How to Host a Virtual Conference: Everything You Need

Do you love the idea of hosting a conference to build authority in your niche? Between a lack of time and budget, you might feel like it’s an impossible task.

Well, we’ve got some great news for you: it’s possible when you know how to host a virtual conference.

Thats right baby gif

Virtual conferences are a great option for so many reasons. But now you might be wondering, “Wait…what is a virtual conference, anyway?”

Don’t worry; we’ll get there.

Plus, we’ll teach you exactly how to host a virtual conference and include every tool you need.

So stop checking venues and get ready to master online conferences.

But first, let’s look at why traditional conferences may not be as valuable as you may think.

Why Out-of-Town Conferences Are Out-of-Date

With all the technological advances over the last 10 years, it’s amazing that anyone leaves their home for anything. In the past, people had to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B to see friends, buy clothes, and get to work.

Now, we have loads of tools that allow us to socialize, shop, and run an entire business from home. In other words, the whole idea of having a Point B for anything other than fun is often nonproductive.

This is all the more true with conferences.

Conferences are an awesome way to expand your knowledge and meet interesting people. But on top of the ticket to attend, you need to find hotels, food, flights, and all the little expenses in between.

And that’s just if you’re attending.

If you’re hosting a conference, you can expect those costs to skyrocket. Why? Because you need to find accommodations for all your speakers. And then you need to find a suitable venue to host your guests.

That means charging higher prices for tickets and making your conference less accessible to would-be attendees.

The fact of the matter is that planning these kinds of conferences can be tedious at best and a total nightmare at worst.

Luckily, there’s an alternative that’s more accessible to business owners who want to host an event: virtual conferences (also known as “virtual summits”).

Never heard of them? No worries.

We’ll tell you exactly what they are and why they’re so awesome. Get ready to have your conference-hosting-mind blown. 🤯

What Is a Virtual Summit?

What is a virtual conference?

A virtual summit or conference is an online event where participants with similar interests attend remotely, usually from the comfort of their own homes.

But how does a virtual conference work?

Well, to be honest, they’re just like any other conference you’ve attended or hosted in the past. Only they’re way more convenient for everyone.

In fact, hosting a virtual conference has all kinds of benefits, including:

  • Improving your authority in your niche
  • Meeting new interesting people
  • Networking with other experts in your field
  • Adding value to your audience’s lives
  • Developing partnerships with sponsors
  • Creating more revenue for your business
  • Providing more flexible dates for attendees
  • Reaching more people
  • Hosting a more engaged audience

And that’s just off the top of our heads. The list could easily go on.

It’s that last benefit that’s the most important. Hosting a virtual conference can produce a more attentive, focused, and engaged audience.

Let’s be honest: while out-of-town conferences feel more exotic, they can become unproductive.

Between splurging on fancy hotels, sightseeing, and networking happy hours, many conferences tend to lose steam after lunchtime.

But when you’re hosting a virtual conference, you can keep the momentum going. It’s no wonder why so many companies have decided to host online conferences.

One of the largest examples of virtual conferences was Apple’s iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and Pro Max launch event. Though attendees were also there in-person, 1.8 million people around the world streamed the virtual event.

On March 11, 2020, Google held their live stream developer summit. In just two weeks, it already had over 30,000 views, many of which were in real-time.

Clearly, there is a desire for online conferences. As stated above, their benefits for convenience, budget, and inclusivity are too numerous to ignore.

Now, you may be thinking, “Ok, I’m sold. But how do I host a virtual summit?”

Let’s turn our attention to some virtual summit best practices so you can successfully enter the world of virtual conferences.

How to Host a Virtual Conference

How to Host a Virtual Conference

Plan Your Virtual Conference Before Reaching Out

Your first task is to outline your online conference. Now, if you’re even considering hosting a virtual conference, you probably already have your general theme in mind related to your niche.

If not, start there.

But then you need to nail down a few key details before reaching out to your guest speakers. Consider the following questions, for example:

  • Why is this an important theme to cover?
  • How would your attendees benefit from this conference?
  • What do you expect to charge for the event?
  • When would you like to hold your conference?
  • How many days will your conference last?
  • Will each day be full, half, or quarter days?
  • How many guest speakers can you expect to participate in the event?

Questions like these can help you narrow in on what you need to host your live event. And the biggest benefit is that when it comes time to ask guest speakers for help, you sound like you know what you’re talking about.

Note: Were you thinking about creating an online conference without guest speakers? It sounds like maybe you’re considering starting an online course. If so, check out this detailed article to help get you started.

Just look at this vague guest speaker request:

Bad template for outreach email when you host a virtual conference

This kind of message shows that the organizer doesn’t have a concrete grasp of the details needed to host a successful virtual conference.

Ok, now compare that vague message with this one that is clearer:

Good Template for Guest Speakers to host a virtual conference

Note: Would you like to use that as a template for guest outreach? Don’t worry about copy and pasting from the image above. Feel free to download the template here.

