Member-Based Associations' Virtual Events
A member based organization that has virtual conferences focused on providing continuing education credits is Labroots, while one that focuses on providing an abundant amount of attendee only content is ILTA's Ascend virtual conference. Some benefits of virtual conferences over physical include the ability to collaborate across varied disciplines and with many experts, reducing costs, and increasing efficiency and productivity. Two best practices found for digital conferences include choosing the correct format for the intended message, and engaging the audience through a variety of means.
Member Based Virtual Conferences
- The leading scientific social networking website Labroots, founded in 2008, offers the latest scientific news that is trending along with premier educational virtual webinars and events, while contributing to the advancement of science through content sharing. Labroots is a powerful advocate in the growth and expansion of global communities and networks.
- Labroots, through scientific collaboration and learning, emphasizes digital innovation, and has become a vital source for top scientific news, virtual conferences, webinars, and more. Along with their articles and webcasts that explore the latest discoveries in science, users of the platform can stay ahead of their respective field through continuing education credits from a broad array of topics, earned through participation in webinars and events. Each event offers different continuing educational credits based on the event and presentation.
- To become a member of Labroots, users can join for free, becoming a part of "the largest scientific learning community in the world."
International Legal Technology Association ILTA Ascend
- The International Legal Technology Association's annual digital conference known as ILTA Ascend is the premier planning weekend where the association's volunteer leaders gather to discuss and plan the association’s overall vision and goals. The conference aims to promote member engagement and volunteering, and to provide an opportunity for ILTA volunteer peers and staff to network and work together, gaining a better understanding of how the volunteer structure at ILTA functions and how teams contribute.
- The association’s strategic goals will be presented, and volunteer groups will spend time meeting and planning team goals and objectives, while creating plans. The conference provides an abundant amount of attendee only content including transportation guidelines, areas of focus for the meeting, and overarching themes.
- The ILTA allows for new members to register here.
Virtual Event Benefits Over Physical
- Video conferencing is also promised to provide: improved communications, better business relationships, improved competitive edge, larger meetings, and the satisfaction of employees. Growing awareness of the many benefits that come with collaboration is a driving factor in the growth of video conferencing.
- Work environments that utilize video conferencing and are team focused with collaborative efforts provide many "incredible business advantages" including: progressing companies more effectively toward goals, fostering learning and creativity, and combining and blending complementary strengths, skills, and perspectives. These work environments can also encourage equal participation, build trust, aid employee development, provide a wider sense of ownership, encourage partnerships and efforts, allow for more efficient and faster problem solving and greater innovation, and improve overall satisfaction and retention of employees.
Reducing Costs and Misunderstandings
- Video conferencing can eliminate significant costs for companies through employee travel and transportation, including hotels and meals, as these expenses add up very quickly. Using digital meetings reduces bottom line costs overall as eliminating travel expenses for just one employee greatly outweighs the expense of a video conferencing system that can be used by the entire company at large.
- Video calls also have the ability to reduce misunderstandings that are typical from phone calls and emails, as facial expression and body language allow for even clearer and direct communication, and participants are more likely to speak up if they are in need of clarification or more information. Video conference attendees are more prone to staying focused and alert when in view of coworkers.
Increased Efficiency and Productivity
- Employees being more focused and connected increases bottom line productivity and efficiency, as human resources are maximized. Participants feel more in sync with each other and company objectives and can complete projects faster.
- A major noted benefit of video conferences is in reducing time wasted in company meetings. 4,700 users who were surveyed stated that the top benefits of video conferencing included 94% of users saying video conferences increased production and efficiency, 88% said they increased the effectiveness of discussions, 87% that they helped the decision-making process, while 87% stated a major benefit was reduced travel.
- Physical venues always have a limit to the number of people allowed to be in attendance, not to mention the costs of hosting thousands of people. In contrast, virtual events are much easier to scale, giving the ability to host even more people for a fraction of the costs expanding company reach and promoting brand awareness. (Workcast, a webinar company and product, can host up to 50,000 attendees for each event).
Virtual Conference Best Practices
Deciding on Format
- As virtual events can be in many different forms and formats, top software options such as Zoom offers solutions for any use. Zoom's list of best practices start with planning the event, initially considering what kind of user experience is intended, including the level of interaction expected, as this will dictate the necessary format such as a webinar or a meeting.
- If attendees are expected to mostly listen, Zoom recommends a video webinar, and when a more back and forth interaction between host and audience is expected, a video meeting is probably the better option.
- Webinars can be compared to the likes of an auditorium or lecture hall, making them ideal for large events and audiences open to the public. Webinar attendees do not interact with one another typically, though software such as Zoom gives options for greater interaction with attendees. Webinars usually have either one or a few people speaking to an audience, while virtual meetings are more for interactive sessions where lots of audience participation is expected or to break the session into small groups.
- Four popular formats for virtual conferences listed in this relevant article are using prerecorded videos, animated educational content, live-streaming, and virtual event panels and forums.
- An article from hootsuite.com states that every style from TED talk style to stand-up comedy and intimate interviews are good ideas when it comes to expert presentations. Trivia games and contests that allow for interaction are also engaging for the audience.
Engaging your audience
- Although in-person events offer great levels of interaction, online virtual events also offer informative and interactive experiences all while employees have the comfort of home or office. A key best practice is to put as much effort in digital and virtual experience as would be applied for in-person events, in order to maximize engagement.
- Some key best practices when it comes to engaging the audience include setting the tone, enabling Q&A, conducting polls, asking for feedback, and accounting for employee reactions.
- When setting the tone, attendees can be welcomes as they join the meeting or webinar or meeting. An icebreaker question that attendees can answer in the chat is considered a general best practice, such as “Where is everyone joining from?" or "What is your favorite aspect of the job?” Employers should be sure to acknowledge some of the answers and share their own response.
- In order to enable an Q&A, a company can have designated panelists to help answer questions during the event. A recommended best practice is to encourage questions throughout the meeting session, giving the chance to answer questions as the meeting progresses, or to wait until the end. Preparing a few questions in advance to fill any gaps of time is also important.
- Creating 3 to 4 polling questions to be set up before the event starts is considered a great way to boost engagement. It also allows an opportunity to understand what information the audience is interested in hearing about most, their level of knowledge or expertise, and their opinions and understanding on the content or meeting in general, etc.
- Post-event surveys to collect feedback on the meeting, the content, the presenters, and employee satisfaction is also an important practice. Survey tools are abundant online and a company only has to provide the URL link in software such as Zoom and as soon as attendees leave the meeting or webinar, surveys will automatically launch. Participants in meetings can also send their reactions throughout the meeting by sending in a thumbs up or clapping hands to express agreement or excitement without interrupting the event.
- Another source states it simply: "If you create opportunities for engagement, your audience will be more engaged."
- The Call to Action Conference, an annual event in Vancouver, Canada by the software company Unbounce, is known for being very successful when it comes to great company engagement, as their testimonials on their page attest. The use of testimonials is also a great way to boost attendance and engagement, as other experiences are validated, encouraging the attendance and participation of others.
- INBOUND, a digital conference by HubSpot for marketing, stands out in their success among virtual events in part due to their choice of format, creating great content for participants all year long. INBOUND allows popular keynote sessions and speeches from years past to be viewed anytime, and creates new, original content on a regular basis.