How To Convert Your Physical Conference To Online

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Henry Dalziel, Co-Founder InfoSec Conferences

– C|EH, Security+, MSc Marketing Management;
– Based in Hong Kong for the last five years;
– Cybersecurity Pro & Growth Hacker

Yes, the world has gone upside down, but that doesn’t mean that you should cancel your Cybersecurity Conference.

Convert it online!

There are some massive benefits to converting your event online. They are:

  • Kudos and love for carrying on!
  • You’ve got a captive audience (due to quarantine);
  • You’ll also likely attract more senior delegates because they too are in quarantine!
  • Also – your conference will live on forever online, therefore, giving your marketing a team a ton of fantastic and unique content to share with your community.
  • Furthermore, you’ll have no limit (within reason) of Cybersecurity Professionals able to attend your event and there is no geographical limitation.

Converting your event from physical to online is a no-brainer. Most (if not all) of the western world (as well as APAC) is under quarantine, so you’ve got a captive audience.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected all businesses not just events and conferences. However, the event-space is entirely driven by the ability of employees, partners, clients (vendors), and delegates in being able to attend “in-person” events.

COVID-19 virus, popularly known as Coronavirus has made this year an annus horribilis for the events-industry, let alone the sports industry.

Many high-profile Information Security events and conferences have been canceled as a result of the pandemic. For example, we’ve listed over 25 conferences that have either been canceled, postponed or placed online. In this post, we will focus on the latter, i.e. “how to convert your physical event to an online webinar/conference”.

How to Change a Physical Conference to a Virtual Event

The first thing to do is not panic. See this is a challenge and an opportunity to do good for your community.

Here’s the good news: everyone, from vendors to delegates, will appreciate your efforts in this crisis and will in fact admire and respect your tenacity for still going ahead with the event.

Sure, you do have a choice to postpone your conference, especially if paid vendors (sponsors) and delegates have expectations of what to expect, but should you go ahead and offer a “stripped-down” version of the event that here how you could do it.

Step #1 Confirm The Conference Date With Your Team

Make a decision about the date of your event: will you keep it “as is” or will you push it down a month or two?

It might be tricky to select a date and stick with it, but once you’ve committed to online date for your conference the good news is that no pandemic can affect the deliverability of your online conference, so, you can relax in the knowledge that the show will go on!

Step #2 Understand What Is Involved With Hosting An Online Conference

Here’s what you need to do in a nutshell:

  • Confirm that you want to move your conference online;
  • Make sure that your sponsors are happy with this new arrangement (which may involve reimbursement of some description);
  • Commit to a date;
  • Select an online platform that can cater to the number of delegates you anticipate;
  • Plan your event, i.e. session format (with/without Q&A);
  • Make sure you get the word out pre and post-event.

Step #3 Commit The Date

The date of this resource is early April 2020, and we are pre-peak according to the WHO. So, if your event was, say, in the last Quarter of the year then you’ll probably be ok to continue to host it physically as planned.

Make sure that you have an event “buffer” of 2 months (ideally) when it comes to planning whether or not you want to further postpone, cancel or place your conference online. However – let’s stay focused on the mission at hand: i.e., let’s work on getting our conference online.

Committing the online conference date with your team has the benefit of having a focus and a fixed “deadline” to get the show on the road.

Step #4 Contact All Key Stakeholders

Perhaps you should do this step before committing a date but I’d argue the opposite. Why? Because once you have a date and have made a decision the stakeholders have “no choice” but to participate or not!

Most of the work that will go into planning and executing a physical (bricks-and-mortar) conference is exactly the same as hosting an online conference.

The conference goals will remain. The conference objectives and “learning outcomes” will all be the same as will the content that will be delivered by the speakers.

Let’s discuss each one of these stakeholders.

Delegates

If you’re offering a free InfoSec conference then no worries – you’re good to go! You’ll get a bunch of serious love and karma for having the tenacity to carry on.

If you were charging a fee for entry and haven’t received payment then you’re in luck, you should be ok to be able to switch the event online. If you have received payment then you might be able to offer a partial refund should they attend the online event.

Should the online conference be less expensive than the original event you’d planned? Yes, definitely.

If you’re unsure about this step or what to charge, then go ahead and take a sample of your early-bird delegates and ask them! Fire off a bunch of emails or if you create a quick poll and you’ll rapidly get answers to the feasibility of converting your event to online.

Speakers

Asking speakers to deliver their content online rather than in a physical venue is not, at all, a deal-breaker. Indeed, your speakers will be thankful for the opportunity to deliver the content that they would have created pre-event and will likely be delighted to be able to share that!

Cybersecurity is wholly dependent on visual representation and explanation and this will remain central to your InfoSec online event.

If you’ve paid your speakers then you’ve likely not paid them since speakers are paid post-event.

Sponsors (Vendors)

This is the tricky one, but nothing that you can’t handle!

Sponsors of your conference were paying to receive an expectation of certain deliverables such as exposure and association.

Being associated with an online event absolutely has benefits and whether this is diluted with the conference being online is arguable but in any event, it all comes down to the marketing. If your marketing team is promoting the online event then there is a ton of value with that.

In fact, your exhibitors and sponsors will get far more data than they ever would at a physical event. At a physical conference, many exhibitors and sponsors are dependent on the willingness of a delegate to “stop and chat” whilst an online conference has a physical point of contact: an email address.

Other Items To Consider

We will be adding more to this resource with regards to platform providers that you can use, but here are some other items to consider.

If you have attendees joining from the European Union (EU GDPR) and/or California (CCPA), make sure that you comply with data privacy laws, this is particularly the case within Cybersecurity Conferences!

Also, make sure you have a Data Processing Agreement (DPA) in place.

Plan the event to include breaks for everyone. Try to also keep each presentation to less than 45 minutes, ideally 20-25 minutes.

If you are going to convert your InfoSec event online then be sure to let us know and submit it here. If you have already submitted your event and need the status changed then click here to let us know.