Out of the two templates, the latter has concrete information and has already answered the specific questions required to run a successful virtual summit.

Because of that preparation, you are much more likely to get better, more professional, and more reliable speakers to participate!

Getting the Right Tools

Now that you have your outline and, hopefully, some guest speakers lined up, you need to take those ideas on paper and put them into action.

And for that, you need the right tools.

Luckily we’ve curated a list of all the tools you need to host a successful virtual conference.

But first, a quick disclaimer: for this post, we assume you already have a website up and running for your business. If not, that’s the first step to take, and we recommend going with WordPress.

Check out this in-depth tutorial on how to create a WordPress site for beginners.

Assuming you do have your site, though, check out the following tools that will make creating your online conference a breeze.

Selecting an Email Service Provider

First and foremost, you’re going to want to choose an email service provider for when your attendees sign up.

One of the many benefits of hosting an online conference is that it can drastically boost your email list. Then, in the future, you can use this list to help your overall email marketing strategy.

You could:

  • Send information about new content related to the conference
  • Upsell your attendees with related products or services
  • Update attendees about a product launch related to your virtual summit’s theme
  • Offer cool online courses to let attendees deepen their knowledge base
  • Have a list of warm leads for future events to boost ticket sales

And much more.

That’s why we’ve created 3 excellent choices for your email service providers.

1. Constant Contact

Constant Contact homepage

Constant Contact is an awesome tool that lets you manage your email list, contact list, email templates, and more. If you’re looking for a service that helps with nearly every aspect of your marketing strategy, they are worth checking out.

They also offer a free trial (no credit card required), so you can give them a try risk-free.

2. Brevo (formerly Sendinblue)

Marketing Automation Tools - Brevo

Brevo (formerly Sendinblue) is a great option for your email service provider. They have an intuitive and easy-to-use drag and drop builder for campaigns. And much like you’d expect (and need) from an email service provider, they help you segment your email list and automate your email series to drive sales.

Pricing is also competitive, starting at just $27/month for their Lite package.

3. Drip

Drip homepage

Drip is a cool email service provider to test out. It has a fun, user-friendly interface that’s easy to learn. Their drag and drop builder makes creating campaigns a breeze. If we’re honest, our team prefers Drip to some other popular platforms like MailChimp.

Plus, their support team is stellar!

You can use Drip for free (no credit card required) or grab a 1:1 demo if you want more information.

And there you have it.

3 awesome email service providers that will help you grow your email list and boost your email marketing strategy for before, during, and after your virtual summit.

Helpful Plugins for Online Conferences

Earlier, we said that we recommend you build a site with WordPress. One of the advantages of that is unlocking cool features through plugins. Here are 3 plugins that will help you set up your virtual conference.

1. WPForms

wpfroms homepage - a great tool to make a virtual conference form

WPForms is the world’s best form builder for WordPress. And frankly, it isn’t even a competition. With WPForms, you can set up a registration form in minutes. Then, you can sync up your new leads to the email service provider you chose in the last section.

Again, making this registration form is surprisingly easy.

You just need to install the WPForm plugin and enable the User Registration addon. If this sounds complicated, don’t worry. You can check out the full tutorial here.

Having a registration form is crucial for letting your attendees sign up for your virtual conference in advance. And if you’re planning on charging for your online conference, be sure to check out their tutorials on adding Stripe or PayPal to your form.

2. MemberPress

Memberpress Homepage - Tool for making your site a membership site

Another alternative to creating a registration form is to turn your website into a membership site using MemberPress.

Having a members-only area in your WordPress site is a great way of providing extra value to your paying attendees. Plus, adding a members’ section creates a fear of missing out (FOMO) that you can use to enhance your marketing strategy.

MemberPress is the easiest way to turn your WordPress website into a membership site.

Also, MemberPress conforms with your site’s theme by default, making sure it doesn’t take away from your user experience (UX).

All the data is available directly on your site, and you have full control over what members can and can’t access. That means you could also have a tiered payment plan for your virtual conference and provide access to more premium features.

3. LearnDash

LearnDash homepage

LearnDash is typically used to create online courses. But as you can imagine, the same technology can be used to enhance your virtual conference.

LearnDash will let you give your attendees follow-up materials after the conference. That creates even more value for attending and makes the whole experience feel more professional.

One idea would be to have tiered payment plans (like we discussed earlier) for your conference tickets. Then you could create follow-up courses to boost both your attendees’ knowledge and your revenue.

LearnDash is, without a doubt, one of the best Learning Management Systems (LMS) on the market.

Live Video Platforms

Now that you’re all set up to take registrations and provide exclusive content to your audience, you have one more thing to consider:

How to host your conference.

For that, we highly recommend you use Zoom:

Zoom homepage - The perfect tool to host a virtual conference

Zoom is one of the most-used virtual conference platforms around.

It’s super intuitive and has a low learning curve. That means it’s more accessible to your audience, who may be less comfortable with technology.

Plus, you can record live sessions to package as follow up merchandise.

