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The Total Guide to Virtual Conferences 2020

One of the biggest and most important aspects of attending a virtual conference is the opportunity to learn more about how to navigate your specific business world.

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Trade Show Shipping
August 13, 2020
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With so many different conferences one can attend, it’s not an easy task to really laser focus on the ones that will give you or your business the most value for your time. In these uncertain times, it becomes all the more important to not invest resources into a conference — likely virtual at this point — that doesn’t meet this simple objective. Yet, it leaves a crucial question unanswered: how do you know which of the virtual conferences is the right one to pick? 

Luckily, for those looking for virtual conferences in 2020, there are no shortage of quality options. While the way they’re run and attended have certainly changed, quality networking and exchange of information can still occur. Whether presenting or attending, the subsequent bump in the status of your enterprise can be well worth it.

There is a lot to cover on the many facets that go into putting on or attending a virtual conference. So read on to get a better grasp of what to expect and the best conferences for the rest of 2020.

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The Benefits of Attending Virtual Conferences

The Benefits of Attending Virtual Conferences

When a huge conference like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) — annually hosted in Las Vegas for over 180,000 attendees — has already announced it will be held virtually starting in 2021, it’s not hard to see that virtual conferences will be a part of the future for an indeterminable amount of time. 

One of the biggest and most important aspects of attending a virtual conference is the opportunity to learn more about how to navigate your specific business world. While there are certain tenets of being professionally successful across the board, it wouldn’t make much sense to attend a virtual conference wildly outside of what you’re looking for. For instance, if you’re in the medical field, you very well might get little to no benefit from a professional standpoint to log online to participate in a conference about the hospitality industry.

While it won’t be the same as attending an in-person conference, you can still meet like-minded professionals in your trade to network with. Conversely, you may also connect with a person or people who have new or different ideas than yours that you can incorporate into how you run your business or department. 

Other factors for benefitting from being in a virtual conference are finding out what your competitors are doing and finding ways to innovate or adapt how you approach things based on that. Being more creative to adapt to a virtual conference will only help once things move back to physical locations, especially in putting on a successful exhibition

Another obvious benefit is keeping yourself as risk-free as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. Attending a virtual conference from the comfort of your office or home might feel weird or different at first, especially for those who’ve frequented in-person conferences. However, further eliminating another source where you can transmit or contract coronavirus hopefully puts your mind at ease.  

What Virtual Conferences Should I Attend?

Even in these virtual times, there are still plenty of conferences to choose from and they all have different positives and negatives associated with them. It is not a limitless amount of events, but it can sure feel like that when attempting to sort through them all. 

You should pick a conference or multiple conferences that will give you the most value for your time and money.

Narrowing down your search even further, figure out which ones the best in your particular industry are. As an example, if you were in a field that dealt with consumer electronics, then CES is one you’d definitely want to attend. It is large, has something for everyone in the field, is long-running, has keynote speakers that are among the giants in their industry and leave plenty of time and people to network.

Basically, you’re looking for highly-rated conferences that are well-regarded in your particular industry or general business-focused conferences that might not touch on a specific industry but help you communicate in or understand the business world better.

As you read on, we will list the best remaining conferences you can attend in 2020 broken down by category. As you will see, there is literally something for everyone.

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Advantages of a Virtual Conference

Advantages of a Virtual Conference

The most apparent initial advantage to attend or host a virtual conference should be the reduced cost. Compared to a physical conference, there are no lodging or transportation costs for attendees of a virtual conference. With the need for just an internet connection and the base cost of the conference, it becomes a much easier decision for a business to allow employees to participate or an individual on the fence about attending to make the choice to partake.

A virtual conference in general is also easier to attend from a crowd perspective. Mentioned earlier, CES has nearly 200,000 attendees. Even though Las Vegas can handle that amount of people, it’s still a nightmare from a conference goer’s perspective since it can be difficult to find a hotel near the venue, or an Uber during busy times when everyone else is active. That’s not even accounting for the fact that an absolutely enormous place to host the conference can be a huge challenge to navigate.

Meanwhile, a virtual conference allows you to be in any space you want from the comfort of your home or office and allows you to log in just minutes prior to a keynote speaker presenting. You still receive high quality interactions where you can continue learning or sharing ideas. For the entity hosting the conference, that also means being able to more easily measure data from a virtual conference and having a more gentle impact on the environment.

