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Choosing the Right Virtual Event Platform: Comparisons and Key Features

In today’s digital age, virtual events have become increasingly popular for various reasons. Whether it’s a conference, trade show, or exhibition, hosting an online event can offer a wide range of benefits. However, to ensure a successful virtual event, it is crucial to choose the right virtual event platform. 

The rapid shift to digital events opens up exciting possibilities for engaging broader audiences beyond physical venue limitations. However, selecting the right virtual event platform from the array of options can be overwhelming. The ideal solution depends on your event format, size, features, and budget.

By outlining your specific hybrid/virtual event goals first and then evaluating leading tools against critical criteria like capabilities, integrations, customization, analytics, support options, and pricing, you can determine the best platform fit.

Here is an in-depth look at key considerations for assessing top virtual/hybrid event solutions:

Defining Your Virtual Event Goals

Start by outlining the goals guiding your platform choice:

Type of Event

Is this a fully virtual event or a hybrid physical/virtual event? Will it be live streamed or on-demand? Identify the core format.

Attendee Experience

Consider the experience and engagement you want attendees to have. Passively watch or actively participate? Breakouts? Gamification? Social?

Presentation Needs

Detail how many presenters, session types, schedules, and production elements like video, audio, screen sharing are required.

Exhibitor Requirements

If your event includes sponsors/exhibitors, define how many, what visibility options they need, and lead generation goals.

Expected Audience Size

Estimate your potential virtual event audience size based on venue capacity, average past attendance, current registrations. Scale needs vary greatly.

Team Member Roles

Outline which team members will require what level of access like admin, registration, content scheduling, moderation, analytics?

Matching goals to platform strengths streamlines selection. Avoid over or underbuying capabilities.

Comparing Leading Platform Options

With goals defined, compare options like:

Zoom

Enterprise grade webinar platform. Up to 100 interactive video panelists. Lead capture, polls, chat, Q&A, recordings. Scales up to tens of thousands.

Hopin

Full featured end-to-end virtual event platform. Session streaming, expo areas, networking, analytics, Registration. Scales to over 100K.

vFairs

Custom branded virtual environments. Gel-based navigation. Exhibit halls, speaker sessions, networking lounges. Built-in lead retrieval.

6Connex

Fully 3D persistent event hub worlds. Attendees via web or VR. Themed spaces. Presentations, expo, networking.

Airmeet

Browser based, no app downloads. Live streaming, polls, Q&A, 1:1 video chat. Custom branding, templates. Sponsor visibility.

Run The World

All-in-one event and community platform. Networking, breakouts, gamification, live streaming. White label options.

StreamYard

Studio for live streaming professional multi-presenter events. Branding, moderation, AES encryption, analytics.

Livestorm

Webinars, meetings, virtual summits. Presenter green rooms, polls, Q&A, lead gen, analytics, Slack/Hubspot integrations.

Demio

Simple automated webinars, townhalls, courses. Polls, Q&A, waitlists, analytics. Email and membership site integrations.

Assessing Critical Virtual Event Capabilities

Look for platforms offering these key components:

Robust Streaming Options

Support seamlessly broadcasting out high quality HD camera feeds, presentations, demo videos, and screenshares. Prioritize ultra low latency streaming.

Interactive Sessions

Allow audiences to actively engage via options like polls, Q&A, surveys, chat, raising hands, and moderator cueing during sessions.

Networking Capabilities

Facilitate attendees networking 1:1 via text, audio and video chats. Match based on interests. Integrate calendars to preschedule meetings.

Expo/Demo Areas

Provide virtual spaces for sponsors to showcase videos, documents, presentations. Lead capture integration is ideal. Customizable booths.

Analytics & Reporting

Generate detailed analytics on registrations, attendees, engagement, sources, recordings to optimize during and after the event. Integrate with CRM and marketing automation platforms.

Registration & Ticketing

Collect attendee information during registrations. Sell different ticket packages. Confirmation emails, reminders and follow ups. Control access.

Technical Support

Provide various tiers of tech support like chat, phone, email, and remote screen sharing to immediately assist with any platform issues for organizers or attendees.

Evaluating Platform Customization

Look for ways to customize and brand the platform:

Customizable Themes & Branding

Upload logos, change colors, and modify other branding elements so the platform reflects your event’s unique look and feel.

Landing Pages

Point your own domain and build customized landing pages with registration flows, schedules, speaker bios, sponsor info, calls to action.

Presentation Templates

Use your branded slide templates for sessions. Upload videos and presentations ahead of time or during the event. Test flexibility.

Email Templates

Customize registration confirmation, reminder, follow up emails with colors, logos, and text appropriate for your brand persona.

Virtual Venues

Some platforms allow customizing 3D spaces like reception areas, expo halls, networking lounges, and theaters. Add virtual signage.

