As virtual events continue to gain acceptance, organizers will continue to need to work towards making first-time attendees feel comfortable and welcome. Some things to keep in mind when welcoming your new attendees:
Never assume your attendees will know how to deal with the technology required to fully experience your event. Also, your event platform may very well be new to some attendees, regardless of their prior experience attending virtual events. While at the event attendees need to understand the schedule, login URLs and credentials and how to connect with the speaker, moderator, and other attendees. A well designed welcome kit can be provided that should include clear, detailed instructions and provide information about exhibitors and sponsors, scheduling, and social events. There is still a place for a paper program guide, and be sure a virtual help desk is readily available.
Pair up first-time attendees with more experienced attendees in a virtual buddy program and encourage them to connect before the meeting. Time can be scheduled before, after, and during the event to allow further communication.
In-person conferences usually include lounges for different segments of attendees to take a break and engage each other in a casual environment. Consider providing a “break room” for first-timers, along with people from your organization to answer any questions and keep the conversation flowing.
A simple phone call – before and immediately after the event – from former attendees or members of your group can easily answer questions, address concerns, and share their knowledge of prior events.
Finally, ask for feedback from first-timers by sending a special post-event survey. Ask what they found most useful about the event and what would have made it even better. Use that information in planning your next event and making more first-timers welcome.