or a Webinar can be a challenge. You had an awesome, 3-day conference planned with all these great activities to make your event interactive, but now you’re forced to go virtual. Attendees who were once going to be bright, shining faces right in front of you, are now faceless figures behind a screen. Are they paying attention to the presenters, or are they scrolling through Instagram? Or are they taking a Buzzfeed quiz to find out which Mamma Mia song fits their personality?
Tracy King, CEO and Chief Learning Strategist of InspirEd, has tips to ensure you’re getting eyes and ears during your virtual eLearning event and not daydreamers.
Session Lengths and Breaks
Even if your learners typically work from home, a Virtual Conference can be a very different learning experience, “consuming content through a screen is fatiguing, and it’s a space we are not used to attending and focusing [on],” says Tracy. Design your sessions with your learners in mind, so your event doesn’t feel like an endurance marathon. When determining session length, consider learning outcomes and the medium, but generally, Virtual Conference sessions should be short about 30-45 minutes. If you plan to go longer, make sure you include interaction (more on that later) and breaks.
Breaks are essential. Presenters and learners need time to stretch, check email, grab a snack/drink, and the ever-necessary bio break. They won’t want to miss a single second of the stellar programming you lined up. To make sure you are giving your learners enough breaks, follow Tracy’s lead:
- 90 minute session = 5 minute break
- Half-day sessions = 15 minute breaks every 90 minutes
Let your learners know when to expect breaks and when exactly they start and stop. Stick to those times. Do not let stragglers derail your conference agenda. If the break is 10 minutes, begin promptly after those 10 minutes are up.
If you’re still unsure of how to design your session, Tracy suggests following the 10×10 Rule: 10 minutes of content and 10 minutes of interaction. The idea is not to be regimented and constantly alternating but for equal parts presentation to equal parts interaction. Speaking of interaction…
Make it Interactive
Don’t shy away from interactivity just because your conference is virtual. Depending on the platform you chose to use for your conference, there may be a host of tools for you to make session hands-on. CommPartners integrates with Zoom, which features tools like a chatbox, whiteboard, Q&A, and polling. These tools can be used as ice breakers, but they should be used to advance learning as well, says Tracy:
- Use the whiteboard in small groups for collaborative projects.
- Poll learners to gauge opinions.
- Facilitate discussion and reflection in the chatbox.
Within CommPartners’ Elevate LMS, or Learning Management System, there are opportunities to make the website interactive for learners:
- Include discussion boards to facilitate conversation, include industry experts as discussion moderators.
- Embed a welcome video introducing your learners to the conference. Make it interactive by giving them a fun task to complete, like asking them to comment where they are joining from on the discussion board.
- If your conference has an Exhibit Hall, utilize chat features so exhibitors and attendees can converse at a booth.
- Create a site scavenger hunt to encourage your learners to explore the whole website, directing them to important features. The winners can receive a prize!
Put the Net in Networking
One aspect of conferences that attendees look forward to the most is the opportunity to network and socialize with other industry professionals. Just because your conference has switched to a virtual platform doesn’t mean the opportunity has to go away. Take advantage of the popular Virtual Happy Hours. Try focusing each Happy Hour around a specific topic, profession, or a previous session so they don’t become overwhelming with too many participants.
Another way to keep the conversation going is to add specific discussion boards or chat rooms to your website specifically dedicated to networking and socializing. Direct your learners to those areas of your website during downtime in the schedule or after learning has taken place. Learners are welcome to take their conversations offline, away from the conference as well.
Going virtual doesn’t mean you need to throw everything you have planned out the window. It is an opportunity to get creative with the tools and the platform you’ve selected. Your learners registered for your conference, ready to consume your quality content, which has not changed. Following these tips will make your learners comfortable, keeping them engaged for the length of the conference.
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For more information about how to engage your learners, contact email@example.com. Learn more about education strategy and learning design as well as find Tracy King at inspired-ed.com.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused the event industry to go into a tail-spin. Organizations all over the world were forced to cancel and postpone their events. The Society of Public Health Education, SOPHE, did not want to miss out on the many positive opportunities a conference can bring to an association and decided to take advantage of the Virtual Conference option.