Challenges of a Virtual Conference

While virtual conferences can be outstanding experiences and a necessity in the current landscape, there are still some challenges in several areas that will have to be addressed or navigated in order for you to be able to offer or receive the most out of them.

Networking is one of the biggest selling points for going to a huge conference or trade show. There won’t be those dedicated happy hours to mingle with people or other in person events that some people completely thrive in. While it could be easier in some regards to get 1-on-1 face time with a person you’d like to interact with, there is some of that personal touch lost in translation over a computer or smartphone.

Another important selling point, both for demonstrators and attendees at a conference, is being able to get products or even swag (complimentary items for attendees that are branded) in front of those present. With this type of virtual event, you’ll be forced to get creative. 

For product demonstrations, you can always broadcast them over the internet. While it might not replicate conference-goers being able to touch and see the items in person, it is still much better than not getting the products in front of people at all. On the other hand, you can still send swag or product samples directly to anyone enrolled in the online conferences, either to their place of business or directly to their homes. While this presents additional planning and careful coordination, it could turn into a benefit if done correctly.

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What Do Top Virtual Conferences Have In Common?

What Do Top Virtual Conferences Have In Common

While the theme or subjects differ, there are some common threads that the best virtual conferences all share:

Keynote speakers: The biggest and most well-regarded conference, virtual or otherwise, are able to convince experts of the particular industry to keep an audience in a world full of distractions enthralled by being both interesting and informative. If that person is also either famous in his or her own right, or works for a notable company, that will also attract people.

Motivated guests: The conference is only going to be as good as the people attending it. Holding a virtual conference might not have the “in-person” component everyone is used to, but there might be even more networking and exchanging of ideas going on than usual. A big selling point of a lot of attendees is being able to socially share new ideas, make contacts and possibly even stay in touch long after the conference is over. So while you want to engage an attendee, you also want to have an engaging attendee at your conference.

Singular focus: So while it’s nice to have an excuse to get a bunch of like-minded professionals together to share info about a product you sell or exchange ideas, there should still be a goal, purpose or focus for undergoing the huge process of putting on such an event. It could be something as simple as “Innovation” or something more specific like “Selling In A Digital Era”. Regardless of what the focus is, make sure it is laser-focused and able to be communicated in a clear, concise manner.

Networking abilities: While this one was touched upon briefly under motivated guests, no one wants to attend a physical or virtual conference and just listen to speakers talk for days on end. Make it easy for attendees to have time and interaction with one another. Having smaller breakout sessions during virtual meetings can help in that regard. Some conferences provide a free smartphone app for physical conferences and have continued the practice for their virtual counterparts. This is a great way to allow conference-goers to communicate with each other directly.

Value for time and money: People have a finite amount of time, so you have to make your conference worth their while. Having great information, engagement and focus is one part of that equation. The other is the cost. Nearly every conference that has moved from a physical to virtual format should be overall cheaper because attendees (or their companies) don’t have to pay for flights and hotel rooms.

Still the base cost of admission to attend a conference can vary wildly, from completely free to thousands of dollars. No matter how much you charge, your job as the person providing the event is to convince people what they are receiving from you is worth their effort to attend.

Ideas to Enhance Virtual Conferences

There will be some thinking outside the box required but there are ways you can make a successful virtual conference feel a bit more like its physical counterpart.

  • Many conferences offer food and beverages to the people who attend. While you can’t exactly do that virtually, you might be able to approximate that idea by sending through email a gift card that can be used for lunch by the conference-goers. This can help keep attendees from disengaging.
  • Another aspect to look at is the duration of each session. It’s important to get the point across and disseminate the message but with the live webinars and online events can come a sense of boredom or disinterest for attendees if they’re expected to sit for hours on end and just listen to people talk. 
  • Don’t drop the swag. Sure, it might be harder to send out a bunch of items through the mail or a UPS/FedEx, but swag is important to some attendees. This is yet another area to get creative. You can still send swag, but offering a digital treat like a branded wallpaper for a smartphone, desktop or laptop could go a long way to further engage people. 
  • Along the same lines, having engaging speakers who are experts in their industry and have the ability to be entertaining and informative is huge. For this reason, celebrities and athletes are big hits.
  • You spent all that time polishing that presentation and it didn’t quite resonate the way you had hoped. So what went wrong? Turns out there is such a thing as too perfect. Your speakers should be able to inject a dose of humanity into the proceedings. A pause here, a stumble there won’t lessen the message and might even make it more relatable. Don’t mistake this for being unprepared, though — the speakers should still be prepared. 

