Michael Doane is marketing manager at CadmiumCD, where he educates event planners on the benefits of event tech.
How to Transform Your Live Conference or Trade Show Into a Virtual Event
Sometimes the unexpected happens and event planners have to decide to downsize or cancel their events. But before you cancel, consider an alternative. We believe in the power of meetings. They’re where people bring together ideas and insights to inspire others.
Here’s a quick list of how you can turn a live event into an online meeting of minds using tools you might already have on hand.
1. Take Your Sessions Online
Use a webinar tool to set up virtual sessions in place of your meeting rooms. Have attendees log into the same session they would’ve attended on-site and watch the session in real-time. Include links in your app and website to register and watch the webinar.
You could even have attendees download the conference app and send them real-time push notifications when sessions are starting. Make it fun so it feels like they’re actually part of a community even if they’re sitting back at home or in the office.
2. Have Speakers Record Themselves
Have speakers record their live webinars, or simply use the audio/video recording tools on their phones or computers to capture their presentations. Speakers can record their presentations and use a speaker management tool to submit a video of the presentation to be included in your event app and website.
If your event is still happening in a physical location but attendees can’t make it, you can record these sessions and make them available to attendees post-conference. Here are a few ways we can take your audio, video and presentation slides and use them to create engaging conference proceedings: 4 Ways Savvy Event Planners Share Conference Content
3. Link recordings from your event website
Once your conference proceedings are ready, add them to your website or app. Send attendees who couldn’t make it to the show complimentary access to these recordings. Your members and attendees can browse sessions they missed and engage with content that’s important to them.
4. Highlight Sponsors with a Product Showcase and Floor Plan
Use product showcase and expo floor plan tools to host a virtual trade show. Send attendees app notifications and emails highlighting specific sponsors and exhibitors throughout the show. You could also send an email with the best product innovations from your trade show and link to the product showcase on your event website.
5. Have a Virtual Scavenger Hunt
To up the game (quite literally) at your virtual trade show, offer a scavenger hunt. The onsite scavenger hunt works like this: attendees walk around the show and scan QR codes strategically located at sponsor booths. Instead, you could include these QR codes as PDF files on exhibitor profiles and sponsored sessions on your event website. Attendees could open them up, then scan them with the event app to answer questions and gain points.
To make things more competitive, attendees can access the live leaderboard in their event app to see how they’re doing (and who their top competitors are).
6. Use Audience Response to Engage Attendees
Conferences are all about live interaction and learning. In addition to note-taking, highlighting and drawing on presentation slides, event apps offer another important educational tool: audience response.
The Audience Response System (ARS) acts as a real-time tool for question moderation and in-session commentary. Use ARS to allow speakers to poll the audience and display real-time results. Attendees can also ask questions and upvote others’ questions for the speaker to answer.
7. Encourage Networking with Attendee Chat
Use attendee chat in your event app to foster one of the most important things at a conference: networking! Send push notifications with icebreaker questions, topics of discussion, and fun photo competitions to get people engaged. For example, at the beginning of the conference, you could use the “Draw a Pig” personality test and have everyone share their picture on the attendee chat.
When your regularly scheduled evening entertainment was planned, have attendees share drink and food recipes and share pictures of themselves enjoying the meal at their dinner table.
Have a best-dressed photo competition. If people are stuck at home, you could get creative and do something like a “wackiest pajamas” competition. You could also use the attendee chat to announce things like award winners, people who have earned certifications or scholarship winners.
Encourage attendees to also use the attendee list in the app to connect with 3-5 new people by sending them a direct message with a discussion topic or question. They could then brew themselves a cup and schedule appointments to chat over coffee via a phone or video call.