The Ultimate Guide to Hosting Virtual Conferences: Steps, Tools & Cost

Use this comprehensive step-by-step actionable guide to discover how to: plan, promote, host, and analyze your virtual conference.

Published on December 20, 2023 • Updated on December 21, 2023 • About 14 min. read
A person hosting an engaging virtual conference using a laptop

If you’re looking for ways to maximize your brand efforts while still connecting closely with current or potential customers, consider hosting a virtual conference.

Planning and promoting these events requires a sharp eye for detail and a video platform tool that simplifies the organization process and helps you mimic face-to-face interactions.

To make it easier for you, we’ve compiled a list of steps, tools, and tips to guide you through the planning and execution of a virtual conference.


Livestorm helps teams collaborate and deliver memorable live or on-demand video experiences.

What is a virtual conference?

A virtual conference is a large online event used by professionals to share knowledge, network, and sometimes generate brand awareness. Industry experts and professionals are usually invited as keynote speakers or panelists and will discuss topics relevant to their industry and audience.

Virtual conferences can be used to generate leads, but it’s not the main purpose. Otherwise, it would be considered a marketing event!

What’s the difference between an in-person conference and a virtual conference?

The difference between an in-person event and a virtual conference is where it’s hosted.

The in-person conference is held at a physical location, while a virtual one is hosted online using virtual event software.

Meanwhile, virtual conferences have a broader scope including knowledge sharing and networking.

They may involve multiple keynote speakers and panel discussions with industry experts to explore a few different angles on a wide subject.

How does a virtual conference work?

A virtual conference works similarly to a live one but attendees watch it via the internet instead of being physically present in the conference room.

The platform that you choose to host your video conference will have a big effect on the event’s success because it determines how you get people to join the virtual meeting room, interact with the speaker, and connect with each other.


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Generate leads with great virtual conferences

What are the benefits of a virtual conference?

Since virtual conferences are highly accessible, brands can also reach more people and effectively raise brand awareness at scale. Here are all the benefits of virtual conferences in detail:

  • There’s no commute
  • It’s a cost-effective virtual event
  • It’ll build your brand
  • It helps generate qualified leads
  • You can create unique engagement opportunities
  • You can easily analyze your audience

1. There’s no commute for virtual conferences

Attendees can join from anywhere, so no travel arrangements need to be made for speakers or audience members.

It’s much easier for people with limited mobility, time, or resources to attend, which may make the event more appealing.

commute to work

2. It’s a cost-effective virtual event

You don’t need to pay for a conference room, catering, or transportation.

Plus, since you can reach a wider, global audience, you can increase the number of participants and lower attendees’ acquisition costs.

virtual conference room

3. Virtual conferences build your brand

Since virtual conferences are highly accessible, brands can reach more people and effectively raise brand awareness at scale.

You can also use it to build topical authority and thought leadership on industry-specific topics.

With Livestorm, you can automatically record your event to create evergreen content that continues to boost your brand even after the event is over.

facebook on a laptop

4. It helps generate qualified leads

Virtual conferences tackle niche, industry-specific topics, so attendees are more likely to be qualified leads - unlike the leads you get from other marketing efforts like social media giveaways.

If you’re using Livestorm, you have access to event analytics and attendee contact details, so you can reach out later.

You can also use the built-in CTA button to move leads through the funnel during the conference.

build qualified leads

5. You can create unique engagement opportunities

If you use corporate communication software with plenty of engagement features, you’ll be able to create opportunities for people to participate and collaborate in ways that are even more dynamic than the in-person experience.

For example, if you’re on Livestorm, you can use live polling to gauge audience reactions and spotlight results on the screen.

live polling in a Livestorm virtual conference

6. You can easily analyze your audience

Your virtual conferencing platform should automatically capture information about your event, meaning you can analyze and segment your audience according to registration and engagement data.

With Livestorm, you have access to an analytics dashboard to review your conference metrics and review attendees’ information.

Livestorm analytics

How much does it cost to host a virtual conference?

If you already use a video conference platform like Livestorm as your daily online meeting solution, and you’re using internal speakers and a design team, the cost could be as little as zero.

Of course, that price will go up if you hire external speakers and go with paid advertising.

