| By: Silas Neo

How to host virtual events part 2 – how long should a virtual event be?


So, you have done the ground work. You know the key aspects of hosting a successful virtual event and you have a strategy in place to ensure you avoid no shows and you retain your guests. However, you really need to ensure the event length is right and you don’t know where to start. Don’t sweat it… we got you covered!

Whilst most people can sit and binge Netflix all day, when it comes to watching a screen for something more taxing (I’m looking at you virtual conference) we naturally don’t have the same attention span.

Like Goldilocks and her porridge, you need the length of your virtual event to be just right.

So… what is “just right”?

As Alex Plaxen (VP of experience strategy for Nifty Method Marketing and events) states via BizBash, “Even without a quarantine, a virtual event should be run differently than an in-person event—and that includes length. Think of all the time you spend at an event getting people settled into their seats, warming up the crowd, walking through the halls, networking, etcetera. It’s important to pad your event agenda in-person to give people that time. However, you don’t need that for a virtual event.”

And he is not wrong! Virtual events can be filler free and get right to the point. And it seems attendees feel so too. In a survey of 1,000 US conference attendees, 59% stated that the ideal virtual conference length should be 1-2 hours, with less than an hour being the second most common response. 

how long should a virtual event be

The Ideal Length of a Conference via Promoleaf

But don’t just take their word for it. The Redback Report created from data taken from over 1,400 Australian’s showed that this is an ideal not just for American’s. 30 – 45 minutes was voted as the most desired virtual conference length.

the ideal length of a virtual event

The Redback Report results based on the desired length of a virtual conference

Attention Splanning (aka attention span planning… no!?)

So, you know that the most favoured virtual conference length is 1-2 hours. But no one can hold their attention that long… so how do you best structure your agenda?

It’s thought that adults can hold their attention with an onstage speaker for around 10 – 20 minutes. Alf Rehn goes further in his article for medium.com, linking this 20 minute attention span to “units”. Rehn states that audiences can hold their attention for longer if you break the time into 20 minutes per “point”. Therefore, if you have a well structured session, with two key points, 20 minutes per point is perfectly possible!

Anything longer than this and you are likely to loose at least some of your audience, so as a rule of thumb this is a great one to follow. Of course, if the speaker is next level ammmazing… this can go out of the window somewhat but as a whole the 20 minute block rule is the best to follow.

Of course, the rule is all well and good if you are planning an 18 minute Ted talk, but… most people aren’t. And even though virtual conferences don’t need fillers, the majority of virtual events are still lasting around 2 – 3 hours. Whilst it would be impossible to readuce 3 hours to 20 – 40 minutes, make sure your longer events are planned into smaller, more digestable chunks.

How to plan your agenda in this era of the virtual event

What then, are the best ways to break the event into more manageable chunks when you are virtual? Below are our top six ways to shift up the presentation format and keep your event length perfect!

  1. Mix up the presentations with videos
  2. Add in some interactive Q&A or Poll Sessions
  3. Break up the attendees into Break out groups (give the people a chance to chat and not just listen!)
  4. …Or just taking a plain old fashioned break – remember screen (and comfort!) breaks are important!
  5. Add a gamification element… quiz anyone?
  6. Do two half day events rather than one full day event to keep people fresh

As the virtual events are becoming increasingly common, it is imperative that we dive deeper into the ways to make these events more successful! Getting the right length is just the beginning…

Want to know how Onlive.io can help with your virtual events? Read more about our offerings or get in touch!


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