To successfully navigate the one week transition from on-site to virtual, SOPHE staff relied on a harmonic partnership between CommPartners staff and themselves. Accommodations were made to fit the agenda into the virtual world with such a short turn-around period. The three-day conference was expanded to cover four weeks, and the team decided to focus their attention on key events.
SOPHE staff’s preparedness at the onset and their willingness to adapt and learn from CommPartners staff made this a successful event for the organization.
Read the full story.
The reality of transitioning to a Virtual Conference can be as simple or complex as planning a traditional on-site event, depending on the needs of your organization. As CommPartners sees inquiries come in for Virtual Conferences, one question we hear often is, “is an LMS platform really necessary?”
In short, we believe, yes! An LMS or Learning Management System, like CommPartners’ Elevate, allows you to house all your conference resources in one place and creates a space for attendee engagement. Your LMS will be an enduring knowledge presence that makes your learners want to come back to your site for content and information repeatedly. An LMS also opens doors for new ways to monetize online learning as a fresh, constant source of content for your clients and members!
A Home Full of Resources
An LMS platform provides a place for your attendees to return throughout your Virtual Conference. They can reference things like the agenda, speaker bios, virtual tradeshow booths, uploaded resources, and more! Just like an in-person conference or exhibit hall, your attendees will be able to explore your LMS platform to find new and interesting information. An LMS will house a full catalog of resources for attendees, simplifying their experience by eliminating the need for multiple platforms.
One of the biggest concerns when moving from an on-site conference to a Virtual Conference is the elimination of human interaction. Learners attend these events to network and connect with people, and online that doesn’t seem possible. An LMS like Elevate can provide you with many options to bridge the gap between attendees, including discussion boards on the conference site or a specific session, live chat, and Q&A with the presenters during a live broadcast and one-to-one chat messaging! Peer-to-peer conversations, discussions with presenters, and live reactions will create a sense of human interaction in a virtual space.
A Stream of Content
By building an LMS platform now, you can secure a solid foundation for future online events and even create a new, constant source of information for clients and members. Plus, if your organization would want to produce another event, you would already have the tools, site, and team in place to implement. Not to mention, your attendees would have continued access to resources provided by you. With an established LMS, you have the option to add virtual components to any future on-site events. Attendees would also have the ability to refer back to the recordings of your conference to refresh themselves on what they had previously learned. By building an LMS into your crisis solution now, you are securing your organization for a sustainable future.
Make Money While Solving a Problem
The current need is for a virtual solution. Just because you are strategizing how to move forward in difficult times, doesn’t mean it should be at a loss! There are many options within an LMS to monetize your online offerings outside of registration fees. An LMS offers a constant source of resources, like creating subscription plans for your learners to access resources. You can brand pages with sponsors, play sponsor commercials in breaks, and feature ads in various areas of the platform. You can charge for virtual booth space in addition to the on-site booth, should you move forward with an on-site program. Monetizing Your Virtual Conference may mean a new way of creative thinking, but it is entirely possible to do!
While creating your virtual solution for this new challenge, it is wise to slow down, even for a brief moment, and analyze the long term return on investment. With so many uncertainties lingering, creating an LMS will enable you to maximize your remote presence.
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Livestreaming is an exciting move for your organization and an opportunity to reach even more people. While you may feel energized about this change, your attendees may be cautious and apprehensive.
Follow these 6 steps to market your new jump into the technological age!
1. Define your offerings and goals
Before you begin your marketing efforts, you must know what you are selling. This should always be the first step of a marketing team, asking the questions. Below you will find a few examples of things to consider, be sure you are exploring your offerings from a micro and macro level!
- Are you offering on-site and virtual attendance options or, is this a strictly virtual event?
- When the attendee registers for the livestream, what do they receive? Is it access to (1) individual session, or will they receive the whole conference?
- Will there be access to slide decks or other resources for all attendees?
- Will attendees have the opportunity to receive credit or certifications?
- Would you personally register for this conference? Do the pricing and offerings match?
After you have defined all of the offerings, you can now begin identifying goals. Your goals can be as simple as a registration or monetary goal, or as complex and long-term as return registrations or ongoing community discussions. Your goals should follow the SMART guidelines. They need to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. The goals you set should also be organization specific. For example, your organization may need to make a profit off this livestream or it may need to build membership. Your goals will be used to measure success. Remember – success is not a one size fits all model; it is fluid and ever-changing!
