How to build an inclusive and interactive digital conference

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How to build an inclusive and interactive digital conference

Evan Gappelberg looks at some best practices for building an inclusive and interactive global conference.


The Covid-19 pandemic changed the event landscape drastically, forcing conferences and meetings to digitalise for the health and safety of attendees.

While born out of necessity, this trend will likely continue beyond 2020 as we see the cost and logistical benefits that virtual events offer and the new-found ability to open conference accessibility to global audiences. Event managers need to take advantage of today’s current climate to restructure their plans and platforms, not just for global inclusion but also for security, accessibility and scalability to ensure these events meet the demands of the modern digital age.


Prioritise security

Online privacy is a serious concern for any virtual activity, including conferences and events that draw attendees from a wide variety of locales. Security can be simplified when event hosting platforms offer end-to-end encryption for attendees and presenters looking to share and/or download proprietary resources such as posters, slide decks or presentation footage. Transparency about security goes a long way with attendees, always make a point to communicate how you plan to use any participant data gathered during the registration process and throughout the event.


Rethink your objectives and themes

While physical events require a large time commitment between the logistics of travelling, time spent away from home, and navigating the conference space and agenda, virtual events should be approached with efficiency and networking in mind.

Physical events involve informal moments where people enjoy themselves around meals or breaks and discuss everything from common interests to which session to attend next.

Virtual events are attended from home and typically interrupt a workday, so they need to be made easy, enjoyable and useful to participants. Having clearly defined session times, speakers, easy access to contacts and searchable, downloadable content creates an engaging event, where users can select only what they’re interested in.


Create an inclusive interface

When drawing a global audience, you want all participants to feel included; new accessibility tools and features make this easier than ever. The addition of real-time language translation can help international attendees engage with presentations and discussions in real-time. Artificial-intelligence-enabled chatbots, search integration and live support are other features that help attendees seamlessly navigate the event interface, find relevant presentations and speaker information and keep event staff focused on bigger questions and logistics.

While some platforms visually recreate familiar elements of the physical world, (lobbies, halls, room, exhibition centers) virtual event organisers might want to consider a partner that uses advanced UX design to move away from those models and focus on sleek, visually appealing and responsive interfaces to be accessed seamlessly from any device.

During interactive panels, the most cutting-edge event software services can offer is in-window polling and Q&A functionality. Platforms that offer this feature enable attendees to enter questions or respond to queries without leaving the presentation. What’s more, poll results and questions can auto-populate within the feed for presenters and other participants to view and respond to in real-time.

Lastly, while the goal is for a dynamic, live virtual event, you’ll want to offer attendees ways to replay content. This is especially important for large-scale, global events spanning multiple time zones. All attendees, regardless of when they sign into the event platform, should have an easy time finding videos, downloadable resources and schedules. Make sure that any end-to-end virtual event platform you consider offers these capabilities.


Add personal touches

Whether an event is large or small, it’s important for it to feel personal and unique to your brand, organisation or industry, no matter how many attendees you’re expecting. This means finding the sweet spot between scalability and personalisation.

Your virtual event platform must be able to function smoothly, whether you’re hosting an enterprise-scale event with hundreds of thousands of attendees or a small consortium, without any glitches, crashes or lags. Failure to do so could cost you attendee numbers.


Make sure to ‘Wow’ your audience

In addition to reliability to keep attendees locked in, integration is core for engaging participants and keeping it personal. With workers and business owners spending most of their days in live meetings, make sure your virtual event is memorable, filled with highlights, outstanding experiences and groundbreaking technology.

If your event includes visual-heavy subject matter, consider a virtual event provider which offers augmented reality holograms and objects that bring 3D, volumetric versions of presenters, booths and technologies directly into an attendee’s home, filling the gap between virtual and physical.

Many event professionals were forced to make a quick pivot to virtual events when the pandemic hit. Now that we’ve navigated the challenges, it’s time to focus on adding innovative technologies and features that improve attendee experience for years to come. Event hosts and managers must incorporate the latest technology platforms and tools to elevate scalable, inclusive and engaging events for diverse audiences of all sizes.


Evan Gappelberg is CEO of NexTech AR, a leader in the growing augmented reality market, and an entrepreneur with expertise in creating, funding and running start-ups.

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