This year, PEAK took the shape of a Virtual Bootcamp, an afternoon of rewarding sessions featuring the expertise of the CommPartners team and covering a topic that is top of mind: Virtual Conferencing.
While we specialize in eLearning and managed online events, we do enjoy meeting our community face-to-face at our User Group Conference, so we were disappointed we couldn’t be at Nationals Stadium this year to do just that. However, we were excited to adapt to a virtual event so we could demonstrate what’s possible.
If you’re experiencing some FOMO (fear of missing out) right now, fear not – we have a cure! Here is a run-down of some key takeaways from each session!
Session 1: Adapting with CommPartners + Virtual Conferencing Basics
- Secure “Buy-In”: Before going virtual, show members of your organization what others in your industry are doing. “The trend is your friend,” as Maricela Arias-Cantu, Director of Professional Development, SOPHE said in the Client Panel.
- Avengers Assemble! Create an event team with clearly defined roles.
Session 2: Session 2: Sponsorship, Exhibit Halls, Discussion Boards, Oh My!
- What’s on the Menu? Create an exhibitor prospectus to ensure sponsor visibility.
- Get Creative! Connect with speakers, sponsors, and attendees through discussion boards, photo or social media walls, Virtual Happy Hours, games, musical or comedy acts, entertainers, or celebrity appearances – the possibilities are endless!
Session 3: How to Make Your Virtual Conference Website “Pop!”
- It’s All About UX: The goal of the conference website is to encourage engagement before, during, and after the event.
- Redundancy in Navigation: Make sure your attendees know where to find essential information like sessions, FAQs, exhibit halls, resources, etc.
Session 4: Client Success Panel and Q&A
- Be Flexible When Pivoting to a Virtual Event: GFOA narrowed their sessions down from 80 to 47 and spread them out over four weeks.
- Find Harmony: Establish a balanced relationship between your event team and the Conference Producer.
- Know Your Industry! AAWA was the first organization to go virtual in their industry and offered a discount to anyone who previously registered for a canceled conference.
- Explore the Benefits of Pairing Your Virtual Conference with an LMS: Bundle your on-demand content or make launching your conference site a breeze with an LMS!
Thank you to everyone who attended PEAK 2020 Virtual Bootcamp, we hope you feel empowered and prepared to take on your next virtual event with confidence.
As you transition your on-site event to a Virtual Conference, it is important to consider how you will include the sponsors and other revenue opportunities your organization was counting on while providing a resource center for attendees. In a previous post, we touched on how to monetize your Virtual Conference, including integrating a Virtual Exhibit Hall into your Virtual Conference. Exhibit Halls can be converted to an online format easily and can be just as informative for attendees.
Designing Your Exhibit Hall
A Virtual Exhibit Hall is a home base for all your sponsors. The exhibit hall and each booth can be personalized, depending on the needs of your organization and sponsors/exhibitors. Before designing your Exhibit Hall, identify what features and customization you will be offering to sponsors/exhibitors in their booths.
PDFs, links, or any other resources that would typically be provided to attendees can be housed here. Video and photo assets like commercials or instructional videos or even photo albums can have a dedicated section apart from the downloadable assets and links, all within the individual booths. Going virtual doesn’t mean you lose all the exhibit’s visual and branding opportunities; sponsor logos can be presented in a carousel or posted in various positions around the conference site. Informational and educational posters can be displayed in each sponsor booth, or you can show them all in a collection on a separate posters page
Additional booth features include options for exhibitors and attendees to interact. In each exhibitor booth, there can be a dedicated section for exhibitor staff to “man” the booths and network with attendees via a chat feature. A successful virtual booth should be customized to match the sponsor/exhibitor branding. Have them submit logos or supporting images for greater brand presence.
When it comes to transitioning an Exhibit Hall from in-person to virtual, it just requires some creativity. Use this guide to see how easy it is to transform your on-site Exhibit Hall to a Virtual Exhibit Hall.
Make it Interactive
Once you’ve designed the perfect virtual hall to display your sponsors/exhibitors, the next step is to make sure your attendees interact with the page and the exhibitors. Sponsors are an important part of the vitality of your conference and learners should engage with them. Unlike at an on-site event, where exhibitors are confined to Exhibit Hall hours, your Virtual Exhibit Hall will be open 24/7. Use these tips to encourage activity on your Virtual Exhibit Hall:
- Chat Feature: Whether it’s instant messaging or a discussion board, provide ways for attendees to interact with sponsors.
- Scavenger Hunt: Organize a scavenger hunt around the entire Virtual Conference website leading attendees to the Virtual Exhibit Hall. You can make higher-level sponsors a required stop on the scavenger hunt!