Top Marketing Conferences

Marketing is an important part to virtually any business or organization. Whether you’re trying to sell a product or just the virtues of your non-profit, reaching people has never been more important. The following marketing conferences are considered the best around and ones you should definitely make plans to attend.

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Inbound  

Inbound, hosted by HubSpot, is one of the largest digital marketing conferences in the world. When hosted as a regular conference, the annual event has taken place in Boston. However, the 2020 edition is being hosted virtually in September to allow people looking to sharpen their skills in this arena.

This conference has a limited access feature that is free for those who sign up. However, those who want access to everything Inbound has to offer can find a paid option that is less than $100. Inbound has live streaming, video and audio content available from some of the world’s biggest business leaders.

DigiMarCon

Another favored option for digital marketing conferences is DigiMarCon. Through Sept. 11, people who want to attend can get the three-day package for $147, which is $150 off the regular price. This is a world conference that usually takes place several times a year at different locations around the world but is holding a giant virtual conference.

It offers keynote speakers featuring senior management from Facebook, IBM, SEMrush, SparkToro, Atlassian and others. There is a load of additional content available and the ability to interact with peers to see what they’re doing.

SaaStr Annual

SaaStr Annual is similar to Inbound in that it offers a limited free pass to its online conference, with passes for purchase to unlock all the content. This event will offer a plethora of live content, which includes speakers from Shopify to Zoom. Networking and mentorship are also on tap with a paid pass, with the idea of hopefully learning how to scale your venture more quickly.

Digital Summit

Digital Summit was scheduled to take place in Raleigh, N.C. But like many other conferences, it has moved exclusively online.

Digital Summit touts its in-depth content, top-line speakers, connections made and continued learning options as differentiators.

Content Marketing World 2020

One of the most expensive options to make this list, Content Marketing World 2020 takes place over the course of four days in October. This conference is supposed to be a top option for anything involving content marketing, and it is the largest. It generally has a top-notch rotation of speakers, numbering in the hundreds, and is up on the latest trends.

Leadership Conferences

Leadership Conferences

For people already in leadership roles or who want to transition into leadership, there are conferences designed for that too.

International Project Management Day 2020

International Project Management Day 2020 Online Conference is unique this year in that you’ll sign online to attend the Keynote Q&A in November but then have access through February 2021. Even a November Q&A can be accessed later if you can’t make it.

This conference is geared toward project managers from around the world. This conference has a lobby area that you enter after logging in that then allows you access to what you’re specifically looking for. This can be the Keynote speakers, exhibits, videos, resources and even a lounge to network with other attendees.

Leadership and Innovation 2020 Online Conference

In a similar vein, the Leadership and Innovation 2020 Online Conference is in March and runs through December. Individuals cost $189 to register and have keynote speakers and information on tap. The focus this year for this virtual event is on the event’s four themes: Purpose, Impact, Innovation and Intrapreneurship.

Sales Conferences

Sales Conferences
a hand pointing at a pie chart

Not everyone is trying to become a CEO or marketing guru. There are those who want to sell products, improve their sales output or see leads generated. If you’re one of those people, the following conferences are for you.

Sales Growth Virtual Summit

In November, The Sales Growth Virtual Summit is open to anyone free of charge. This virtual conference has five confirmed keynote speakers and promises more than 40 sales experts to share insights for anyone involved in sales.

Sales Hacker Success Summit

Another completely free conference destined for the online world is the Sales Hacker Success Summit. This focuses on all aspects of how to thrive in business-to-business (B2B) sales. There are four confirmed keynote speakers and eight categories explored during this virtual conference. Each talk has the added benefit of offering a checklist, script, template or worksheet to help absorb the lessons better.

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Consumer Electronics and Technology Conferences

Consumer Electronics and Technology Conferences

Between electronics built for consumers and new technological advances being created in Silicon Valley and beyond, these two industries feature a ton of innovation. They also are the grounds to show the world what you or your company have been working on and what to expect in the future.

TechCrunch

TechCrunch in general is known as one of the top places for startup companies to be seen and holds several events each year. It has several different price points to attend and the price rises the closer it gets to the conference’s start.

