When the COVID-19 outbreak struck the globe in 2020, organizations had to navigate unprecedented times by staying connected. In-person conferences transitioned to virtual platforms, and now, as the post-pandemic world slowly returns to a sense of normalcy, some online opportunities will continue to prosper. Among these opportunities are virtual nonprofit conferences.
In 2021, 91% of respondents experienced high satisfaction through virtual events and believe that they are a success. 80% of organizers also claim that they are able to reach wider audiences with virtual events, through ease of attendance and high engagement.
It is evident that virtual conferences are here to stay. Here are seven ways that you can make the most of them, for yourself and your nonprofit:
1. Schedule your time wisely
Time management is essential to ensuring that you have the best conference experience. Most conferences will share the conference agenda in advance to allow participants the opportunity to pre-plan their day. This can help you determine what you would like to attend and prioritize your time accordingly. In the case of time conflicts, researching the speakers and their backgrounds can help you to decide which presentation you would rather attend. Also, many virtual conferences will provide access to all session recordings after the event. You won’t be able to engage live, but at least you won’t miss out on any information.
2. Mitigate technical issues
It can be incredibly frustrating to miss out on parts of a virtual conference simply due to technical problems. To avoid this, test out everything that you can in advance. Ensure that you have the software downloaded, a strong WiFi connection, and test out your camera and audio settings beforehand. Although accidents happen, many technical difficulties can be prevented with the right preparations.
3. Check out the exhibitor hall and sponsored events
Connecting with the event exhibitors is a great way to network and branch out. Many exhibitors will offer discounts, promos, and freebies. They may also run sponsored events and activities, like games, yoga, or a virtual happy hour. Conferences would not be possible without sponsors, so making connections with them and attending their events is an excellent way to show your appreciation.
4. Practice good etiquette
Being polite and having good manners is as important in virtual conferences as it is in in-person. To avoid distracting the speaker, keep your microphone muted during all presentations (you don’t want to be that person that the facilitator must mute). When encouraged, consider turning on your video to visually engage with the presenter and audience. Remember to keep your phone on silent and block off your calendar for the duration of the conference to prevent distractions.
5. Be engaged and present
Almost 50% of marketers say that audience engagement is the biggest contributing factor to establishing a successful virtual conference. Stay engaged and take advantage of Q&A sessions by preparing questions in advance based on the topics that you’re interested in. Participate in the polls and contribute to the chat box. Remember to give the presenters your complete attention and take lots of notes so that you can review them later. Virtual nonprofit conferences are great learning experiences, so take in as much as you can.
6. Follow-up with the online community
On the day of the conference, engage with Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media conversations. Some conferences will have live streams on the platforms. Consider making posts with the conference hashtag, as many virtual conferences are likely to reshare and retweet them. After the event, keep the conversation going by following your favorite speakers or sponsors, staying connected with other participants, and sharing feedback. Over 30% of event planners use social media to get feedback on virtual conferences through surveys, polls, comments, and direct messages. Through online engagement, you’ll be able to stay in touch, expand your network, and be informed for future virtual conference opportunities.
7. Have fun!
Virtual conferences are as entertaining and valuable as you make them. Consider setting up a fun and comfortable environment with snacks and supplies (and maybe a cozy blanket), or perhaps you will decide to take the conference outside with a nice view. With the right preparations, outlook, and set up, online events can be just as memorable as in-person ones.
Although 2020 brought a surge of online events, virtual conferences aren’t going anywhere in the post-pandemic world. In fact, 93% of organizers are still planning to invest in virtual events in the future. Nonprofit virtual conferences are here to stay, so remember these tips to ensure that you make the most of them!
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