How to turn an offline event into an online virtual conference

How to turn an offline event into an online virtual conference
Turning an offline conference into an online event has many benefits, but comes with lots of challenges. Here are our tips for going digital-first with your conference or event.

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While far from the most troubling consequence of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, event cancellations have certainly become a common inconvenience over the last few weeks. 

As many organisers strive to protect their staff, customers, beneficiaries and the general public, chances to meet in person are diminishing.

But this doesn’t have to mean campaigns, projects and learning opportunities have to be put on hold for charitable organisations, non-profits and purpose led brands. 

For many organisers, this is an opportunity to experiment with tools and promotion that might make these events digital-first in future.

While no one can deny the benefits of face-to-face contact and networking, going digital delivers many benefits:

  • Lower costs
  • Lower carbon footprint and waste
  • Wider and more varied engagement
  • Higher-quality post-event assets with a longer shelf life

While the logistics might be challenging at first, we believe an online conference can turn a day-long gathering of passionate and experienced professionals into months of information and insight for a diverse and global audience. 

Empower has gone through the experience of developing online conferences, which you can read about in our recent case study where we delivered a record-breaking relaunch of #FRO and increased attendees by 73% over previous years. We’ve also seen how TedXLondon Women have used digital content used well to complement their offline activity.

With this unique situation in mind, here are our tips for going digital-first with your conference or event.

1. Invest in really high-quality video

If you’ve organised an event offline but are switching it to an online event, one area you’re going to save budget on is paying out for a venue. Instead, you should be using this budget and investing in the online experience, which should be focussed on the quality of the video you are producing.

Whether that’s formal presentations, interactive livestream webchats, or follow-up edited clips, excellent video assets should be a focal point for redirected funds. The goal should be creating videos that are really well watched and shared and where applicable, have a good shelf-life.

What could these high-quality video outputs look like?

  • Well-hosted live sessions for key sessions where people can be in the same place, using tools such as Facebook Live or Google Hangouts, so that people can view live if those on-screen presentations are taking place in multiple locations
  • Professional facilitators / presenters to make any live activity smooth and well-paced, and audience interaction works well for everyone
  • Time spent with those doing presentations to rehearse and polish for when they are on camera
  • Editing of filmed content to share the most-compelling clips on social
  • Slideshow-style edits summarising key discussions or emerging themes

Investing in video production is key for turning an offline event into an online one, so make sure to get this area right. Take a look at empower’s video services if you need help producing your event’s video content.

2. Galvanise audience interaction

A lot of the value from attending events and conferences comes from the networking and coming together of professionals, swapping news, updates and other info.

Investing in tools to make the sessions as interactive as possible, call-outs for questions before / during, live polls etc.

This is where facilitation is key so that people see their efforts to engage are being picked up and turns what can be an event where people are silent and watching a video, into an engaging and interactive experience where many people get the same benefits as an offline event.

3. Repurpose content into other formats

By recording the delivery of your online conference using high-quality video, this is a great opportunity to take that content and repurpose it into different digital formats.

  • Podcast: An audio best-bits heavily promoted and tied together by a presenter and your CEO, could be a great one-off listen.
  • Graphics: Ensure you have on-hand design ready to produce the usual mix of quote cards, gifs etc, highlighting key comments, stats, and making it easier for your speakers and viewers to share.
  • Blog Posts: Produce transcripts of talks using a service like Otter.ai, then edit those transcripts into a blog post or article for your website.
  • Resources: Make sure more information is readily available and advertised to those who want to go deeper than the social content.
  • Activate your speakers and their organisations: More than with a physical event, where you are guaranteeing an audience, speakers and their organisations should be a greater part of promoting their moment in your event. Make sure to provide them with a social pack to amplify their session ahead of time, and deliver a high-quality post-event content inducing video, quote cards and blog posts etc for their channels to promote well after the event is over.

4. Use paid promotion to spread content

Now that you’ve got a lot of high quality content and have repurposed that content into different formats, you can take this opportunity to share that content online.

Whether it’s highlights or event summaries, assigning some budget to paid media promotion will help that content get seen online and spread awareness of your conference for future events.

And instead of just setting-and-forgetting a paid media campaign, think about the user journey and capturing value from the user. This leads us onto the next point…

5. Data capture and bespoke follow-up

Going digital offers lots of opportunities for data capture and follow up too.

Can you add an email subscription form to your landing pages, so that people who are engaging with the event can receive email updates on future events from your organisation?

Building multiple moments into your plans for people to share their contact details in return for assets unique to your event, or the opportunity for a bespoke follow up to a question asked.

Have you turned an offline event into an online virtual conference?

These are just a few things to think about when switching your event from an offline experience into an online event.

What are your tips for going digital first with your conference or event? Let us know in the comments below.

We’ll soon be adding lots of online virtual events to Charity Digital and Tech For Good Events Calendar. You can add your online conference here.

Feel free to contact the empower team if we can help promote your event online.

And finally…

None of us know what challenges the next few months will bring, but we do know it is a time to put the health of our communities first. 

Get your info from reliable sources (such as WHO and CDC), try not to over-consume the news and do whatever you need to do to feel safe.

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