However, if you’re hiring vendors and paying for an additional tool to hold all of your attendees, costs can go up to +$50,000. You’d need to pay for:

  • A video conference platform
  • Speakers or panelists
  • A set or conference room for hosts and speakers
  • Designers for brand assets and slide decks
  • Video and audio equipment
  • Producers and camera operators for a high-quality event
  • A targeted marketing campaign

How to host a virtual conference

Hosting engaging virtual conferences is a big undertaking.

Done right, it can supercharge your marketing efforts and generate hyper-interested, actionable leads.

Use the following tips to organize a killer virtual conference that gets results:

  • Plan your virtual conference
  • Schedule your virtual conference
  • Promote your virtual conference
  • Engage participants during your virtual conference
  • Follow up with attendees
  • Analyze your virtual conference

Step one: Plan your virtual conference

Define your content strategy, set an agenda, and reach out to potential speakers. You need to do all this before you take further actions like inviting attendees and promoting your event.

Define a content strategy

To make engaging events that resonate with participants, you should have a clear definition of what the conference will be about and who will be your primary audience.

Use this time to decide if you’ll be hosting a hybrid panel discussion or if it will happen purely online. You also need to define the purpose of the event:

  • Lead generation
  • Brand awareness
  • Knowledge sharing

Create slide decks or marketing materials that are hyper-relevant to your target audience.

Make sure any visual media, presentations, videos, social posts, etc., are on-brand and provide value to your audience.

Reach out to potential speakers

As soon as you define the conference topic, list and reach out to potential speakers.

They don't necessarily need to be famous or niche influencers. They can be experts, customers, or internal speakers.

It’s okay to get creative with the speakers, but make sure they’re properly briefed and have good presentation skills. They also need to be available for your planned date and time!

Set an agenda

Creating and setting an agenda will ensure your virtual conference follows a steady progression of speakers and content that makes sense to your audience and doesn’t go over time.

It’s a virtual conference best practice to send the conference agenda to the attendees along with the registration email.

Then, share the agenda with your speakers including clear indications of timings and slots to help them plan ahead for the big event.

Establish your success metrics

Setting achievable KPIs will help you measure the event’s success.

You can define metrics that measure attendance, attendee engagement, virtual experience score, or number of sponsorships.

Be clear about the expected targets so you can compare after the event.

Step two: Schedule your virtual conference

Now that you’ve planned your virtual conference, you’ll need to promote your virtual event to boost attendance and spread brand awareness.

Do this by finding the right partners and utilizing the power of social media.
You’ve covered the first step and have a clear topic, speakers, and agenda.

It’s time to define when it’ll all happen and get all the brand assets ready to invite your audience.

Choose a time and date

Pick a date and time when your target audience is most likely to attend.

For instance, don’t choose to host a big conference when your target companies are closing their fiscal year (that’s usually a busy time).

Also, if you’re hosting a global conference, set a time that’s accessible for people in most time zones.

Set a timer on Livestorm to keep track of time

Build a registration page

The registration page is one of the first touchpoints that your audience will have with your brand and the event. Make sure that it:

  • Is branded
  • Has the correct date and time
  • Works as it should (including all the links!)
  • Sends them an email after registration
  • Is spelled-checked

Create an email marketing campaign

The platform you’re using for the registration page should also send emails automatically after each participant signs up. Customize the copy of the email and include:

  • A short and sweet description of the event
  • The date and time in different time zones
  • An iCal or Outlook invite
  • Any supporting materials
  • The conference agenda

After that, they just need email reminders to keep attendance rates high.

If you’re using Livestorm as your video conferencing platform, you can create the registration page using a template, edit the copy, and set the frequency for the email cadence through the same web app.

Step three: Promote your virtual conference

The only way to get attendees is to promote your online event) and spread brand awareness.

Do this by finding the right partners and utilizing the power of social media.

Find the right partners

Consider which (if any) partners make sense to include in your virtual conference.

Partnering up with a similar or bigger brand can expand your promotional reach and secure a better turnout.

This will also help reduce the out-of-pocket costs of the conference.

Virtual conference pro tip:

It’s good practice to find brands that are aligned with the conference topic or non-competitor brands and share your audience. For example, if you sell yoga mats, you could either partner with a yoga studio or with a mindfulness online courses brand.

Make some noise on social media

Harness the reach of social media event marketing and post Instagram countdowns to your event using Instagram Stories.

Or post speaker lineups and content sneak peeks on relevant social media channels like LinkedIn and Facebook to attract a more targeted, professional audience.

With Livestorm, you can share your event on LinkedIn and allow users to automatically register using their LinkedIn profile information.

