When was the last time you walked into a conference and came out feeling satiated? Like you attended every talk, visited all the stalls, and spoke to every possible person? Unless you’re a superhero, or the conference hosted 10 attendees, chances are that you might not have.
You might have glanced through the event schedule, earmarked a couple, and then took the rest as it came. Or maybe you found a track of events curating just what you were looking for. Either way, you get the point — there’s no perfect way to slice an event schedule, and more often than not, it’s nearly impossible to meet everyone attending.
We’ve found it’s the same story when hosting an event or conference online, so we thought we’d share a few tips to help you on your way.
It’s always helpful to step into your audience’s shoes. If you’ve previously attended a similar event or conference to the one you’re hosting, it’ll come more naturally.
What did you like about the event? What did you not? Could anything have been different? Did you like the tools they used? Were you able to network? A simple search online for inspiration never goes amiss, either. 🔎
If you’re hosting a one-of-a-kind event for the first time, you could hypothesise the ideal experience, and validate it by talking to potential attendees. Be sure to make appropriate changes to close down the gaps you identify in the experience.
One of the major advantages of online events is the fact that your audience can join from all around the world. But this brings another layer of challenge to the scheduling — people might reside in different timezones. You have a couple of options to challenge the issue.
If the audience size is large enough, perhaps in the 1000s, consider breaking it off into hubs — maybe one for the Americas, one for Europe and Africa, and one for Asia and Oceania. Doing so ensures your attendees aren’t inconvenienced by having to wake up too early or staying up too late. 😪
On the other hand, with recording and on-demand streaming functionalities becoming more common, you could spread out your live events over multiple time zones (perhaps based on the speakers’ convenience), and ensure all recordings are available for all the other ones. Do ensure you let your attendees know when the recordings are ready to be streamed.
Attending every talk or networking session at a conference is taxing and, often, overwhelming. In cases where there are several live parallel sessions to choose from, try to think of tailored journeys within your event around similar themes and interests. Think back to the audience’s interests and space sessions out to enhance their experience.
For example, if you’re hosting a conference bringing together students looking for international study experiences — you could potentially create different tracks for Arts, Sciences, and History.
Recording and on-demand streaming can again help attendees catch up on other parallel talks that they couldn’t attend later on. However, networking sessions, unfortunately, can’t have this flexibility, so try to ensure thematic networking sessions don’t overlap with similar talks or panel sessions.
Managing attendee experience, while important, is just one side of things as an organiser — you’ll need to take into account speakers’ and panellists’ experience too. After all, they are usually the ones providing critical value to the attendees. They are, usually, also attendees in their own right, as most speakers and panellists tend to check out other sessions as well.
Coordinate with the panellists attending the same session to ensure the time zone for the live session works for all of them. Also, try to keep their schedule free to attend other talks or networking sessions that they personally wanted to attend.
Happy speakers and attendees mean a higher chance that they’ll return to the next edition of your event or conference. ↪️
It’s always a good idea to try to involve the audience in the conversation — be it by opening the floor for opinions and questions, or by engaging them online via polls and chats. 📊
We’ve touched upon networking sessions through this article, but their importance cannot be overstated. Space out networking conversations between the slightly more passive sessions to help attendees feel actively involved throughout the event.
Of course, an all-out pub session at the end of the day is never a bad idea either. We’d know, we do it here at Tevent. 🥂
You might have heard of the pomodoro technique, which can help one stay productive without distractions for 25 minutes or so, followed by a short break, before repeating the cycle. There are many alternatives to it, like the 52/17 technique, or the concept of ‘Tocks’ — check them out online if you’re interested. 🍅
They’re all based on the philosophy that we can’t stay focused or productive for lengthy stretches of time, without the need for breaks or before succumbing to distractions.
This is a good rule of thumb for event schedules as well. Try not to create lengthy talks and sessions, as most attendees will find themselves getting distracted or losing interest. And as we mentioned above, try to interspace talks with networking sessions.
Sometimes, there are so many good sessions that start to come together, that it’s extremely tempting to schedule (too) many parallel sessions. This could also happen if there is a severe lack of time for all the planned sessions to wrap up.
You might also be inclined to sacrifice the time allocated for networking to fit other sessions in. 😮
We’ve generally seen that this greatly reduces the quality of experience attendees and speakers have at the event. If informative or collaborative gatherings start feeling less like fun and more like work, people will be quick to lose interest.
It’s always helpful to prioritise sessions that add the most value, instead of having too many that are only half as good.
In the digital age, it’s never enough just to experience something, is it? 😀 Jokes aside, we’re sure you’d like to enjoy your event as much as possible. Part of that is, of course, capturing, recording, and documenting the best parts of the event.
Be sure to factor in time to do so. You might even want to spend some time in between sessions with your attendees, or guests. Try not to spread yourself too thin! 🧈
After the event, you can use everything you’ve captured to showcase the event on other channels and as promotional material for the next edition. Here’s a handy guide on using the content you have to create more.
As our favourite phrase goes, preparation really is key. Assign roles for all your team members and try to anticipate all the different areas you’ll be involved in.
Think about attendees and guests finding the right links and places to navigate to for their sessions. Have a lead, and a moderator for each event to ensure things go smoothly. You might also want to send out notifications at key points. 💬
The list is endless, but we’re sure you know what we mean. Try having a dry run a week or two before the actual event, so you’re able to make any final adjustments if you need to.
Oh also, another advantage of conducting an event online is the data you can use to understand the success of your sessions. So, don’t forget to set up analytics for the event.
Finally, don’t sweat it too much. If you’ve covered all your bases with the preparation, and have a clear plan for the day(s) of the event, things are bound to come together.
Enjoy the time, take the nitty-gritty elements as they come, you can do this! 🥳
To slide in a sneaky line that we’ve been trying to use: make things even easier for yourself and your team by using Tevent for any online event you’re planning.
Schedule parallel sessions, create topical breakout rooms, collaborate on whiteboards, run polls and answer questions in talks, download in-depth event analytics… the list goes on. Get in touch with us via the chatbox in the bottom right, and we’d be happy to help you get started. 🙂
It’s about time we outgrew the teething pains of current virtual and remote solutions. Let’s start making remote fun, collaborative and workable for all.