Though Zoom does have a free version, you’ll likely want a paid version. The Business package is $20/month, allows for 10 hosts, and up to 300 conference guests.

If you’re expecting a much larger group of people to attend, you may want to contact Zoom’s sales team. But no matter what plan you ultimately choose, Zoom is one of the most affordable virtual conference software you’ll find.

Ok, so you’re just about all set. So far, we’ve covered:

  • Planning and reaching out to guest speakers
  • Using helpful plugins for your online summit
  • Finding the best virtual conference platform to host your presentations

That’s it, right?

Wrong. Because, so far, we’ve only answered the question, “how do you create a virtual conference.”

But we haven’t even gotten to the most important part: getting more attendees to join your conference once you’ve built it.

So let’s check out a few strategies for marketing your virtual summit.

Attract More Attendees

One of the hardest parts of your online conference will be effectively spreading the word. Fortunately, we have 3 tips for you to get more attendees to join your conference.

1. Run an Online Contest on Social Media

It’s no secret that social media is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your site. No matter which social media platform you use for your business, it can be one of your strongest assets in finding attendees for your conference.

There are a few ways that you can use social media to drive traffic to your online conference. One of the best is creating an online giveaway. And for that, there’s no better tool than RafflePress.

RafflePress homepage

RafflePress is the world’s best plugin for creating online contests that go viral. With RafflePress, you can easily create a contest and give away free admission to your online conference.

But in doing so, you’ll also create hype around the event.

Plus, because RafflePress allows you to award more points for certain tasks, you can encourage people to:

  • Visit your website
  • Follow your social media accounts
  • Share the contest with others

And much more.

Another advantage is that RafflePress has an easy-to-use drag and drop builder. So your contest designs always come out looking awesome. They also have a built-in feature that allows you to protect your contest from getting any spam entries.

You can check out a full list of their features here.

If you’re serious about increasing attendance at your online summit, a contest on social media can be one of your strongest tools.

2. Reach out to Your Current Email List

As you probably know, we here at OptinMonster think there’s no better way to grow your business than a robust email list. That’s because email marketing helps so many businesses explode their traffic and revenue.

If you already have an email list for your own company, then you should create a series of emails to inform them about your online conference.

Using your email list to promote the event means you already know your audience is interested in the topic. Since they’ve already voluntarily given you their email address, there’s a good chance that they’ll love the online summit concerning your niche.

In other words, you’re promoting your online course to extremely warm leads.

You may also want to pre-record parts of your virtual summit to send as a teaser video. This can build hype around your product and show your clients what they can expect from the conference.

Here’s a Pro Tip: you can use our MonsterLinks™ directly in your email campaigns. By embedding these links in the copy of your emails, you can redirect your email list to your online conference campaigns.

As you’re writing your email series, remember to use some email copy best practices, including:

  • Using a catchy subject line to get attention
  • Writing in an engaging, conversational style
  • Including visual media like photos and pictures
  • Checking your text for grammar and spelling mistakes

By using these tips while writing your email series, you’re much more likely to increase your click-through rate. And that means increasing your odds of having more attendees at your online conference.

3. Use OptinMonster Campaigns to Convert Site Traffic

Finally, you’ll want to develop a few campaigns on your actual website. That’s where OptinMonster comes in.

With OptinMonster, you can build tons of targeted campaigns such as:

  • Lightbox Popups
  • Floating Bars
  • Countdown Timers (both static and dynamic)
  • Inline Campaigns
  • Fullscreen Welcome Mats

And so many more.

OptinMonster features

You can also Fullscreen Welcome Mats like landing pages. Because they take the entire screen when the campaign is triggered, they instantly become a new page on your site.

But the best part is that they don’t have a URL. That makes them much more flexible than traditional landing pages. With a Fullscreen Welcome Mat, you have a landing page that goes to your traffic, not the other way around. This makes fullscreen campaigns a particularly powerful tool for lead generation.

Plus, you can specifically target any campaign that you want to specific visitors to your site. That way you can be sure that your conference invitation goes to the right people at the right time.

And that’s it! You now have everything you need to host an online conference.

We hope that you found this article useful. But now we want to hear directly from you. What tools have you used to host your online conferences?

Let us know by reaching out to us on Facebook, Twitter, or down below in the comments section. Or, if you’re looking for more killer tutorials, you can head over to our YouTube channel. Just don’t forget to subscribe.

Finally, if you’re serious about driving traffic to your site, growing your email list, and increasing your overall revenue, then we can help. OptinMonster is the world’s #1 conversion optimization kit.

We’d be thrilled to show you why.

So don’t wait! Join the OptinMonster family today.

Nathan Thompson
Nathan Thompson is a father, a writer, and a lover of travel (in that order). When he’s not wrestling with his kids, you’ll likely find Nathan giving his eyes a much-needed break from screens with a good book or planning a family trip with his awesome wife.

Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported. This means if you click on some of our links, then we may earn a commission. We only recommend products that we believe will add value to our readers.

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