Although we’re moving towards a more hybrid and in-person world, virtual events have won a place in our hearts for the long term. The ease with which virtual can connect us, anywhere in the world, all without leaving the couch, is indispensable at this point. Predictably though this has led to an increase in the number of virtual event platforms — which can make it difficult to pick the right one for your event. To help you out, we wrote down some key points to look for, and questions to ask when searching for the perfect virtual event platform. Here goes!
Start with a vision.
Before opening 100 tabs of different event platforms, take a moment to write down your vision, or your overall goal, for your virtual event. Is it to reach as many people as possible? Or is it to create panels of speakers? Is it to feature exhibitors? Or is it all of the above? That’s OK, too! You’ll just want to find a platform that supports everything you need. Consider also some virtual events you attended. What were your favorite parts? What worked and what didn’t? The point of all this is to create a set of goals that can help you decide on a platform that’s right for you. Not only that, this step will definitely help lower some of the stress of planning your virtual event. Which is what it’s all about these days.
Set-up should feel easy.
Get a sense for how easy it is to interact with the platform. Can you set-up an event on your own? How many steps does it take? Can you place a registration form on your own website? What’s the registration process like for attendees? Can attendees pay securely in the registration form, or do they get sent to three other non-secure popup windows? Bottom line, everything should feel like it’s one, maybe two clicks away, and just works. If you’re unsure about any of these things, ask to take the platform for a test drive. Create an event for yourself. Poke around. Add a couple vendors. If it feels easy, you’re off to a great start!
Consider the design.
In a world with Squarespace and Wix, there is a visual design standard for how people expect the internet to look (unless of course you’re going for that Summer 86 look). But in most cases, your virtual event space should have a modern look and feel that makes sense to you and is easy for your attendees to get around in. If you are looking to add a lot of branding, like logos, sponsor banners, or brand colors, ask about how much you can customize the platform. First impressions matter, think about what attendees will see when they access your event for the first time. When in doubt, trust your gut on this one, and pick a platform that makes you happy and confident with your event.
What does it look like when you go live?
It’s important to know what your virtual event will actually look like on event day. Will it stream in HD quality? Can you have a mix of live and pre-recorded content? Even with all the event production and cameras in the world, if the streaming experience and resolution are not top-notch, attendees will probably not be very engaged. Find out if attendees can easily engage and access all necessary session information, like speaker bios and session materials. If you’re unsure, ask if there’s a demo event available that you can watch. The platform should create a seamless HD experience from streaming the event to engagement, and anywhere else you want to transport your audience.
Analytics (and other good stuff under the hood).
If you want to read the room at an in-person event, all you have to do is poke your head in the event space. For virtual events, there’s a little more involved. Ask about the platform’s event tracking features? Can you see who’s clicking on what, and how long they are watching it? Are you able to get real-time data, and see how many people are logged in at a time? And from where in the world people are viewing from? All of this is essential to directing attendees to the most popular sessions. Or reminding people to check out something they might have missed. This data can also guide which content you pick to share on social media and your marketing. There’s a lot of competition for content out there, the right analytics can help your brand stand out.
Explore content storage options.
Some platforms can store your event on-demand for as long as you want to keep it up. For example, with the Expo Pass Virtual Experience, you can keep the content going as long as you like, and in a special post-event view, making it so easy for your attendees to view. This can be an invaluable resource for marketing future events, as well as for attendees who have missed a session. It’s also a good idea to check if you can upload and store session materials, as well as exhibitor profiles, and links to websites and social media channels.
Look for a personal touch.
Events, whether virtual, hybrid, or in-person are still all about people. Before making any final decisions, check what support services are available. You’re obviously looking for a platform that will do everything perfectly, without ever hitting a snag, but if you do need some help, it’s always nice to know there’s someone available to chat with and help you along the way. And not just robo-chat — check to make sure there’s a real person with who you can connect with. The internet can be a wild place these days 🙂
Pick the platform that works best for you.
The best platform for your event is the one that does what you need it to do. Plain and simple. As a virtual platform ourselves, we’ll be the first to say that not every platform is right for every event. Just like not every concert needs to be at 50,000 seat stadium. (Most of the best ones aren’t!) But we do believe there is a perfect platform out there for every event!
If you want to chat more about virtual events, something you are planning, or anything event-related at all — we’d love to hear from you! Just drop us a line.