You’re getting talk submissions left and right; there’s a lot of great content to choose from, and now you’re ready to start creating the schedule for your event. But what should you consider to craft the perfect event schedule? Here are 6 tips drawn from our most successful virtual events:
As a general rule, there should always be more content than an attendee can participate in at any given time. This keeps engagement high by ensuring nobody can run out of interesting presentations to attend and get bored. It also creates a perception of high value due to the over-abundance of activities so attendees feel like they’ve gotten their money’s worth for the event.
Think of it this way: there should always be something happening to keep your audience engaged. Find creative ways to include more content and activities to keep attendees excited and interested. Some of the more successful ideas we’ve seen include: adding additional tracks of content, sending polls in Slack or Slido, and encouraging attendees to join Face2Face meetings to network and go deeper on a topic.
Pro tip: Have a few cheerleaders or ambassadors from the community spearhead these initiatives and help drum up excitement to get attendees engaged.
As an extension of the previous tip, and to help provide visibility to your sponsors, you’ll want to create a Sponsor/ Exhibitor track filled with live and/or recorded content from the organizations supporting your event. Consider either creating a dedicated track sponsored by a single company or putting together a track filled with presentations from multiple organizations. Product demonstrations, live coding exercises, business case studies, giveaways, Q&A sessions, polls etc. can be great ways for sponsors to interact with attendees. Encourage your sponsors to get creative with their branding and their engagement-oriented activities.
Pro tip: Use banner ads to direct attendees to otherwise less visible activities.
You’ll definitely want to schedule a “Setup and Networking” or “Pre-party” slot at the start of each day. This is a time for last minute stragglers to register and for logged-in attendees to get acclimated to the virtual environment, chit-chat before the sessions kick-off and ease their way into the event. This is similar to a breakfast setup time during an in-person event. You’ll need this time to help users get onboarded, answer attendee questions, and get the first speakers ready. Be sure to play a slideshow that acknowledges your top sponsors and reminds attendees of your code of conduct.
Pro tip: Spend an extra few hundred dollars and license some famous tunes to go along your rotating slideshow to create a professional and fun atmosphere.
With a lot of interaction and content to participate in, it’s important to plan for breaks. Zoom fatigue is a thing, so give attendees around 15 minutes in between all sessions so they can walk around, stretch and take their eyes off the screen for a bit. This buffer time is also very helpful when a session is unexpectedly followed by many questions and you don’t want to break great discussions just to stay on time.
Even if your audience is all around the world, including a “lunch break” in the middle of the day can be a nice change of pace. If you are concerned about losing people over the break, consider hosting a panel, an informal discussion, or a fundraiser during that time slot.
Pro tip: Make sure you include a break between your first keynote session and the presentation immediately following.
Nothing ever goes totally smoothly so do have a backup plan in place. For example, you’ll want to have some pre-recorded content ready to plug in at any time in case of a speaker no-show. You may also ask speakers to pre-record their talks to be played in case they can't make it or decide at the last minute that they won’t go live (yes, it happens). This also works well for speakers with intermittent Internet connections.
Pro tip: Make sure the recorded content has been downloaded and is ready to go at a minute’s notice!
After the sessions are done for the day, socials or “after-event” sessions are a great way for attendees to unwind and connect. Many folks come to conferences and events to network and hang out with their peers, so these are a great way to emulate those interactions on a virtual scale. This could range from a social hour, game night, breakout rooms - this is another area you can be very creative with!
Pro tip: Put your extroverted cheerleaders in charge to help break the ice between participants.
To hear more on how LoudSwarm creates maximum engagement at virtual events or to brainstorm ideas for your event, please contact us.
We are excited to help jumpstart your next event: let's make it amazing.