Use little hacks like this to give your audience a super simple user experience and drive attendance rates.


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Host better virtual conferences

Step four: Engage participants during your virtual conference

One of the biggest challenges of hosting a conference online is to keep the participants engaged.

Be sure to incorporate a human touch, make any introductions and closing remarks relatable to your audience, use visual media and presentations, and utilize your video engagement platforms’ engagement features.

Use visual media and presentations

There’s nothing more boring than a long-winded speaker offering zero visual support.

Use visual media and presentations throughout the conference to help support speakers’ talking points more effectively.

Engage the audience by changing up their visual and auditory experiences. Do this by using colorful presentations and adding videos.

Virtual conference pro tip:

Test your presentation and videos with others in different locations a few days before the event.

Include interactive elements

Depending on the video engagement platform of your choosing, you should have a feature tricks up your sleeve for keeping things interactive.

With Livestorm, you can livestream virtual events or moderate virtual panel discussions and engage participants throughout using:

  • Emoji reactions to get live feedback without background noises
  • Live chat to encourage audience participation through the chat room
  • Polls to gather valuable insights
  • Q&A to steer the discussion and provide value for the audience
  • Breakout sessions to get people to know each other
  • CTA buttons to invite participants to take action

Share resources as you go

It’s important that your participants have the same context as you do.

If you’re talking about a particular paper or research and you’re not sharing it on your screen, you should share those files with them.

If you’re using Livestorm, you can use the Handouts plugin to share downloadable files quickly and easily with your attendees in real time.

This is also a great feature to use if you want to share an eBook or more information at the end of the call.

computer with graph

Step five: Follow-up with attendees

Your connection with attendees doesn’t end as soon as you log off.

It’s important to follow up with registrants to send them the replay of the event and gather feedback.

Create a feedback survey

You can ask for feedback from attendees during the meeting, but also do it again through email.

Allow them to give feedback anonymously so they can be truthful about their experience. Your surveys should:

  • Be short and clear (one question per success criteria)
  • Only include mandatory questions if they’re easy to answer (e.g. drop-down lists, multiple choice, or ratings)

Send a follow-up email

Thank your attendees for showing up and participating in your virtual conference with a thoughtful thank you email.

Use this email to send a video replay of the event for those who couldn’t make it to keep up their initial interest in your brand.

With Livestorm, you can easily record and send replays of your virtual conference to remind participants of your great event.

You can also create on-demand videos of your virtual conference so it’s always available to qualified leads–keeping your pipeline filled with opportunities.

Step six: Analyze your virtual conference

Your conference is over and you’ll get to relax pretty soon, but first, you need to review your analytics.

Use your analytics dashboard to compare the predefined success measures to your actual results.

Check out your analytics dashboard

This step is what allows you to reflect on what you should remove, keep doing, or improve for future events.

If you’re using Livestorm, you can easily track things like engagement and participation rates, attendee contact information, and chat messages.

Use this data to evaluate your engagement efforts and make changes accordingly.

Measure your success against predefined KPIs

Use your previously defined virtual event success metrics as a baseline and the feedback results to review your scores.

For example, if one of your success criteria was to get a score of over 4/5 in attendees' overall review, then you’ll compare that number to the actual result and see if you met or missed the mark.

Top virtual conference platforms to try

Your virtual conference platform is your most valuable player.

Choose the one that will hold your expected audience, has good reviews, and invites your attendees to interact.

Here are three of the best virtual conference platforms for large events.

1. Livestorm

Livestorm is a video conferencing tool that allows you to handle the planning, execution, and review of your conference in the same place.

You can host online video chats, create registration pages, engage attendees during the meeting with interactive features, and analyze the meeting metrics.

A virtual stand-up meeting using Livestorm’s video conferencing software

Livestorm is one of the best virtual event platforms as it holds up to 3,000 attendees, enables true engagement and brand building from day one with:

  • Branded registration pages
  • Customizable email cadences
  • White-labeled, customizable rooms
  • In-app interactive elements:
    • Live chat
    • Q&As
    • Polls
    • Emoji reactions
    • Breakout rooms
    • Virtual whiteboards
    • Virtual backgrounds

Plus, as Livestorm is web-based, your attendees won’t need to download any app.

2. ClickMeeting: Best for paid virtual conferences

ClickMeeting is a video conferencing tool for webinars, conferences, and large events (up to 1,000 attendees).

