Hosting a virtual conference: how to recreate the real-life experience onlinecreative44
While Zoom & Teams calls do the job, there’s potential to create a much more immersive, interactive and igniting experience when hosting a conference online.
In this blog, we share what we’ve learnt from organising the highly successful launch of Spark Grimsby, as part of the Grimsby Creates programme: the Cultural Development Fund programme that supports creative business in North East Lincolnshire.
If you’re looking to leave a lasting impact on your attendees that’s a whole lot more energising than the dreaded Zoom fatigue, read on…
Try new technology
Before you leap to schedule another meeting in Zoom, it’s worth considering whether there is a better alternative. Software developers across the world are scrambling to be the ones to meet the global population’s brief of a video call platform which gives that same sense of connection as real life.
For the Spark Grimsby launch, we decided to try Hopin. A relatively new player in the virtual conferencing field, this online platform allows attendees to experience being at a conference or event – without physically being there. They can enter and exit different virtual rooms, visit virtual stands, network virtually and even go and check out the virtual stage as they like.
We’re not being paid to endorse the software, but we do highly recommend it as an up-and-coming platform for holding virtual conferences. It’s more dynamic and allows attendees to actively choose where and what they’d like to do rather than sit passively watching yet another presentation.
Simulate real life
One of the best things about using Hopin was its ability to mimic one of our lively, engaging and sociable real-life events. Our Hopin event was run by the Go Get Organised team and the team were there to guide the attendees through the event and introduce them to the various stage speeches and sessions throughout the event. This was really important to us as it created warm and welcoming first impression. Forming meaningful connections is something we’re all missing at the moment, and a key goal of the Spark Grimsby programme.
We also loved how the software let attendees recreate the experience of eavesdropping. It’s often the case at a conference that you loiter in the aisle while another delegate quizzes a representative on the stand. With Hopin, we could simulate this by allowing attendees to drop in on discussions in virtual rooms without feeling they had to contribute.
Practice with your tools
The team at Go Get Organised were great. Once we’d briefed them on our new networking event and programme launch for creatives in Grimsby, they designed us a bespoke programme making sure the tech would facilitate an experience as close to real life as possible. In the run-up to the big day, the team gave us, and our speakers, personalised training so we knew exactly which buttons to click when.
There were no embarrassing “how do I share my screen?!” or “Bill, you’re on mute!!” panics here: all of our event speakers and partners were well-prepped so we could deliver a slick event.
Find super speakers in your network
We’re lucky that among our contacts in North East Lincolnshire, we had talented orators who were keen to give our keynote speakers. Sam Delaney from Creative Start and Andy Green from Lyke Ltd sparked the photographers’, graphic designers’, writers’, filmmakers’ and architects’ imaginations.
Both in the creative industries themselves, with one already signed up to the Spark Grimsby programme, Sam and Andy were incredibly relatable. They discussed how to create opportunities where you can’t see them and use challenging experiences to make you stronger: affirming messages which lingered in the mind long after their talks.
Promote your event in advance
We’re lucky to have marketing guru, Deborah Goodall, on our team at CDI Alliance. She and our partnering social media agency, Pick & Mix Marketing, shared tweets and LinkedIn posts to an increasingly frequent schedule to build up buzz around the event.
We also made sure our event was branded, our website up and running and our network well-informed as we moved closed to launch day. The Spark Grimsby website will now continue in use as forums and a directory for creatives in North East Lincolnshire. We’re making the most of the audience we’ve nurtured thus far.
And we’re pleased to report that the event was a success! Over 70 people joined us online to enrich their networks, find inspiration and learn more about the Spark Grimsby programme in Lincolnshire. We’re looking forward to seeing what this talented cohort of creatives have to offer and how they will collaborate together.
If you’re interested in attending our next Spark Grimsby event, or are a creative looking for support in your pursuits, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find out more about the programme at https://www.sparkgrimsby.co.uk. Best of all, there’s no fee as it’s funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Arts Council England.
If you’re a local authority looking to deliver a support programme for creatives or businesses in your region, please get in touch. At CDI Alliance, we design and run growth programmes across the north of England. You can ask a question at email@example.com.
A special shout-out to Naomi Summers and the team at Go Get Organised who helped us bring this event together and Sarah Lamballe who created the Spark Grimsby branding designs.