Virtual conferences: let’s go beyond the screen

A screenshot of a virtual conference, with attendees on video at the top and pink and cream virtual tables below

I attended my first, “proper” virtual conference recently and I was blown away!

It was unlike any other virtual conference I have ever been to before. It was live and interactive; I networked like I was in the room, met new people, listened to some great keynote speakers and even got involved in the Q&A, all from the comfort of my lounge.

It could not have been more different from other virtual conferences I have attended, which tend to run via a succession of webinars scheduled over a day, which you choose to log into. While doing it this way can produce some good results, I much prefer the opportunity to interact with other conference attendees and discuss the topic at hand, rather than experiencing a content download from a series of webinars.

So why are virtual conferences on the rise and how can you use it to your advantage?

In this blog we look at – 

  • Cost
  • Inclusivity
  • Environment
  • Company announcements and updates
  • World cafés
  • Company happy hours
  • Actual conferences

Firstly, having the right technology is key for a conference to work successfully. The best we’ve seen so far is a platform called Remo. You can check it out here.

Remo is designed around facilitating networking and interaction. During the networking sessions, you can join any available table in real-time to chat with other attendees or discuss the topics at hand. Keynote speakers can then take the floor with a chat function to respond to any questions from the audience.

Having a reliable, interactive and fun platform like Remo can make a virtual conference a great, live experience which still feels intimate.

Ok, so you have your platform sorted, which you know is going to make your virtual conference a success. But why choose them over the traditional face-to-face conference? For us at VTT, there are three main factors.


I spoke to an HR Director of a large bank in EMEA about their recent leadership conference. It cost them approx. £250,000 – a quarter of a million pounds! The conference was for 50 people over 3 days. It may have been a huge success but it also included a huge sum of money to fly in 50 people across the world to a single venue, as well as pay for hotel costs, food, entertainment and speakers.

I’m not suggesting that we stop all face-to-face events but we do know that more and more organisations are reducing their budgets for such costly affairs. Taking these events online and making them virtual is a much more cost-effective option.


The reality is that a traditional conference means people need to travel and often, spend time away from home. This doesn’t work for everyone. Accessibility, home commitments, child care and other factors means that some people will simply miss out.

I think it is great to see some conference events have a virtual option for those not in the room; usually in the form of a live video stream of the speakers, so people not in attendance can still see what is happening. However, for those who attend virtually, they may miss out on the sense of interaction, networking opportunities and social aspect that attending in person brings. With a virtual conference, we can achieve more equality. Everyone can be included, have similar opportunities and attend a conference that fits around their schedule.

The environment

We shouldn’t ignore the rising concern about climate change and our future. This huge factor impacts the relevance of face-to-face conferencing in today’s climate.

The first and obvious one is around the conference itself. There is always an ample adornment of banners, pens, single-wrapped sweets, plastic bottles and paper; needless extras that will most likely be discarded the moment the conference ends. And a large part of the impact of F2F conferences comes with the associated emmissions from travel, flights etc.

But another angle to consider is how individuals make choices for themselves on how they can manage their own carbon usage. This could be through choosing not to fly or travel excessively, going paperless, avoiding single use plastics etc. This means that some people will opt out of travelling for conferences altogether, and widely impact the inclusiveness and impact of the event.

So how can we make the most of virtual conference platforms?

With the great virtual conferencing technology out there, there is so much potential for it to be used way beyond the scope of virtual conferences. Internally in your organisation, there are loads of great ways you can have your colleagues come together virtually using conferencing platforms. Here are just a few of our thoughts for you to use as a starting point;

1)  Company announcements and updates

Rather than a recording or webinar from the CEO, why not say your big announcement in a virtual conferencing platform like Remo. It allows the audience to then get into smaller groups to discuss what they have heard and generate questions to ask, which can be fed back live into the CEO. This hugely extends the discussion that comes from such announcements, and provides opportunities for innovation and growth.

2) World Café

Why not take the great idea of a ‘world cafe’ and move it to virtual. Remo allows you to host virtual tables, and a GoogleDoc can be used as a collaboration document. People can move between tables to share ideas and present them back- it’s a great way to have fun and effective ideation sessions. Many organisations have already adopted World Cafes as an effective interactive discussion and creativity tool – now you can get the benefits of doing this live and virtually.

3) Company happy hours

Perhaps Friday lunchtimes could now involve opening a virtual conference room for anyone to pop in and chat to one another, involving people from all around the organisation and the world. This offers a great opportunity for informal networking, camaraderie and relationship building. It also helps your remote workers feel that ‘friday feeling’ that you often get in offices.

4) Actual conferences

I know a growing organisation who, when they were small enough, would invite the entire organisation to get together face-to-face twice a year. As they are expanding, it is becoming increasingly obvious that this isn’t a practical solution anymore. They still meet in person once a year, but have increased their use of virtual conferencing, now holding one every quarter.

With the rise of innovative virtual conferencing platforms, there is now the ability to host conferences that are just as interactive, engaging and social as any in person conference, with the added bonus of being inclusive and cost effective!

The prospects for virtual conferencing are super exciting. It is a great all inclusive way for people to get together – and a good platform can be used for so much more than one conference. It is human, live, intimate and fun if you get it right.

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