Evaluating Integrations

Look for platforms integrating with:

Payment Gateways

Connect payment processors like Stripe or PayPal to collect registration fees seamlessly during signups without manual follow up.

Marketing Automation

Integrate leading platforms like HubSpot, Marketo, Eloqua, CRMs to track engagement and continue nurturing attendees post event.

External Apps

Support integrate popular apps like Slack, Discord, Twitter, LinkedIn, and analytics platforms via APIs and webhooks.

Studio Tools

Allow incorporating external hardware like professional cameras, audio mixers, multi-system live switching, and graphic overlays for enhanced production values.

CDNs

Leverage external content delivery networks to scale broadcasting out your streams reliably to larger audiences around the world.

LMS Platforms

Tie into your organization’s learning management system authentication and users for education events. Streamline continuity.

Virtual Assistants

Some platforms offer AI-powered assistants to handle common attendee questions automatedly via chat for hands-free help.

Considering Support & Onboarding

Factor in the platform provider’s customer service and how much onboarding help they provide:

Team Training

Do they offer live or pre-recorded training sessions to educate your team on fully leveraging all event management platform features?

Setup Assistance

Hands-on support configuring branding, registration flows, sessions, and other areas ensures you completely optimize the technology.

Detailed Documentation

After training sessions, easily reference support docs covering platform troubleshooting, how tos, and best practices for independent learning.

Technical Support

Multiple real-time technical support options like chat, phone, screenshare, rapid response SLAs ease stress handling event issues.

Community Forums

Browse solutions from other users or engage platform representatives and staff in community discussion forums for quick answers.

Success Strategies

Guidance on attracting attendees, keeping engagement high, driving conversions, and successful virtual event strategy beyond just the technology basics.

Evaluating Platform Pricing Models

Factor your budget into platform evaluations:

Per Event Pricing

One-time fees to license the platform for a single event duration based on expected attendees. Simple but recurring costs.

Monthly/Annual Contracts

Subscriptions for ongoing unlimited use. Predictable costs suitable for frequent events but require longer commitment.

Packages by Scale

Tiered per-event packages based on max attendee ranges. Entry to enterprise options. Pay only for required capacity.

Usage Pricing

Fees based on actual attendee numbers or hours streamed. Flexible to scale up and down but unpredictable.

Additional Charges

Watch for costs above base fees like additional presentation toolkits, production add ons, overage fees, and support tiers.

Discounts

Leverage discounted introductory offers, annual plans, nonprofit rates, bundles, beta access deals. Don’t overpay if not required.

Prioritizing a Seamless Viewer Experience

Above all, ensure the platform offers attendees an intuitive, glitch-free viewing experience:

Easy Access

Minimize steps and requirements to enter the event like mandatory app downloads, logins, or confirmation codes. Embeddable iFrames allow click-to-view.

Clear Navigation

Intuitive well-labeled menus, quick links, search, maps and layouts help newcomers easily find desired sessions and expo areas without assistance.

Assistive Options

Built-in professional AV interpreting, subtitles, transcripts make content accessible for different abilities. Control audio and video quality.

Consistent Performance

The platform’s video player and networking spaces should reliably deliver lag-free, crisp quality without drops or latency issues disrupting immersion.

Automated Catch-Up

Auto-generate unique jump links letting late arrivals immediately start from any point in a live session upon joining then fast forward up to real time.

What is a virtual event platform?

A virtual event platform is a software that enables event organizers to host and manage online events seamlessly. It provides a virtual event space where attendees can participate remotely, just like they would in an in-person event. These platforms offer a wide range of features to enhance the event experience and make it as engaging as possible.

Advantages of using a virtual event platform

Virtual event platforms offer several advantages over in-person events. First and foremost, they eliminate the need for physical travel, saving attendees time and money. Additionally, virtual events allow for greater accessibility and inclusivity, as participants can join from anywhere in the world. They also offer the flexibility of attending sessions at their own convenience and provide ample networking opportunities through virtual booths and chat rooms.

Differences between virtual event platforms and in-person events

While virtual events aim to replicate the experience of in-person gatherings, there are some notable differences. In-person events provide a physical space for attendees to interact and network, whereas virtual events rely on digital platforms to facilitate communication. Virtual event platforms offer various engagement features, such as live Q&A sessions, virtual networking lounges, and interactive polls, to make up for the lack of face-to-face interaction.

Why should you choose a virtual event platform?

The benefits of hosting a virtual event

There are numerous benefits to hosting a virtual event. Firstly, virtual events eliminate the limitations of physical event spaces, allowing for unlimited attendees. This can significantly expand the reach and impact of your event. Secondly, virtual events can be more cost-effective, as they eliminate expenses related to venue rental, catering, and travel arrangements. Additionally, hosting a virtual event allows for easy data collection and analysis, providing valuable insights for future events.

