10 Virtual Conference Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
January 12, 2022
Virtual conferences’ prevalence and popularity have skyrocketed in recent years. They allow for meetings, conferences and other events to take place anywhere and at any time, so long as those involved have a compatible device and a steady internet connection.
However, despite the sudden increase of virtual conferences, many people are still unused to the virtual format. Well-meaning but uninformed event planners can fall prey to all sorts of errors that can put the brakes on an otherwise successful virtual event. Here are 10 typical virtual event planning mistakes and what you can do to steer clear of them.
1. Not Rehearsing
If you ever gave a presentation during school, chances are you practiced beforehand to work out any kinks. In the same vein, rehearsing for your virtual conference will help you anticipate any obstacles, letting you and your speakers workshop any speeches and practice your timing.
Rehearsing will also help you prepare for any technology issues and get used to whatever software you’re using to host the event. If you aren’t familiar with the software already, practice is essential.
2. Mismanaging Expectations
While a virtual conference is a perfectly serviceable substitute for an in-person event, they aren’t the same thing. If you expect your virtual event to run the same as it would if you hosted it in person, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. You’ll also end up disappointing your audience, especially if you can’t manage to deliver on anything you advertised.
Instead of struggling to make your event fit the in-person mold, take advantage of the virtual nature and play to those strengths. Make sure you deliver on everything you tell your guests to expect, plus anything you predict they’ll look forward to.
3. Losing Track of Your Goals
No matter how engaging or unique your event is, all your efforts will go to waste if you don’t achieve your original goal. One way to avoid virtual conference planning mistakes is to clarify beforehand what you hope to accomplish. Do you want to educate your audience? Convince them to invest in a product? Raise awareness for an issue you’re passionate about? Whatever your objectives are, keep them in mind and plan your event accordingly.
4. Not Having an Agenda
Every successful conference needs at least a loose plan. Having a schedule will help you keep your event organized and prevent you from spending too much time on a single segment. Without a timeline, your conference will quickly get off track or run over the allotted time.
While you don’t need to create a minute-by-minute schedule when planning a virtual conference, write down what you’ll cover during your event and when. You can also make this agenda available to your audience before or during the event, so everyone knows what to expect.
5. Trying to Do Too Much
Accessibility is one of the most notable benefits of virtual events. If your attendees have a stable internet connection, they can access your event from almost any location. You’ll also have an easier time assembling guest speakers and presenters, as location won’t be a limitation.
However, don’t fall into the trap of overstuffing your conference. While your guests may be able to access the event from wherever they want, they’ll still have to focus on it for however long it lasts. Having too many speakers or facets of your event can bore or overwhelm your audience. Present your information in readily digestible segments and limit the number of segments per event to keep your audience engaged.
6. Ignoring Your Mistakes
Nobody’s perfect. Just because your conference is virtual doesn’t mean you’ll make it through without at least one hiccup. If you’re not familiar with virtual meeting technology, you may be more likely to make mistakes. Perhaps your screen didn’t share the right image, or someone barged into your room while you were presenting.
When something goes wrong, it’s natural to want to power through your presentation without acknowledging it. However, pretending these mistakes didn’t happen can make your guests feel awkward. Remember, you aren’t alone in trying to navigate these new virtual waters. Acknowledge what happened, laugh about it and move on naturally.
7. Not Having a Backup Plan
Just as people aren’t infallible, neither is technology. No matter how much you practice, there’s always the chance you’ll experience a technical malfunction during your event. Perhaps your microphone stops picking up sound, or one of the files you want to show has become corrupted or won’t share properly. Maybe your internet slows to a crawl when you need it most.
Depending on the malfunction’s severity, these issues can bring your conference screeching to a halt. That’s why it’s critical to have backup plans in case of faulty technology. The best way to do this is to have a co-host prepared to take over the presentation while you troubleshoot issues on your end.
8. Not Facilitating Conversation or Collaboration
No matter how exciting your conference is, you’ll bore your audience if you don’t allow them to engage with it. Make time during your event to allow for audience participation. Invite them to take part in activities such as interactive Q&A segments. Choose a method of engagement that best suits your event’s tone. If you can find a way to reinforce audience takeaways with the activities, that’s even better!
9. Having the Wrong Sponsors
If you’re organizing a virtual conference, you may wish to secure a sponsor. Gaining financial or in-kind support from one or more businesses can be mutually beneficial, letting you have a more successful event while giving your sponsors exposure and access to the audience you attract.
Sponsors can set the tone for your event, even if they don’t present about their product or service. If your sponsor is at odds with your event topic, you might confuse or even offend your audience. For example, a presentation and fundraiser for cancer research is not the place to accept a bank or sports team as your sponsor. Choose a sponsor that relates to your event topic and properly matches the tone you want to set.
10. Using the Wrong Platform
One of the most crucial aspects of a virtual conference is the platform you choose to host it on. The right platform will help you meet your conference’s goal efficiently and engagingly for your audience. The incorrect platform will make it more challenging to get your point across and leave your audience confused or bored.
When you begin planning your event, look into different virtual platforms. Take note of their features, decide which one will best support your conference and get familiar with it in advance so you’re comfortable using it.
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