Users like this platform because it allows them to create automated webinars, which means they can use pre-recorded videos to get leads and increase sales without manual intervention.

woman speaking at an online webinar using the ClickMeeting app

ClickMeeting offers white labeling, so you can add your branding to the conference room.

Using the PayPal integration, you can host paid virtual conferences, charge through the app, and get the money directly into your PayPal account.

3. Zoom: Best for huge virtual conferences

Zoom is a widely known video conferencing platform that’s mostly used for internal daily meetings.

However, depending on your Zoom plan, you can invite up to 10,000 attendees, which makes them a suitable tool for huge virtual events.

business presentation on one of the most popular online meeting apps, Zoom

People like this tool because it also comes with a large suite of interactive and engagement features like:

  • Filters
  • Polls
  • Hand raising
  • Audio sharing
  • Reactions

5 Virtual conference engagement ideas

Here are our top virtual conference engagement ideas:

  • Host it from a cool, creative set. Use the set as part of your branding, make sure you don’t choose a location that has too many distractions. For example, don’t do it in a place where other people are passing by in the background.
  • Mix audio and video sensory responses. Start the conference with music or a video, use powerful slides with little text, and give attendees a break from your voice by inviting other speakers or playing videos to make it more dynamic.
  • Have fun breaks. Your attendees will need breaks so they can continue to pay attention and enjoy the event, especially if you’re hosting a long multiple-day conference. Get creative with the breaks: invite an entertainer or host games that can be played online from multiple devices.
  • Send a post-attendee gift. The connection with your attendees doesn’t end with the event. A good idea is to send them an online or physical gift as a thank you a few days later. The more personalized you can make it, the better.
  • Host a virtual happy hour at the end of the event. Send attendees a one-drink kit so you can all share a drink together after the last session. You can use the breakout rooms for people to speak to each other or have them be in the same room listening to a guest DJ.

Run your virtual conference with Livestorm

When done right, your virtual conference can help you effectively market your brand.

Plus, you’ll generate networking opportunities and solidify the perception of your business as a thought leader in your industry.

But virtual conferences can be challenging as you’ll need to keep your attendees engaged through a screen.

That’s why using a video conferencing tool that comes with a large list of interactive features to promote engagement (like Livestorm) can make it easier.

Unlike many other popular video conferencing tools, Livestorm allows you to plan, invite, host, and analyze your event without using multiple apps.

It’s also super easy to sign up and use.


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Bring your video conferences to the next level

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of a virtual conference?

The purpose of a virtual conference is to connect with a large audience to:

  • Generate leads
  • Build brand awareness
  • Share knowledge
  • Give industry updates

What do you need for a virtual conference?

All you need for a virtual conference is:

  • A video conferencing platform
  • Speakers and moderators
  • Video and audio recording tools
  • A slide deck on the topic
  • An audience

How to price a virtual conference?

To price a virtual conference you’ll need to do a cost analysis. List all the incurred costs, set an estimated attendance and a profit margin. For example, imagine you’re hosting a 3-day virtual conference and these were your expenses:

  • Rent for set: $2,000
  • Guest speaker 1: $10,000
  • Guest speaker 2: $7,500
  • Designer for slide decks and brand assets: $3,500
  • Rented equipment (cameras, microphones, lights): $800
  • Production crew (camera operators, audio engineers, set producers, art director): $12,000

Total: $35,800

You have a large prospects list and you’re expecting at least 500 attendees with a 40% profit margin. You need to divide your total costs by the number of attendees and multiply by your desired profit margin. So,

= (35,800/500)x1.4

= 71.6x1.4

= 100.24

In this example, you can charge $100 per ticket.

You can also decide to host these conferences for free and get sponsorships to pay for the event.

How long should a virtual conference be?

A virtual conference can last anywhere from one to three days, depending on the topic covered, industry, and the number of speakers or panelists. Sessions should be around 45-90 minutes to keep the audience engaged.

What are some tips for attending a virtual conference?

Here are some tips if you’re attending a virtual conference:

  • Block your agenda so you can be fully focused on the event
  • Take notes
  • Use the breaks to do active pauses (go for a short walk, pet your dog, or eat a snack)
  • Leave your phone in a different room and turn off notifications
  • Close distracting apps or websites
  • Interact and ask questions

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Create a better experience for your attendees and less stress for your team. You’re just minutes away from building engaging online events.