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2. Create a Plan
Now you know what you are offering and how you define success, next you need to create your plan! When developing your marketing plan, it is important to consider, once again, macro and micro perspectives. Start by looking at the “bigger picture,” i.e., how much time do you have, what marketing platforms and methods are you planning to use, what resources do you already have, etc.?
It can help to create a timeline from now ending with your livestream event. Set benchmarks that will que you to check on your progress. You should ask yourself, “am I on target for my goals” regularly and then use you marketing plan to either maintain your current efforts or tweak aspects of the plan that are not working to successfully reach your benchmarks.
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3. Know your audience and their preferred communications
Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who doesn’t speak your language and you don’t speak theirs? No matter what you are trying to communicate, the other person does not know the details, but rather only what they can surmise from watching your non-verbal communications.
The same idea is applied to marketing. If you are getting your promotions out on Facebook, but your intended audience primarily uses LinkedIn, you will find your audience may only be picking up portions of your message, and not benefiting from all the right information!
You also may want to take a look at your method of communication based on certain subgroups. For example, you may be trying to market to a specific organization that practices law in the United States, but that group has very specific sub-sets within itself. Younger age groups may get their information from Instagram, while an older age group may prefer email. Segmenting your marketing efforts and tailoring the messages to those sub groups will ensure that the right information is getting to the right people.
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4. Recognize what makes a livestream different
Livestreams offer a cost-effective and time-efficient way for attendees to obtain the same information without the hassle of travel and taking time off to be on-site. Many busy professionals prefer to multi-task during their day, and livestreaming your conference ensure they get the right content without turning they daily routine upside down.
Event recordings are a great way for registrants to re-watch the presentations later for a refresher, or they can visit the recording at a more convenient time.
Identifying your livestreams unique characteristics will help you market to attendees. Why is it important for attendees to register for your livestream? Is there credit associated for the presentations? Do they have to watch it live or can they still obtain credit watching the recording? Ask yourself, “why did we decide to livestream in the first place?”. Chances are you will find the reasons why your audience should register.
Once you have identified what makes a livestream different, market as you would for anything else, highlighting the products unique characteristics.
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5. Make it personal
While a lot of your marketing efforts can be automated, that will make the messaging less personal and easier to delete or ignore. When marketing your livestream, it is important to make sure that you are offering a personal experience, because that is one thing potentially lost when an audience member is virtual.
When you are in-person at a conference, the whole experience is more personal because you are experiencing it with all your senses. A livestream takes away a certain personalization, and it is our job to compensate with catering marketing and course offerings to them.
A few ideas to make the experience more personal:
- Ask for input: What does your target audience want to see, hear and/or learn? People love to know that their voice matters! How awesome is it if you ask to hear about a particular topic, and then it actually is presented on!
- Ask for feedback: Again, people want to be heard! If this isn’t your first event, ask the past attendees for their feedback, and entice them to come see their suggestions in action! The main difference here is that you are receiving reviews based off what you’ve already done!
- Create a Community: Learning online creates its own challenges, but luckily, technology can help. Allow your virtual audience to communicate with each other and their instructors through chat features in the course and discussion boards!
- Create a personal email/phone marketing campaign: Provide your team with an email or script that has a few customization options. Those customization options could be a variety of reasons to attend or the session content/titles. When your team reaches out to attendees, they can pick from the provided options to personalize the message and make attendance more enticing.
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6. Get creative
Don’t be afraid to try new things! With the advances in technology, you can leverage so many more tools to make your event an exciting one to register for! Here are a few ideas
- Contests with prizes: Using a variety of technologies and platforms, you can make a game or raffle contest online!
- Harness the power of video: People love to see and feel excitement for the event; it makes them feel like they are part of it. Live broadcast on social media with your presenters, sharing excitement, or sneak peeks!
- Use the voice of your partners: Create a human connection by using quotes from past attendees, speakers, and team members in your various marketing efforts.
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Any marketing campaign takes time and resources to complete successfully, but using these 6 steps will help you better organize your efforts!