When you set up a physical conference such as ICON UK or EntwicklerCamp, a lot of the preparations for the event involve travel, housing and feeding both presenters and attendees, including special events such as parties, but also including getting the right meeting spaces, video equipment and so forth. Of course, you have many other items such as getting sponsors and making t-shirts, name tags, etc. etc,. etc.
A virtual conference has many different requirements, though some are similar. For example, in a physical conference, you need to make sure that audio/video requirements are adequate in one building, but in a virtual conference, you need to ensure that audio/video requirements are met anywhere in the world on whatever devices the presenters might use. So, while you might not need to pay a hotel for the presenter, you would certainly need to provide a good microphone and web camera (which the presenters could then keep, of course). In a physical conference, sound checks can be done fairly quickly with several people in succession. In a virtual conference, a lot of time would be required to ensure that every presenter could connect up in a reasonable way, knew how to use the audio/visual equipment plus any software (such as Google Hangouts on Air) that you planned to use. If you want some sort of audience participation, you would need to communicate with attendees about what was necessary to join in the participatory portion. Also, while you don't have to feed or house people, you do need to entertain them and good beer isn't virtual, so you might need to provide musical entertainment or non-technical speakers to boost interest. If you want sponsors, you need to provide them something in the way of exposure and possibly a virtual vendor showcase.
None of this even touches the hardest challenge, which is how to get people's focus and time when you don't have them glued to a seat in a different city. That's a future point to discuss.
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