Overwhelmed by fall conference planning options? Let’s figure out what’s best for you.

Well partner, what’s it gonna be: a virtual, in-person, or hybrid conference this fall? Tough question, we know. Just about everybody and their cousin is asking it.

COVID-19 has changed the world, and has shifted how events and conferences are imagined/planned, it’s a new frontier! The industry is currently experiencing what we’re calling the Wild West of Conference Planning. Huge advancements in video technology have given us near-unlimited options, meaning there’s never been a better—though overwhelming—time to plan a truly one-of-a-kind event.

Where to start? We’ve corralled some broad conference options below to help you blaze the right trail for your next event.

Virtual Conferences

Safety is going to be the priority for most conference attendees this fall. If your forum is educational-based—a speaker series or training seminar, for example—there’s no reason for participants to leave their homes and meet face-to-face. We think screen-to-screen is just dandy, especially in these cases.

There are still so many pros to virtual, even in a post-COVID world. For one, it’s a revenue-generating opportunity for passive income. You can continue selling access to conference recordings after the event. Also, you’re able to reallocate funds from in-person costs to virtual add-ons. Instead of spending big on a fancy ballroom, you can invite more speakers, without the expense of travel, and/or invest in digital networking and learning tools that’ll have viewers coming back for more every year.

Pro Tips:

  • Pre-record a speaker’s presentation to avoid hiccups like internet connectivity issues.
  • Still want a live presentation feel? Once that pre-recorded video ends, speakers can go live with Q&A sessions to keep attendees engaged and interested in learning more.
  • Keep it simple. Registration, logging in, and navigating the platform for live events or on-demand videos should go down easier than a glass of whiskey in the local saloon.
  • Consider virtual if you expect international attendees. Other countries are going to be on different timelines regarding their COVID response. That can make it difficult, expensive, and even impossible for international guests to attend in-person events.

In-Person Conferences

Will your attendees benefit more from face-to-face networking and hands-on workshops? If so, this might be the better option for your rodeo. We often recommend in-person conferences if you’re in an industry that is heavily reliant on networking. In that case, break out the business cards and get ready to lasso in some new leads.

Pro Tips:

  • When planning an in-person conference this fall, make safety and comfort of attendees your number one goal. 
  • Send out a confidential poll ahead of time to understand exactly what your registrants want to see, how comfortable they’re going to be around other people. 
  • Be sure to use every space thoughtfully, especially when it comes to food. 
    • “Buffet versus sit-down” isn’t just a question that plagues married couples. 
    • Think about what your guests will be most comfortable with from both a menu and social distancing standpoint.
  • Thoughtful use of your space also helps you
    • Organize and strategize on memorable touchpoints
    • Provide more environmentally friendly features to attendees
  • Transportation, transportation, transportation. Don’t let any stone go unturned. 
    • Make sure all the details are worked out when it comes to shuttling guests to venues. Whether it’s a stagecoach or a trail ride—what is the comfort level of your attendees in various situations?

Hybrid Conferences

Hybrid conferences are the next big thing, allowing you to offer some in-person elements while also providing virtual access to those who can’t afford to travel (or their company isn’t allowing travel).

Now “Going hybrid” is one seriously fine option, but consider this: You’re now planning two different conferences and that can come at a significant financial investment.

It’s also important to make sure that you and your planners aren’t the only ones on the same page. Be clear with attendees on how interactive virtual events will be in comparison to in-person. Setting the right tone and realistic expectations is critical.

Pro Tips:

  • Send out a poll for virtual attendees to help inform your decisions and then incentivize it. For example: A film festival could offer one free movie ticket for completing the survey. 
  • Rent smaller ballrooms because less people are expected to attend in person.
  • Want to read more about hybrid conference planning? Hold onto your hat! We’ll have a full blog coming soon!

It’s important to know your audience and create solid goals as you decide which conference type is right for you. The more effort you put into learning what your attendees want, the more likely you’ll have the opportunity to wow them with any of the above.

Whichever route you end up taking, the expert planners at Coterie Spark are here to help you blaze a trail through the Wild West of Conference and Event Planning. Contact us today for an exploratory call about your next event.