During this conference, you’ll hear from heavyweights in Silicon Valley, including some of the very people who helped build it or are currently thriving in the area. This will come in the form of advice, Q&As and presentations.

Web Summit

It’s also impossible to mention a technology conference without including Web Summit. This conference, going virtual this year after originally being tapped to happen physically in Lisbon, Portugal, is touted as the world’s largest technology conference.

Past speakers include former United States Vice President Al Gore, Shaquille O’Neal, Stephen Hawking and Seth Rogen. The conference is usually held in November.

Consumer Electronic Show

While it was mentioned early as an illustrative example and is not actually taking place in 2020, you should still put CES on your map if you are interested at all in consumer electronics. They’ve already made the decision to have the “all-digital” event in January.

The beauty of CES is you’ll see new products launched at the event and also see what the near future holds across more than 30 different categories. These categories include health, sports, autonomous vehicles, new cell phone/computer/TV technologies, gaming, artificial intelligence and a lot more.

Other Conferences

Other Conferences

There are some conferences that are in a category all their own. They still have massive value to a certain group of people but are a little more niche. Some of these are free of charge, though, so if you think you’d be interested, it could still be worth signing up for.

Accounting & Finance Show

The Accounting & Finance Show was originally slated to be held in New York City but will have a virtual home in October. This event is completely free and geared toward accountants, bookkeepers, chief financial officers and really anyone in the financial industry.

You do have to register in order to attend but, for no cost, a guest will receive 150 speakers over seven different categories, exhibitors, CPE-accredited sessions and even the ability to download an app to network with other event-goers.

Invention-Con

You might also want to mark your calendar for August so you can attend Invention-Con 2020 online for free. With this year’s theme of “Your IP: A power tool for building success”, you can learn how to turn your Intellectual Property (IP) into a success. The conference will take place via Cisco WebEx.

This event is for IP holders or professionals, inventors or other business owners and entrepreneurs. There are a host of keynote speakers during the 5 hours of sessions each day.

RELIT! 2020

If your interest is in child development as a teacher or otherwise, RELIT! 2020 could be the spark you’re looking for. Priced anywhere from $49 to $229, this one-day event in August each year pushes forward with the theme “Bring Your Brave”.

The full slate will include multiple guest speakers and even a session-ending Q&A for those who secure the VIP package. Originally planned across three Canadian cities, this is now completely virtual and features experts in the field of education — both traditional and non-traditional.

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FTWeekend Festival

If you’d truly like a bit of everything in one three-day conference, the 5th annual FTWeekend Festival might be just what you’re looking for. Occurring in September, there are more than 100 speakers including Dr. Anthony Fauci. But the topics are varied, as social issues will be discussed, wine tasting and cocktail making classes will be offered and even poetry readings and performances given.

The prices for this event are in British pounds, but the currently U.S. dollar price equivalent is about $45 to $60 to attend based on whether you’re a Financial Times subscriber or not. Depending on the prevailing conversion rate when you purchase, the price may be higher or lower.

LaterCon

LaterCon is a completely free social media conference. It touts its zero cost by saying all an attendee needs to be granted access is a first name, email address and an internet connection.

It starts in September and promises to help interested people grow their presence on social media. This can be for someone who wants to become an Instagram model or expand the reach of their business in order to make more money.

LaterCon has always been fully virtual and if you can’t make it for some reason, they’ll send you the recorded sessions to watch later — provided you did sign up ahead of time.  

Shipping to Virtual Conferences with R+L Global Logistics

If you’re a host or presenter at a virtual conference and need to get your setup to the main site, you don’t need to look any further than R+L Global Logistics to handle your shipping needs. We are well-versed in how to navigate the shipping associated with conferences. Even with the shift to virtual conferences for the foreseeable future, we can assist you in your goals.

This assistance would come in the form of being able to freight ship products to your attendees. R+L Global Logistics offers supply chain logistics, which means we can pick up your products on our trucks, store them in our warehouses and then fulfill the orders via pick and pack when you’re ready for your attendees to receive them. All of this is done in a knowledgeable and efficient manner that is also reasonably priced to provide great value for your money when shipping to a trade show.

So when you’re ready to start shipping goods from your virtual conferences to the attendees, call the experts at R+L Global Logistics at (866) 415-8986 for a free quote today.

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