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What is needed for a good virtual conference


Let's collect what you may need to run a virtual conference. This blog post may be updated later to add more details, so please send us feedback. MBS has hosted over 10 conferences/events in the past, but since we may run a virtual one someday, let's think about what may be needed for a company to run such a virtual conference:


Attendees

  • Virtual conference, so no per person cost like food or chairs, so make it free to join.
  • Use existing logins for company's forum/community to avoid people register again. Preferable single sign-on for everything.
  • Email all your users, prospects and customers to let them know, early to mark dates in calendar and later to remind them.
  • Take signups before and while the conference runs.
  • Let attendees sign a checkbox or so for them being okay with recordings showing them if they ask a question or present in a session.

Sessions by Company

  • The company provides session to show what they have done since last conference.
  • Brief the public about upcoming features and things you work on.
  • Sessions about each block of features you got to show details, best practices, under the hood and caveats.
  • Getting started sessions to give new people a welcome, show what the platform can do.
  • Provide panels to let people discuss about where things are going.
  • Provide Q&A sessions with specific topics like current release, upcoming features, under the hood.
  • Provide session to walk through resources offered by company like where to find documentation, how licensing works, how the community forum works or where to get help.

Sessions by Attendees

  • Let attendees submit sessions and add them to the schedule as space fits.
  • Sessions to show best practices, the experience with platform features and how to do things in the real world.
  • Let client shows what they made with the platform.
  • Let third party vendors present products around your platform.
  • Discussion panels with experts from community about best practices.

Social Sessions

  • Provide beer garden or similar session for casual get-together over the whole conference. A place to hang-out.
  • Provide ability for small groups to gather in their own streaming or chat room.

Streaming of sessions

  • Use technology from a company, which can scale up with hundreds of users, e.g. Zoom.
  • Stream live to unlisted Youtube video, so people can watch on YouTube live if they can't get into the live stream or watch on the go, like with iPhone.
  • Have people join live stream with microphone and camera turned off. Have attendees start their camera if they want to show themselves or want to speak.
  • Have direct links to chat room, Livestream and Youtube stream from schedule.
  • Provide live subtitles if possible. Zoom can do that.
  • Have a moderator on the streams to deal with technical issues. Let people in from waiting room. Put everyone but presenter to mute regularly. Make sure presenters have good sound. Collect questions and coordinate them.

Schedule

  • Very dynamically. The schedule may change during the conference.
  • Changes as speakers are added.
  • Calendar view to see for everyone.
  • Track view as list
  • List view for all sessions at conference
  • WebDAV link to subscribe to calendar in iCal, Outlook, etc. so we have the sessions in our calendar on the iPhone in local timezone.
  • Click on session to see details in some popup window.
  • Allow sessions to be marked as favorites and provide a favorites view as a personal schedule.
  • Speakers my cancel before or at conference and get removed.
  • Times should be shown in local timezone of browser.
  • Provide links to directly jump to live stream, backup YouTube stream and discussion room.

Discussion

  • Provide the lobby. For most conferences, meeting attendees and staff in the lobby is the most importing aspect.
  • Have a central chatroom (matrix, slack, etc.) with multiple rooms to meet.
  • Have a room per session for questions and live comments while watching.
  • Have a room per third-party vendor for questions.
  • Have a room for questions to company, like each for marketing, sales, engineering, support.
  • Have a main lobby room to hang out.
  • Have a beer garden room for people to just chat what they like.
  • After sessions, let moderators process the chat and copy interesting links and remarks to document annotated to the archived video.
  • Put up discussion room the day before the conference starts for casual get-together.

Social Media

  • Regularly before the event postings pointing to the conference.
  • When new session is added to schedule, let people know automatically.
  • Before a session starts, make a posting a few minutes before, so people can join right away.
  • Post later when recordings are available.

FileShare

  • Have a place where speakers and attendees can upload files for their session, e.g. have a folder for each session. Provide a place for example files.
  • Link file share from session in schedule.

After conference

  • Put all videos on website for free.
  • Mirror them on Youtube, Vimeo or similar.
  • Have all videos transcribed, so you can search inside them.
  • Include remarks, URLs from live chat to add to video description.

Personally I attended a couple of virtual conferences like dotfmp, Claris Engage, XDC, CURL up and WWDC. They all did some things well and may miss some of the aspects above. Having a list like above may help to plan such a conference.

See you at the next conference!

Update: Follow up on good virtual conferences with Event planning strategies for virtual conferences, online events and hybrid meetings

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