Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

September 18 2015

3 Simple Tips To Fuel Success With Your Remote Conference Audience

By David McMillin


Travel expenses can be high. Calendars can be packed. Approvals from employers can be tough to secure. In today’s business climate, there are plenty of reasons why prospective attendees may not be able to be part of a face-to-face event. However, they still want the education and information — even if they can’t be there in-person. In fact, a recent survey from American Express Meetings & Events revealed that 63 percent of attendees would attend more meetings and events virtually if the option was available.

So what’s the secret to creating compelling virtual learning opportunities? I caught up with Scott Cotter, Chief Marketing Officer at INXPO, for his perspective on some key lessons to help meeting professionals who are entering the virtual arena. Here’s a look at three simple tips to pave the way to success for your organization.

1) Give attendees an opportunity to do more than be viewers.

Remember what it feels like to sit at home during a TV show that isn’t holding your attention? Now, think about the last webinar with audio and slides.  I’ll bet you practice your multi-tasking skills (i.e. You move on). Don’t let your virtual audience feel the exact same way.

“Engagement can be more challenging in this setting,” Cotter says. “This audience knows they’re not in front of a person, so they can easily turn away.”

With that in mind, Cotter highlights the importance of creating a more personal feel and giving virtual attendees a way to participate. He advises meeting professionals to give them something to do.

“Identify opportunities for interaction,” Cotter says. “Another trick is to just add video of the speaker.  Psychology studies confirm that we understand better when we can see the emotion and gestures of the speaker.  It becomes harder to tune out.”

If they’re part of the live virtual event, there are a range of tools such as live polling, chats and social media contests that can continue to hold their attention. Even if attendees are watching an on-demand recorded version of the session, there are still methods to keep them excited about the content.

“Maybe there’s a handout they can follow or a website they can visit at the end of the event,” Cotter says. “The live presenter may not be there anymore, but you still need to satisfy the virtual audience’s engagement expectations.”

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2) Don’t delay your marketing campaign.

It’s a question on so many meeting professionals’ minds: will a virtual offering mean that some of my face-to-face attendees will just stay home?

There’s no need to continue the cannibalization debate. Organizations that have tracked this data report that virtual events have two benefits.  First, they expand overall attendance, attracting new targets.  Second, a large percentage of online attendees end up becoming future face-to-face attendees.

“This is a way to hook to new people that perhaps you’re not attracting in the first place,” Cotter says. “With that in mind, we believe it’s good to begin promoting on-site registration and remote registration on the same day.”

In today’s crowded digital world, that early promotion is essential to helping build buzz about the virtual offering and to inspire the virtual audience to register and save reminders in their calendars.

3) It’s OK to start small.


There is no shortage of questions to answer before planning and producing a virtual meeting. How will you train the speakers to be welcoming to attendees who aren’t in the room? What should you do to test the technology before going live? Should you hire a translation service to make sure attendees around the world can read the slides? What’s the best strategy for securing sponsors?

The list goes on. With so many details to manage, there is one guiding rule for your first steps into the virtual space.

“When we work with clients, one of our first recommendations is to start small,” Cotter says.

Those baby steps can help your organization identify what works and what needs to be improved before investing more money and more resources into an even bigger event. When you’re ready for that step, Cotter says it’s time to ask another question: where should you turn for help?

“You’ll need new skills on your event team - technical details, marketing, advertising, creative and more,” Cotter says. “Whether starting small or if you’re going to go big, you have to have some help.”

Looking for more insights to help you get started with a virtual engagement strategy? Click here to register for a free webinar with Mary Beth Micucci, Director of Digital Events, HIMSS Media, and Emma Meyer, Executive Producer, INXPO.

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