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8 Tips for a Highly Engaging Virtual Event

8 Tips for a Highly Engaging Virtual Event

At Six Feet Up, we recently hosted Indy Cloud Conf, a multi-day, multi-track digital experience that was originally intended to be an in-person event. With the right tools and mindset in place, we were able to convert this event in just 10 short days. Although it was planned to be a regional conference, we were able to drastically expand and reach almost 200 registered attendees from 5 countries and every corner of the United States.

Here’s what we have learned along the way:

1. Assemble a Diverse Team of Organizers

Your organizers are your most valuable asset, and having a diverse group can greatly improve an online conference experience. Many tech events tend to be rather homogenous, so a strong focus on a diverse team will help curate a diverse speaker and attendee lineup. By asking for assistance with your diversity outreach, you’ll get support and advice from leaders in the community. People are more than willing to help eliminate the tech diversity bias, you just need to ask.

At Six Feet Up, we have a “Diversity & Inclusion” page on our conference site with a clear diversity statement and call for advice/help. We know we cannot do this alone, so in preparation and marketing for the event, we reach out to many diverse and underrepresented groups in our community to figure out how we can better serve their members.

2. Factor in Organizer Time

Scaling an event online requires a lot of legwork to make the event successful. You will be making website and content updates, researching promotional avenues, coordinating swag for attendees, and running your virtual event platform. If you are running a large-scale event with a bare-bones team, we recommend calling in reinforcement volunteers/employees.

3. Choose the Right Platform

Some questions to ask as you evaluate a virtual event platform include:

  • How user friendly must the platform be for your particular audience?
  • What apps do you need the platform to integrate with? For example some organizations can’t use Zoom and are restricted to WebEx or Skype.
  • How will you foster engagement between attendees, speakers and sponsors?
  • How will you provide visibility for your sponsors and exhibitors?
  • How will you handle virtual poster sessions?

At Six Feet Up, we were looking for an all-in-one integrated virtual experience. Since we couldn’t find a platform that offered that, we created our own. We are happy to show you what we have. Ask us for a demo of our LoudSwarm high impact virtual event app.

4. Get The Right Recording Equipment

You’ll want to be able to see and hear the presenters well so a quality microphone and camera are a must. Whether you offer to send speakers the equipment or give them suggestions, it’s important to have a high-end experience for attendees to keep engagement high.

As far as cameras go, we recommend the Logitech Brio if money is an not object. This is a great 4k camera with ability to set custom FoV. If you are looking for a great all around webcam for under $100, the Logitech C925-e is your best bet.

With regards to microphones, we have 3 favorites: the Blue Yeti is the gold standard for capturing your voice. The Rode Wireless Go is your microphone if you want to present like a pro and get the quality along with it. However the Microsoft LifeChat LX-4000 is the best sounding headset for meetings — that is, if you can find it.

5. Sponsorships Bring Value

Whether your online event is free or paid, sponsorships add a layer of credibility to your event. They are great resources to tap into for collaborating on new content, door prizes, offers to attendees, and swag to send (virtual or physical).
Typically, sponsors are also looking to spend marketing money to keep their budgets in line for the next fiscal year, and are looking for creative ways to promote their brand.
Community user groups are also a great place to get local promotion. These groups contain a highly targeted audience and are looking to help their users find new knowledge and resources you can provide for them.

6. Do Go Overboard on Content

Do keep your attendees engaged by providing more content than attendees are able to consume. Encourage sponsors and exhibitors to run side activities in parallel of the official talks. Examples include live demos, virtual sweepstakes, polls, breakout rooms etc.

For the Indy Cloud Conference, we ran leveraged Slack for communication, with some highlighted channels such as a “#hallway-ama” to create as much organic conversation as possible. We also created sponsor channels for sponsors to use to network with attendees. Many organized demos, posted videos, uploaded product spec sheets and some even organized sweepstakes. The more information attendees have available to them, the more likely they are to stay within your platform and engaged in the event.

7. Invest in Physical Swag

Online events typically have a lower cost per person, so get creative in your marketing initiatives. Do mail out a physical swag bag to your speakers, and mail a conference package to your attendees. Include things like lanyards (yes!), stickers, t-shirts, board game elements, tumbler, etc. Those physical items will help anchor your attendees in the reality of your otherwise virtual event. If you are creative enough, they may even lead to organic promotion on social media by attendees and speakers.

8. Promote a Code of Conduct

Online bullying is a reality and must be avoided at all costs. By being direct about what you expect from attendees, sponsors and speakers, you will leave no room for confusion about how you expect folks to interact online. Everyone should feel welcome and comfortable to attend, so clear guidelines are a must.

In Short…

We’ve seen great success with events at large going virtual. If you have relevant content to share, the online ecosystem may be appealing to a much broader audience than you would have gotten at an in-person event. Collaboration with speakers, sponsors and attendees is key to create a highly engaging event. Elevate your digital experience by choosing a platform that allows the most collaboration and engagement.

If you want to see a live example, please check out the Python Web Conference, a 3 day, fully virtual digital event happening on June 17-19, 2020. Be sure to register and check out our online event platform Loudswarm.

If you’re looking for ideas to run virtual community meetings, Six Feet Up organizes IndyPy, a Python Meetup, and IndyAWS, an AWS user group, and we would be happy to work with you on your event. Simply email Josh at josh@sixfeetup.com.

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