- Credits or Certifications: Offer your attendees a certificate or credit opportunities if they network or interact with sponsors or exhibitors.
- Giveaways/Specials: Encourage your sponsors to offer specials or product giveaways when attendees visit their booth.
- Surveys: Include a survey on your expo page.
- Forms: Embed a Contact Me form to grow your subscriber list.
Including a Virtual Exhibit Hall can be a creative solution to include sponsors, provide more educational resources, and deliver a community-building opportunity. Create a stronger learning community with an interactive Exhibit Hall.
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To learn more about Virtual Exhibit Halls, contact email@example.com
One of the first steps in hosting a Virtual Conference with CommPartners is to meet with a Project Manager for a kick-off call. You likely went over some details during the sales call, but now will you dive more in-depth with your producer to take your conference to the next level. To ensure this process is as smooth as possible and production gets started without a hitch, here are a few things you can prepare for this meeting.
What are the dates of your conference?
You have probably established this information by the time you have spoken with the sales team and signed a contract, but if you have reached this point and have not set dates, expect that it will slow things down.
What do you want your conference website to look like?
Elevate clients can create a completely customized conference website. Having an idea of what you’d like your site to look like will speed the creation process up. Here are some things to consider:
- Will you use a sub-domain name of your website or will you use CommPartners’ domain name?
- Will you create an entirely new design theme or base it off your main site?
- What Elevate features and widgets will you include?
- What will your page navigation look like?
You should also be prepared to share files of your color palettes, logos, and any other images associated with your organization that you’ll want to include on your site. CommPartners is happy to help with any questions regarding your conference site environment, but for a truly custom look, arrive at the meeting with a prepared vision or idea.
How do you plan to handle registration?
Decide if your organization is going to process registration internally or if registration is going through the Elevate website. Both are possible, but your producer will need to know at the onset if registration is going through Elevate. The registration process will need to be built-in to the site and time may need to be added to the production timeline.
What does your agenda look like?
At this point, you should have a timeline prepared for your conference. Details about speakers and the sessions are not necessary, but your Project Manager needs to know when each session is happening, including breaks. They need to know you have left enough time for your learners to go from session to session plus take any necessary breaks.
At an in-person conference, learners have a certain amount of time to arrive at their next session. They have time to mingle in the hall or read the literature posted around the conference. There are also plenty of breaks built into the schedule for meals, to get water, go to the bathroom, and check email. Include breaks in your virtual conference agenda, as your virtual learners are doing the same things. They need to take personal breaks, look for the next session on the conference website, or address any technical difficulties they may have. They may also experience fatigue from online learning. Most are not accustomed to learning in this way and need breaks from the screen. Be sure that you include enough breaks in your schedule to accommodate the needs of your learners.
What is your session format?
Once you have you have a clear picture of what your agenda will look like, it is helpful to know what format your sessions will take. You have many options to choose from, will your speakers use just webcams? Slides and audio? A combination? Will some sessions be pre-produced? This can be a more in-depth discussion with your Project Manager at the meeting, but be prepared to tell them your expected attendance for the conference. It will help them choose the right format for your sessions.
Will you include sponsors?
Virtual Conferences offer several monetization options, and sponsorship is one of them. Be ready to let your Project Manager know what’s been sold to sponsors and at what level. Will there be sponsor videos or will your sponsors be introducing sessions? Are you including a Virtual Exhibit Hall?
A Virtual Exhibit Hall is home on your conference site for all the resources a sponsor can distribute to attendees. In each “exhibit booth,” the sponsor can upload PDFs, videos, company descriptions and links, and other assets. The exhibit hall will be open 24/7 – giving sponsors the opportunity for constant exposure.
Be creative when thinking of ways to include sponsors and be sure to prepare a list of participating sponsors for your Project Manager.
Will you include post-conference/session actions?
Finally, decide upfront if attendees are receiving items like credit, certificates, or evaluations after they have completed something at your conference. You then need to determine if they will receive them after each session or after the whole conference has concluded. If there is anything else attendees should receive after a session or the conference, now is the time to alert your Project Manager. These are actions that must be built-in into the site during the early stages.
By considering all of these questions before your first meeting with your Virtual Conference Project Manager, you not only save them time, you also save you and your team time. It will eliminate the amount of back-and-forth that usually occurs when trying to coordinate an event like this and advances the production timeline.
If you have any questions about your first kick-off meeting or would like to speak a sales representative, click here:
Contact Meghan Gowan, VP of Client Development at firstname.lastname@example.org
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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