While in-person conference dates are slowly being scheduled for late 2021, the virtual conference-sphere is still very much alive and well, sending event organizers onto a steep learning curve. While some may argue that virtual conferences can be easier to put on than in-person conferences — you know, without having to rent the space or order enough coffee and bagels to feed an army — there are unique challenges that come with creating a virtual event that is both accessible and attention-grabbing over numerous days to larger crowds.
Virtual conferences present an incredible opportunity to bring together people regardless of proximity. Sans the travel required, someone from Dubai can be tuning in to a conference that’s usually hosted in Louisiana. But, since the scope of attendees becomes so far widened, burnout is easier than ever. Sponsorships, attendee needs, tech issues… they all add up to present a real burnout threat to the teams that work tirelessly to put these events on. Here are some ways to avoid burnout.
1. Go ahead and expect that things will go wrong.
It doesn’t matter how much you prepare — there’s going to be unintended snafus. This is the nature of putting on any large-scale event, but the threat is certainly heightened when it’s a new frontier like the online techsphere. Malbek, a cloud-based software company that helps companies manage contracts, is led by a team of ‘work from home veterans.’ So, when they decided to launch their first ever user conference as a virtual event, they were up for the challenge.
The conference, called Envision 2020, will be October 6th and 7th. Their team reflected on what they’ve learned in putting on a virtual conference of this magnitude — as their registrants represent far sweeping areas of the globe. “Keeping an open mind, going with the flow, and understanding that things can and will go wrong are all things to do while planning a virtual conference in these extraordinary times,” Becky Holloway, Malbek’s VP of Marketing, offers as advice to other virtual event organizers.
Go ahead and have fun, too — part of Envision 2020 will be a virtual happy hour, featuring games and opportunities for connections with other members of the Malbek community.
2. Do a practice run as an attendee.
The experience of building a virtual conference can lead to some blind spots. Since you and your team have been in the ‘weeds’ with building the conference for weeks or months, you know how to work the software and navigate through the programming like the back of your hand. But will attendees who are just logging in for the first time have the same ease with it?
Do a practice run from the perspective of an attendee to make sure everything is as intuitive and user-friendly as possible – this will help with burnout by saving stress on the day (or days) of when it comes to minor technical issues and navigational questions. Of course, a few technical issues can be expected, but the more you can clear your inbox of questions like, “How do I pause a session?” the better.
3. Bring on interns and contractors to stand by.
It’s nothing against your team – sometimes, it’s just ideal to have some extra help. This doesn’t just apply to the day of the event, but in the weeks and months leading up to it. One of the most common culprits of burnout is marketing and ticket sales, for example. So, consider bringing on an intern or apprentice for a month who can help run social media accounts, tackle outreach, and manage all potential streams of ticket sales and audience members.
This will also require you to plan out everything you need done ahead of time in granular detail. Have a master planning meeting with your team, down to every last ‘welcome email’ and tech question. Then, start to delegate. By capturing everything you need to do from a “birds eye view” ahead of time, you’ll feel much more in control and balanced throughout the days and weeks leading up to the event.
Ultimately, avoiding burnout goes beyond even self-care (which is of utmost importance). Think about your attendees and speakers, and what they deserve from the experience. In order for you and your team to put on the best possible event and enjoy it yourselves, you need to make sure that burnout has been avoided every step of the way.
We’ve all been through the haze of sleep deprivation and stress in the whirlwind of an event day or week. But, there’s ways you can help yourself. Build your virtual conference brick by brick ahead of time, employing contractors and creating contingency plans to ensure success.