Virtual Event Platform Considerations
For the foreseeable future organizations will be providing virtual and/or hybrid events. Moving from an in-person to a virtual event requires more than just throwing together a few Zoom recordings or sessions. You need to consider platforms that will offer your attendees the highest quality experience and sponsors meaningful opportunities for exposure. You should strive to create consistent, positive user experiences for the type of meeting you are conducting. Otherwise, attendees will be less likely to attend in the future.
To put you in a new meetings’ mindset, we have identified the following questions to ask yourself when considering a virtual event platform.
How Many Events Will You be Hosting Over the Next Few Months or Year?
Platform prices vary; some platforms are priced as an annual subscription, others per event. Knowing how many events you could host with the platform will be essential for determining your per event costs.
Other questions to consider:
- How many events will need a platform?
- How many events can use the same platform, or will you need multiple platforms for multiple events?
- Will these be all related or separate?
How Complex is Your Event?
Make a list of all your different event components and consider which ones provide value and will transition best to a virtual platform. What components translate well, which ones need to be modified, and which ones can be left on the cutting room floor? Reducing complexity or removing a component may provide the flexibility you need to find a platform that meets your needs.
Evaluate your event in advance to define the high value areas. Consider if you are able to produce the event in-house or will need to hire 3rd party vendors for assistance. If your event is complex, ask yourself:
- Are the platforms you are considering requiring you to put all the components together yourself? If so, does your staff have the knowledge and bandwidth to accomplish this?
- Are the platforms you are considering offering you a “white glove” experience whereby they do the bulk of the work putting it together relieving you of the hands-on duties?
- Can your budget support the platform you have chosen to successfully carry out the event?
What is the Composition of Your Speakers, and How Much Assistance Will They Need from Your Team to Present?
Speaker management can be very intricate and time consuming. As you look at platforms, you will discover the functionality they provide varies significantly. Some platforms are more “DYI” (do it yourself), where the association staff manages the speakers. Other platforms have feature rich speaker portals, where others offer more “white glove” speaker management where they will do the heavy lifting for you. (Here “white glove” is defined as providing services like, ensuring the presentation is ready, setting up a practice session, checking the “tech” connections for the speaker, and providing “day of” support for the speaker.) If you love a platform that doesn’t offer the “white glove” service you need for speaker management, consider hiring this out. There is a significant amount of labor involved in successfully executing this type of event management, and you want to reduce the possibility of hiccups.
How Do the Various Event Hosting Platforms Integrate with Your CRM/AMS?
Don’t forget to think about the registration experience for the audience. Maybe a full integration isn’t needed in the short term, but if you think hybrid meetings will be part of your learning strategy for the next few years, you should have a plan in place for integrating the platforms and creating a registration experience that is frictionless.
When looking at different platforms, you can also check to see if there are API’s or tools like Zapier or MuleSoft available to connect them.
Are Your Conference Sessions Going to be Live or Pre-Recorded?
We understand that the idea of hosting a “live stream” event may sound appealing but think carefully about this first. Live sessions add risk to a virtual event – especially if you have never before done one. There could be “no-shows” on volunteer led sessions or technical difficulties for the speaker and/or the audience. (Tip: For global events, please consider the bandwidth of your audience.)
Recorded sessions can be edited and optimized for viewing and can also be created in more optimal conditions. If you decide to use recorded sessions, make sure there is a way to engage the audience. For events not requiring interaction from attendees or a target audience, consider using a video production firm instead of a platform to record sessions to ensure a higher production value.
If you decide to stream live, be sure there is someone actively monitoring the Q&A and chat. The monitor helps to seed questions and drive engagement for live and recorded sessions. Live streaming through your website can also serve as a way to drive people to your site, but first make sure the streaming platform you use integrates with your CMS.
Can You or Do You Want to Re-Use Your Content at a Later Date?
Virtual events can have a longer shelf life, so think creatively about how you can leverage the content and the community you are creating. Make sure you can access the recordings and artifacts in a way that can be archived and accessed. Your previous content can used as a direct resource for members as well as a launchpad for repurposing old information in new ways.
No matter the type or size of your event, transitioning it from in-person to virtual is no small feat. Considering your mission, audience, purpose, and reason to hold the event all need to be factored into your platform choice(s). By doing all you can to prepare for your virtual event, you can help ensure that those who attend and sponsor today will be willing to do so again in the future.
To get more information on best practices and over 90 virtual event vendors, check out our eBook, Virtual Events: Best Practices and Vendor Resource Guide, created jointly with Ellipsis Partners.