Host a Hybrid Sales Conference – Tips for success.
1. Curate the experience to make sure you have strong content both in person and online.
A well curated Art exhibition will draw in the crowd and peak interest internationally and that's exactly what you're trying to achieve with your Hybrid Sales Conference. Have presenters to show your big ideas and the main themes of the conference. Use breakout sessions for discussion group topics on each day of the conference.
Have discussion areas where attendees, either virtual or in person can challenge the topics of the conference, reflect on what they had experienced, and share some ways in which they were going to take action.
2. Make it easy for others to market.
Your best promoters for a virtual conference are the people who have a stake in it. This may include presenters, sponsors, exhibitors, and attendees make sure you give them tools to market your Sales event. Supply them with specific language and images they could use in e-mails and on key social media channels like LinkedIn etc.
3. Mix in meaningful social.
One of the typical criticisms of virtual events is that you don’t manage to get the same networking and interaction that you do with face-to-face events. While it’s true that face-to-face interaction has qualities that don’t translate directly to a virtual environment, the level and quality of interaction you can create online is really quite high – if you put some thought and effort into it.
Using Virtual Event Software such as EventScape3D environment you can create a meaningful networking space that can be used to interact with other attendees. It's not just another Zoom session – it allows you to enable chat feature in addition to a Q&A feature during Sessions. People are increasingly comfortable using chat as a tool and you can have really good exchanges during the sessions at events. To help spark these exchanges, make sure you’re prepared to ask relevant, provocative questions during sessions and encourage participants to contribute.
Chat during the live sessions is great, but also provide a place where discussion could continue between and beyond sessions. Using EventScape3D's Networking and VIP areas is a great way for people to discuss further topics raised at the Sales Conference.
Keep in mind that social doesn’t just happen – at least not initially. You will need to remind people to participate in chat and discussion.
4. Use live presenters.
Live video means live Presenters with an audience. Not just slides and audio. Not just recorded presentations.
Thanks to platforms like EventScape3D, streaming video as part of a live Web event has gotten dramatically easier and even just a small amount of video can make an online event feel much more personal and intimate – helping to boost attendee engagement. Using an introduction video for a few minutes at the beginning of all a Stage session just to introduce the speakers can be very useful – then turn off once the speaker moved into the actual presentation.
5. Plan for strong technical and event support for all attendees.
Providing for clear, competent attendee support, both virtual and in person is one of the main ways you can differentiate your event as a professional effort. And, if you want to position it as a premium offering, you definitely need to provide good support.
These days, people are much more accustomed to using the technologies that make a virtual event possible using good software - but that doesn’t mean you won’t run into technical headaches when you host a virtual conference. And, technology aside, you need to make sure that everyone understands all of the event logistics, including what sessions will take place when, where they go to access them, when they can expect recordings to be available.
Make sure you post navigation links to key information in obvious areas of the event platform, but also e-mail all attendees multiple times to make sure they knew the session schedule and how to access the sessions.
To help out anyone who did truly needed support, have a support e-mail address and phone number in the footer of the website, a contact page with support information that is linked to as part of the main navigation and let attendees know about their support options by e-mail.
An online chat support function during your virtual Sales Conference can be a lifesaver, having competent team with knowledge of the Event Software platform and details of the Event Schedule for the duration can be a lifesaver and provide customers with a feeling that they are never left in the dark about how to navigate your conference.
Make sure the Virtual Sales Conference software you’re using gives you good, timely support – we have had experiences with various tools where there is no telephone support, no chat and “Support tickets” take a few months to be responded to! That’s not going to work for your event, where you need an answer there and then. Make sure you choose a platform which can partner you in providing the best experience for your Sales Conference.
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6. Prime your presenters for success.
Always line up great speakers for each of sessions, but even the best presenters benefit from good support and opportunities for feedback and practice. So, make sure from the very beginning – through e-mail and phone calls – that they have a good overall understanding of the event and also that they understand the expectations for their session. Schedule calls with presenters during the weeks before the event.
One of these should be a call to discuss the topics being presented. Talk through the points the presenter plans to cover during the session and discuss ways to help make each session as successful as possible.
In general, the content call is a way to make sure the presenters had begun actively thinking about their material and that there was enough time for us to help fill any gaps or act on any good ideas that came up.
Where possible, schedule a time for a “dry run” for each session. Try and do these a week or two before the scheduled time for the session as it gives the session leaders an opportunity to run through as much of their session as they wanted, both to get feedback and also to make sure they are fully comfortable with the event environment and don’t run into any issues. This will greatly increase the overall quality of the event.
