For the majority of the more than 1,000 Summit participants, this was the first entirely virtual conference they had attended. With that in mind, it was important to have staff on hand the day of the conference to troubleshoot and ensure a good overall experience to help keep participants engaged and happy during the day.

  1. Schedule a participant A/V check: Since this is the first time many conference participants will be engaging in this format, it’s important to schedule a session one week before the conference begins so that participants can log on to the conference system and ensure they don’t have any issues with firewalls or other limitations that prevent them from hearing or seeing presentations. We ended up doing a half hour session as an intro to the day—which was really an opportunity to troubleshoot for those having difficulty accessing the event.

  2. Email reminders: Send all registered participants reminders the day before and/or the day of the conference so they have the conference information (including their login and password) easily accessible.

  3. Incentivize participation: The ease of participating in an online summit (from the comfort of your office or home) can also be a curse. The curse comes in the form of distractions and the inevitable multi-tasking that we are all prone to do. Keeping the attention of audience members in a virtual setting is even more difficult than in person. While it is easier than ever to join a session, it is just as easy to leave when the phone rings or a new email comes through. Given this, organizers must find opportunities for audience participation when designing sessions and panels. Think creatively about giving door prizes during the Q&A or asking questions that encourage participants to weigh in and recognize them for their efforts.