Learn to Host an Online Conference

With the need to stop in-person conferences and events, many nonprofits have had to get creative. Since our own nonprofit was already trying Facebook live events and zoom calls, we decided to host our annual conference online in a webinar format, to see if we could continue on a separate channel Can.

Our online conference took place in June and was exceptionally good in terms of attendance and delivery. There were many best practices and lessons we learned in the process that may help other nonprofits who are considering meeting this alternative channel in person.

Invest Time In Planning 

While this may seem like less work than a physical conference because you don’t have to reserve a place, coordinate travel and stay, as well as plan social activities for the conference, there’s still plenty to accomplish. Remains to be Although we were able to overcome it, weeks of planning for our next virtual conference would begin, if not, soon we completed this time of months.

Although somewhat different, an online conference requires more planning as an in-person event. You have to select a day, theme, schedule and speaker for your event. It is important to plan in advance for other aspects like marketing and promotion.

To create a comprehensive experience for participants you will need time to get your speakers and their subject. We also took time to find some sponsors to help cover the cost of using the webinar platform, which allowed us to offer the event for free.

Research Your Webinar Partner

There are many companies that provide webinars and video conferencing services for these types of events. It is important to compare these platforms to see who meets your needs and budget.

We found it beneficial to test different platforms and work directly with the company, which we planned to make available to our audience. Locate bandwidth and connection requirements to ensure that it can meet the size and scope you are planning.

A useful feature that some companies offer is a registration page for easy registration and sign-in. If you plan to have a Q&A session, it is important to go with a webinar company that gives your audience the ability to “virtually raise your hand” and ask those questions.

Be Accommodating

There are other things to consider when putting together an online conference that may not be relevant to an individual. For example, since the convention is virtual, this means that many people will connect to different time zones – you may also have to consider global time differences. Keep in mind the timing of your event with these various time differences so that you can accommodate as many people as possible.

It is also important to consider whether you will host this during the workweek. If so, it is a good idea to create multiple sessions so that your participants can join when it is convenient for their event. This provides a way for those you want to join at least some or all of the virtual conference.

Diversify The Delivery

Make sure that your online conference does not use the same format for each speaker on your schedule. This does not necessarily engage your audience. Combine this with a panel discussion, a keynote, and a breakout session just like you would in an in-person conference.

Our breakout sessions proved to be one of the most popular aspects as it gave participants a choice of subject matter that resonated with them personally.

Make It Accessible

We have made our virtual conference available for review on demand. Unlike a physical conference, where this can be difficult to do, the online conference format is ideal for increasing the level of value and participation from such an event.

Get The Most Out Of The Effort

Online conference sessions have also provided us with considerable content that we plan to reproduce in blog posts and other content forms to share with our audience. It is also a win for those who attended our online conference and provided them with an audience to share their thought leadership.

Practice Makes Almost Perfect 

Do not underestimate the amount of time you should run through the conference. Encourage each speaker to practice on camera to make their video and audio work well.

While there were still very small glitches and areas where we could improve for our next online conference, we received many accolades from both participants and speakers about the overall experience. Remember that you are trying to break something new and new ground by putting in an online conference for your nonprofit. Try the best practices we have learned and adopt it step by step.

Photo by Thomas Park

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