7. Treat attendees as collaborators.
Attendees can be valuable collaborators for marketing the event. Through the use of social they also can and should be valuable contributors to the learning experience. But you can take things even a step or two further by featuring attendees in the session content. The Networking and VIP areas are a great place for “collaborative coaching” sessions. Where an attendee can discuss an opportunity that they may be facing in their learning business, and other attendees – most of whom have face similar challenges – provide advice. You need a certain amount of structure and process to make this work well but the collaborative approach can result in some really great learning interactions.
8. Leverage sponsors as partners.
Depending on your business, working with vendors as sponsors may not be a part of your current business model. A Virtual Sales Conference offers a great opportunity to expand into this area.
Vendors that sell products or services that are of value to your target audience, but that don’t compete with whatever you provide. Ideally, whatever the vendor sells should complement your products or services. What most vendors want is a well qualified audience – that is a group of people who clearly possess the characteristics of the vendor’s target customers. If you can offer the chance to get in front of such a group, then you can greatly increase the efficiency of the vendor’s sales process – and that is valuable.
There are a number of ways to monetise this value, from recognizing sponsors (e.g., by displaying their logos) on a page of your event site, to mentioning and linking to them in your marketing e-mails, to giving them an opportunity to lead a session or otherwise speak to your audience during the event. These different approaches should, of course, come with different price tags – an opportunity to speak, for example, is much more valuable than a logo on a Web page.
Keep in mind, though, that revenue is only part of the value of sponsors - ideally, you want sponsors to promote the event to their audience, and you may want to incentivise them to do this buy offering some number of complimentary tickets as part of the sponsorship package. Sponsors can also be valuable in identifying, from among their customer base, attendees with relevant stories and case studies to share. Sponsors may be willing to offer giveaways to some or all of your attendees – and approach that gains exposure for the sponsor and helps to attract attendees. Finally, a sponsor’s brand can be valuable in helping to bolster your own brand and the credibility of the event which, again, helps to attract attendees.
9. Take advantage of the virtual medium.
In many ways a virtual conference can and should mirror what happens at a face-to-face conference. By having elements like keynote presentations, breakouts, and opportunities for networking, you’ll align with learner expectations and increase the chances that they will take a chance on a virtual event. That said, don’t overlook the opportunities that using a digital medium can provide when you host a virtual conference.
Your core in-person Conference can be over a period of a few days, but the content could be made available to your virtual attendees for many months. Ensure that all videos of presenters and discussion groups is uploaded online and clearly made available via the Virtual Sales Conference software platform.
By spacing out the learning over a longer period, there is a much greater chance that your attendees will have the opportunity to digest, review, reflect, and apply what they learn – particularly if you take steps to help facilitate these actions. The end result is that the event will have a much greater impact, greatly increases the chances that you will have satisfied customers who keep coming back for more. It gives you more time to actively engage with your learners in a meaningful way, helping you to build deeper, long-term relationships. It gives you some breathing room in planning, enables you to learn and adjust over the course of the event, and relieves some of the pressure for getting everything right in a single 1-3 day period. It can greatly increase the chances that attendees will make use of discussion boards. In the first place, they simply have more time. In the second place, they are almost certain to have more questions and comments related to the content. Each of these advantages is difficult, if not impossible to achieve with traditional face-to-face conferences.
Another key area where virtual Sales conferences provide an advantage over face-to-face is in the ability to pre-record sessions. Using Virtual Event software such as EventScape3D, you are able to play the recording during the scheduled time for the sessions and also make available session recordings after the completed times. It’s possible to play the sessions at a scheduled time and have real-time chat and Q&A to go along with it. This approach is very often just as effective as having the presenter deliver in real time, and it can give you a lot of control over session length and quality.
10. Remember to remind.
One of the big advantages of a face-to-face conference is that the attendees are essentially “captive.” Yes, they can skip out on sessions if they need to, but that happens a lot more virtually. The fact that they are physically present greatly increases the chances that they will participate in most of the experience.
So how do you keep the virtual attendees in the event? While there is no way to get rid of this issue entirely, one of the most effective ways to combat it is to make sure you send out frequent reminders. This includes e-mail reminders of upcoming sessions, reminders to participate in discussion forums, reminders that recordings have been posted – basically anything that helps to keep the event top of minds and draw attendees back into the experience. Please don’t overdo this though! Gentle reminders and a countdown to the event is better than a barrage of emails.
Your attendees did, after all, sign up to attend and – particularly if they paid a registration fee – presumably want to benefit from the experience the event offers. It’s better to make sure they don’t miss out on parts of the experience because they forgot about it or didn’t know about parts of it.
11. And finally…
Virtual Sales Conferences are a great and nowadays necessary addition to the in-person event, so plan them properly and take time to test them out. If you are willing to do the planning and tackle the areas mentioned above, the chances you will host a virtual conference that people remember, and we know that in Sales good press can go a long way!