How to Run an Online Conference

We were recently approached by a client interested to discuss how they could run their conference online.

Given the current situation with live events, there are surely many conference organisers facing the same challenge.

Before attempting to translate your event online, it's important to ask why people attend conferences in the first place. Many go for the information they receive; many more are attracted to the networking opportunities and interactivity.

Can this be replaced by an online format? Perhaps not, but it's important to consider new ways that people can experience live events, keeping the industry afloat during these difficult times.

We came up with a plan: an online conference programme with a mix of pre-recorded and live content. Delegates are emailed a link to a passworded page on the conference website displaying a virtual 'programme of events'. Descriptions of each session will be accompanied by a URL link.

How to run an online conference

1. Pre-recorded Videos Premiered Live

Using the Premiere feature on YouTube, pre-recorded videos will be ‘live-streamed’ at scheduled times throughout the day. Although the videos are pre-recorded, viewers can interact in real time via the comments section. The speaker will be present and able to field comments throughout the video.

A Q&A section can also be added after the Premiere so that participants can discuss the session informally over coffee. Zoom, Google Meet Up or GoToMeeting might be good platforms for this.

The links would be provided in the conference programme as well as in the video description.

These videos will remain on YouTube for delegates to access after the Premiere, in case they missed it or want to recap any information. To ensure the content remains exclusive to paying delegates, the videos would be ‘unlisted’ - meaning you would need to have a link in order to access them.

Recording and publishing video content to YouTube in advance not only ensures a seamless, high-quality and punctual session, it also removes the worry of technical mishaps and the pressure for the speaker to coordinate a live session. The last thing you need is for the speaker to experience Wi-Fi problems 5 minutes before the start.

Another benefit of using pre-recorded content is the increased audio and image quality. The videos can be filmed in person (socially distanced) in 4K using professional mics and lighting. There's nothing more frustrating than a grainy live-stream with poor quality or laggy audio.

Logo intros, slides and multiple camera angles can be used in the edit to create a visually rich experience.

2. Interactive Training Sessions

These real-time training sessions would work best if the speaker is based overseas or if more interaction is required.

Again, Zoom, Google Meet Up or GoToMeeting could be good platforms for this. There are now many available.

If speakers are based overseas and therefore unavailable for in-person filming, their sessions could be pre-recorded and pre-edited as per the YouTube videos (either with audio and slides only, or using the speaker's own mobile phone footage plus slides).

3. An After Party

This is where the delegates would go to network and discuss the day. They can set up conversations with individuals they’d like to talk to or splinter off into group chats.

The aim is to have people feel satisfied that the experience and content they receive is value for money and that you are providing the best substitute they could reasonably expect given the current challenge with live events.

We feel that the simplest solution is going to work best. Using some pre-recorded content will allow it to be filmed at the speakers' convenience, taking pressure away from event organisers so that they can concentrate on delivering a successful event on the day.

Clearly, there is no 'one size fits all' solution. Every event has its own culture and this is just one suggestion for how live events might be able to operate in the current crisis.

Your Thoughts

How have you been adjusting to the challenges? Do you have any suggestions for how some live events can be moved online?

If there are any video elements we can help with for your next conference, we'd love to hear from you.

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