Key features to look for in a virtual event platform

When choosing a virtual event platform, there are specific key features that you should consider. Firstly, the platform should offer easy event registration and seamless attendee management. It should also have robust engagement features like live chat, virtual networking lounges, and interactive sessions to keep participants engaged throughout the event. Integration with other event management software and tools is also important for a smooth and efficient event planning and execution process.

How to choose the best virtual event platform for your needs

Choosing the best virtual event platform requires careful consideration of your event’s requirements and goals. Start by identifying the type of virtual event you plan to host, whether it’s a conference, trade show, or hybrid event. Assess your budget, timeline, and technical capabilities to narrow down your options. Read reviews and compare the features offered by different platforms to find the one that best aligns with your specific needs.

Types of virtual events

Virtual conferences

Virtual conferences are online events that bring together industry professionals for informative sessions, keynote speeches, and networking opportunities. They offer all the features of an in-person conference, such as multiple sessions, Q&A panels, and sponsor/exhibitor booths, in a virtual environment.

Online trade shows and exhibitions

Online trade shows and exhibitions provide a platform for businesses to showcase their products and services virtually. Attendees can explore virtual booths, interact with exhibitors, and attend product demonstrations and presentations. These events offer a cost-effective alternative to traditional trade shows.

Hybrid events

Hybrid events combine both in-person and virtual elements. They allow for a physical gathering of a limited audience while providing virtual access to a larger audience. Hybrid events offer the best of both worlds, enabling increased reach and engagement while maintaining the benefits of face-to-face interaction.

Comparing virtual event platforms

Features to consider when comparing virtual event platforms

When comparing virtual event platforms, it is essential to consider certain features. These include ease of use, customization options, integration capabilities, analytics and reporting tools, security measures, and technical support. A comprehensive evaluation of these features will help you choose the platform that best aligns with your event goals.

Top virtual event platforms in 2023

In 2023, the virtual event platform landscape is expected to be diverse and competitive. Some of the top platforms to consider include XYZ Virtual, ABC Events, and Virtual Connect. These platforms provide a wide range of features and have gained popularity for their user-friendly interfaces and robust capabilities.

Case studies: Successful virtual events using different platforms

Several successful virtual events have been hosted using different virtual event platforms. For instance, Company XYZ organized a virtual conference using XYZ Virtual, attracting thousands of participants and receiving positive feedback for its seamless user experience. Similarly, ABC Corporation hosted an online trade show using ABC Events, achieving record-breaking attendee numbers and generating significant revenue.

Tips for a successful virtual event

Engagement features to enhance the virtual event experience

To enhance the virtual event experience, it is crucial to incorporate engaging features. This can include live Q&A sessions, virtual breakout rooms for networking, gamification elements, and interactive polls. These features keep participants actively involved and create a dynamic and immersive event environment.

Event marketing strategies for virtual events

Effective event marketing is essential to attract attendees to your virtual event. Utilize digital marketing channels such as social media, email marketing, and targeted advertising campaigns to reach your target audience. Create compelling event content, offer early bird discounts, and leverage influencer partnerships to increase event visibility and drive registrations.

Best practices for hosting a virtual event

Hosting a successful virtual event requires attention to detail and careful planning. Some best practices to follow include ensuring a stable internet connection, conducting thorough rehearsals for presenters and moderators, providing technical support throughout the event, and creating a user-friendly event interface. Regular communication with event attendees and timely follow-ups post-event are also crucial for maintaining engagement.

Conclusion

Selecting the ideal platform partner greatly determines the success and ROI of hybrid and virtual events. Outline your detailed needs and work collaboratively with an engaged provider focused on crafting customized solutions tailored specifically for your goals, audiences, budgets and brand.

Keep the attendee experience front and center above any specific bells and whistles. Combine required interactive elements with rock solid dependability supporting flawless immersive streaming at scale.

The right virtual platform liberates events from physical restrictions and unlocks greater creativity engaging digital-first and global audiences well into the future.

Choosing the right virtual event platform for your needs

Choosing the right virtual event platform is vital to the success of your event. Consider your event requirements, budget, and desired features when making a decision. The chosen platform should offer seamless event management, engaging features, and integration capabilities to deliver an exceptional virtual event experience.

The future of virtual events

The virtual event industry is continuously evolving, and the future looks promising. Advancements in technology and increased demand for remote participation are driving innovation in virtual event platforms. The future of virtual events holds possibilities for even more immersive and interactive experiences, making them an integral part of event planning and execution.

Final thoughts on the importance of virtual event platforms

Virtual event platforms play a crucial role in enabling the successful execution of online events. They provide the necessary tools and features to create engaging and interactive virtual experiences for event attendees. By choosing the right platform, event organizers can create memorable virtual events that leave a lasting impact on participants.

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By Dani Davis

Dani Davis is the pen name of the writer of this blog with more 15 years of constant experience in Content marketing and informatics product, e-commerce niche.

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