Last month, we hosted the inaugural edition of our new event series: Cosmic Conferences. This virtual event titled 'The Future of Work Conference' explored the impact of remote work in the post-pandemic world. Our team only had two weeks to secure 20 speakers, curate 5 panel discussions, 1 closing debate, navigate the streaming technology, and engage with more than 1100 attendees. We learned a lot from this experience and wanted to share these insights to help anyone else who is planning on hosting a virtual event.
You can watch all six sessions, on our YouTube page, or by clicking on the above image.
1. Define Your Value-add
Virtual events are a great way to generate brand awareness, develop your thought leadership strategy, generate leads or even create a new source of revenue. However, quarantines and stay-at-home orders have inundated the internet with webinars, live conversations, and Zoom events. We wanted to ensure our virtual event would be worth the 45 minutes someone would take out of their day.
With a topic like 'The Future of Work,' it is difficult to map out what the key takeaways of each discussion were. We were determined to make the event meaningful. as possible, and meticulously crafted and diversified the discussion topics, invited speakers who could make the discussion engaging and exciting. Ultimately, we wanted to add value and perspective to the conversations taking place around remote work across disciplines. When we were planning for the sessions, we started with the questions: What will be most valuable for attendees? What can they learn? And this landed us on a diversified Agenda, that covered
everything from real estate to employee engagement.
2. Choose Your Tech Wisely
6 months into the pandemic, we had Zoom webinar fatigue. Enter LinkedIn Live, a new tool in beta testing that Marilyn, our Founder, had access to.
LinkedIn Live allows you to broadcast live or pre-recorded sessions to your personal profile, company page, or event page for all event attendees to see right there in their feed. It requires you to work with a streaming platform.
We used StreamYard, which allowed us to stream our event on LinkedIn Live and Facebook Live simultaneously. The tool is quite simple to use (in large part thanks to a tutorial by our dear friend Sonal @SuperCharge) It allowed us to brand the background, add our logo, and manage things efficiently from the backstage. Our speakers also found it surprisingly straight-forward.
We used Wix to create our conference page, get attendees to register, and connect with them with email marketing.
Barring the limitations of LinkedIn Live, which you can read about in our open letter to the LinkedIn Live Product Team, we really recommend this tech stack.
3. Be Prepared for Tech Malfunctions
It's not a virtual event if your technology doesn't fail you at some point. We found that preempting these and going the extra mile to be prepared with a plan B helped ease our anxieties about what could go wrong.
Streaming malfunction? We had backup Zoom links ready for every session along with email alerts to all attendees. Faulty internet? We informed all speakers to keep the conversation going in the event of a connectivity issue.
We also ran a few tech rehearsals including a Livestream to market the event, to preempt any of the issues and familiarize audiences with the format of the event.
And most importantly, we didn't let the occasional malfunction get to us, keeping a smile on our face and the conversation going no matter what.
4. Streaming: High-Quality Production at a Low Cost
As a startup without a major event sponsor, we limited our budget for this event to USD $500. But we still wanted to make sure it looked polished for our audience. We made sure that our main moderator Marilyn had the perfect streaming set up. using basic props. A desk lamp, an old Arabic dictionary, and a clean background.
We also shared these tips with our speakers by developing a short tech checklist with best practices that we emailed them a few days before the event. .
5. Branding: High-Quality Production at a Low Cost
Without lanyards, tickets, billboards, or merchandise, virtual events present fewer opportunities for branding, making it even more important to focus on the quality of the aesthetics. Canva. is our go-to for all-things content creation. Whether it is for an event poster or an Instagram story, the templates and themes are super easy to customize and work with. We used Canva to create all of our content including our YouTube video intros, LinkedIn posts, and even the event brochure.
It may seem trivial but the look and feel of the event added legitimacy. We even went as far as creating visuals for our speakers to post across various channels, making sure that wherever they helped us promote the event, we looked sharp and sophisticated. This is especially important given the absence of a physical space to convene in. The branding and aesthetics bring the event to life, giving it personality, character, and direction.
6. Marketing: Never Underestimate the Power of Personal Connections
When marketing the Cosmic Conference, traditional, direct outreach worked best for us . We asked our friends, families, and networks to share the event with those around them. We WhatsApped, called and DMed anyone we knew could help us grow our attendee base. To register, we created a LinkedIn event page, which allows attendees to invite others, making it an exceptional tool for growing attendance.
When the event was over, we personally reached out to speakers, thanking them for their participation and highlighting some of the key take aways from what they had shared.
7. Up The Enthusiasm (If Appropriate)
If the topics allows it, a virtual event calls for high levels of energy and enthusiasm. Our event was all about the Future of Work, allowing for much of the discussion to be forward looking, positive and light-hearted. We wanted to probe further, dive deep into the insights, and question our speakers, but we did all of that while smiling, and making sure our voice was never monotonous or preachy.
To some, it may be easier to bring the energy without a room full of eyes staring down at you. Regardless of comfort level, the nature of the format means event hosts, emcees or moderators are responsible for setting the pace, tone, and energy level of the virtual event.
8. Mix Up the Formats
We're guilty of not following this tip very closely. Of our 6 sessions, 5 were panel discussions with very similar structures. To close out the Future of Work Conference, we held a debate arguing for or against certain aspects of remote work. Our moderator would read out a motion, then our debaters would have to put a thumb up or down to agree or disagree with the motion, before presenting their point of view. This format generated significant audience engagement.
If you are hosting a multi-session event, we highly recommend diversifying the style of online sessions to change things up.
Hosting a virtual event takes meticulous organization, polished audience engagement, fluency in the technology you are using, and the ability to extract meaningful insights. If you have specific questions, or if you'd like to get in touch about a future Cosmic Conference event, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.