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Tips to Engage Customers Through a Successful Virtual Conference

Successful Virtual Conferences

March 30, 2020

Most of us have attended one or more business conferences. Many were most likely valuable, while others were not. One key value of a conference is the one-on-one interaction you gain from interacting with peers. There is just something tremendously valuable about this interaction.

Even before COVID-19, virtual conferences were gaining traction in the business community. Now, virtual conferences provide a great way to quickly and effectively engage your customers. Recently, Michael Kremer, Head of Marketing for AgriSync, led a Zoom-based seminar on conducting virtual conferences. In this seminar, Michael laid out the fundamentals of a successful virtual conference and shared many tips, along with example documents he used in his most recent virtual conference.

Be Human

Michael began by emphasizing the need to be interactive in order to keep the audience engaged. He recommended using the chat feature so participants can easily direct questions to speakers and panelists. He also encouraged having participants join in on discussions when a question generates conversation. Michael went on to emphasize the need to make the conference about common areas of interest among attendees and to not make the conference just about the person running the conference or their company.

Why Do a Virtual Conference?

Virtual conferences can be created and presented at a significantly lower cost than a traditional conference. Items like a physical venue, food and equipment rental are very expensive. Virtual conferences can be created and presented for a fraction of the cost of an in-person conference.

Michael discussed why AgriSync recently decided to conduct their conference virtually. Their conference was created and held before COVID-19 became an issue. But for AgriSync, the number of people they could attract was in question due to cost. Asking people to travel to a conference can limit the attendees. By presenting the conference virtually, the cost burden on attendees was significantly lower. Michael feels it takes at least 100 people in attendance at a live conference to make the human energy work. In a virtual conference, he feels that the number can be significantly lower and the energy will still work.

Tips + Recommendations

  • Provide a variety of topics. Ask your customers for input on topics or success-based recommendations. Conference attendees enjoy hearing the stories of similar companies.
  • Panels are engaging as long as the topic is common ground for many of the attendees.
  • Seek out speakers who are engaging.
  • Create a landing page for a Save The Date. Send people to the landing page early in the process. Do promotions to drive attendee engagement.
  • Breakout sessions can work but be aware that this increases the level of complexity.
  • Anyone presenting is advised to stand up and stand back from the camera. There is an element of engagement when the speaker stands.
  • A height-adjustable desk helps to align the camera and screen with the speaker.
  • A professional microphone or headset is key. Sound is incredibly important! • Use a virtual background. Products like Zoom allow you to create custom virtual backgrounds.

TPS: Technical, Presentation + Speakers

Michael highlighted three specific areas on which a person conducting a virtual conference should focus in order to increase success: technical, presentation and speakers. Here are a few takeaways for each of these areas:


  • Practice, practice, practice. Experiencing technical difficulties reduces credibility. Michael recommended holding a complete technical run-through at least 4 times.
  • Lighting — Natural light is best. If natural lighting is not available, consider lamps to warm up presenter’s faces.
  • Run the conference hardwired to ethernet if at all possible. Have a wi-fi connection available along with a cellular hotspot as backup.
  • Designate a point person who knows exactly what is and should be going on at all times. This person can run the show in the background.


  • The presenters need to be intriguing.
  • Provide content during breaks and transitions. Don’t go to a black screen. You need something live to keep the audience engaged.
  • Use polling features in the venue tool. Polling the audience increases engagement.
  • Let people chat in. Open the mic and let them engage when practical.
  • Transitions from speaker to speaker are very important. Just like relay running, the handoff matters.
  • Make sure you provide regular bathroom breaks!


  • Speaker preparation matters. Help them be well prepared.
  • Moderators o Call each speaker individually ahead of time. Conduct a 30-minute review on what you will be discussing during the conference.
  • Prepare and provide a prep sheet. Print them and make them available to each moderator.
    • Everything should be scripted.
    • Complete information on the topic, the panelists etc.
  • Panelists
  • Place an invite on all speakers and panelists calendars. Add an extra 15 minutes on their schedule to make sure they aren’t running late due to back-to-back meetings.
  • Provide them the prep sheet with all relevant information.

This is only a fraction of the material Michael covered. Check out the links below for more information.

See the entire seminar here

For handouts, examples and the slide deck, click here.

You can count on The Partnership to continue to share accurate and fact-based updates as well. See more on COVID-19 here.

Find these tips useful? Find more business tools and information by visiting the Business Resources page.

Mike Colwell

As executive director of entrepreneurial initiatives of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Mike Colwell leads works with startups to build their business model, financial model, marketing strategies and capitalization plan. He is also co-manager of Plains Angels, a group of Iowa-based Midwest angel investors. Mike spends his days coaching, mentoring, consulting and asking tough questions to help entrepreneurs reach their full potential. Mike assists with business strategy, business planning, business plan execution, business model development and capital acquisition strategies.