Hey, I’m Kate and I run events here at Smartcat. We recently held our biggest online language industry conference to date — LocFromHome II. Our first LocFromHome in April was such a huge success that we soon started preparing for round two, which we held on September 9, 2020.
It was a marathon event — 12 hours, non-stop! — but I’m really happy to say it was a great success. Want to know how we did it?
Read on to discover how to find speakers, choose the right conference tool, avoid unexpected problems, and other tips and strategies that I’ve picked up from my experience organizing our LocFromHome conferences.
Speakers and content
Professional speakers and great content are key to any conference. But for virtual events they account for at least 90% of its success. Some people attend conferences just to network, but when it comes to virtual events, it’s all about the content. You can have the perfect platform, run incredible promo campaigns, and provide attractive perks for your attendees, but if the speakers and the content aren’t strong, your event will flop.
That is why it’s so important to put all your efforts into attracting quality speakers with valuable things to say. And just launching a call for proposals and sitting around waiting for applications isn’t going to cut it. You need to be proactive.
LinkedIn, the largest business-focused social media platform, is hugely valuable for events. Aside from publishing your event on LinkedIn, it’s a great place to find potential speakers and participants. If you segment the audience by job title you can reach out to industry leaders with targeted messages — but make sure you personalize your messages! I got many responses to my personal requests, whether it was to say yes or maybe next time. In any case, I made some valuable connections and I have already lined up some speakers and panelists for our third #LocFromHome.
Talking to people in the industry is a must. If you’re having a call with one of your speakers, why not ask them if they know of someone who’d be a great panelist? It’s always a bit harder to find participants for panels as it’s a shared platform, but asking for recommendations is a great way to network and get more valuable contributors involved.
Make a point of asking your clients if they have any interesting case studies or specific industry knowledge they’d like to share. You may be surprised to find that people with the right expertise but limited public speaking experience may end up giving fantastic presentations. People love new faces, especially if they communicate well and share insightful experiences.
Choose a conference tool
We used Zoom for our first LocFromHome conference and here’s why:
- We didn’t have the time to research all the options. We planned the whole thing in a month!
- Zoom was the only platform that we knew we could rely on in terms of quality. As you know, most countries were in lockdown in April and many tools were experiencing capacity problems. It wasn’t a risk we were willing to take.
When we announced our second #LocFromHome in June 2020, both problems disappeared. So why did we choose Zoom again? Well, it wasn’t an easy decision. I researched several platforms to see what would best fit our needs. Here are my findings.
On24 is an amazing platform that I personally like very much, but they only provide a year’s subscription with prices varying from $24K to $41K. We weren’t ready to commit to a full year so we ruled this one out.
BigMarker Events is similar to On24 with a $13K price tag and participant data like Zoom. BigMarker Webinars is a “space ship” and as a marketer I just loved it. If you asked me before finding this platform what features I wanted in an event platform I would have said many of the ones BigMarker offers. To name a few, you can tweet right from the conference chat, preschedule chat messages so they post automatically, control disrespectful language, and run lucky draws with the embedded feature. The only thing that didn't work for us was the nine-hour time limit for online streaming. We obviously only wanted to have one link for the whole conference event, so this limitation was a dealbreaker.
We use Crowdcast for most of our webinars but it also has a time limit — only up to six hours of online streaming. Another one crossed off our list.
Hopin almost won us over, but then we realized that the videos aren’t recorded properly. There’s no way of seeing the speaker on full screen — only half speaker, half presentation. This isn’t the case during the live streaming, but we know that not everyone can join us live for the whole 12 hours so we needed a tool that could provide us with quality recordings for those who want to watch the sessions after the event.
It was at this point that we had to admit that our first choice, Zoom, was in fact the best option the second time around too.
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
You can’t underestimate the importance of preparing and rehearsing. It’s the best way to minimize any potential problems on the day of the event. We had several rehearsals with the marketing team and hosts, assigning roles and running through all the possible scenarios. I tested each and every speaker’s Internet connection and devices and briefed them on how to connect for their sessions.
There is no guarantee that something unexpected won’t happen, but if you anticipate and prepare for any potential hiccups, you’ll know that you did everything in your power to ensure the event runs as smoothly as possible.
Don’t give up
Is the event date fast approaching and you’re still looking for speakers and panelists? Are you still struggling to find the right tool for your event? Are you getting fewer registrations than you had hoped for? Don’t give up — persevere in your search, try different tools, adjust your promotion campaign and you will get there in the end. Because “winners never quit and quitters never win.”
Needless to say, you can’t run a successful event without a strong, resourceful, purpose-driven team. Luckily, I knew I had great people supporting me to put this online conference together and make it a great success.
So, are you ready to host your own online conference now?