Virtual events have become a staple in the event manager's toolbox. With the rise of the Covid-19 pandemic, online events and their hosting platforms have emerged as indispensable. Their ability to connect and engage people from across the world in an instant unleashes previously untapped potential in the working and networking spheres.
In fact, video conferencing was already rising in popularity before the start of the pandemic. The Lifesize 2019 Impact of Video Conferencing Report found that nearly half of business professionals used video conferencing regularly in 2019. The current rise in remote working has undoubtedly amplified this trend. However, not everyone feels ready.
A 2020 poll from EventsForce found that 53% of event planners did not feel they had the necessary skills to run successful virtual events. This is understandable, as the skills needed for in-person and virtual events differ.
The use of technology means that event organizers need to learn new ways to engage with their potential audiences. This can be challenging as online events make it harder to pay attention to body language and non-verbal cues to see if people are engaged, interested, and comfortable.
To make the transition from in-person to online easier, we have compiled a few suggestions to help you pick your platform, and make your virtual events feel as natural and productive as they would be in real life.
Ease of use
Some participants may have little to no experience with virtual event platforms. Using a platform that is user-friendly for both participants and organizers is key for producing a seamless experience.
Questions to ask when testing out different virtual event platforms include:
- Is it easy to log in?
- Is it easy to navigate different video streams and screens?
- Are important tabs and links clearly labeled?
- Does the platform integrate apps and software that you and your participants use?
What features you look for will depend on the type of event you are hosting. Are you hosting a lecture? A networking event? An interactive class?
Larger professional events may require break-out rooms or spaces like lounges, chatrooms, or workshops to keep people engaged.
Other features to think about may include:
- Registration features
- Screen sharing
- Networking spaces
- In-built tools such as polling or Q&A
Some features may be preferred, although not essential. Keep this in mind if you're trying to choose between two similar platforms.
Personal branding can add an extra professional touch to your online events. With platforms that have customizable features, you can put your brand front and center. This may mean your company themes and logos, your slogan, or particular colors. The ability to create a specific aesthetic will tie together the event's presentation with the information it shares.
Being online comes with risks, with data leaks and privacy breaches being high on the list. Your participants may be concerned about protection and compliance standards, so you should seek out platforms with in-built data security and protection software. Look for platforms with secure encryption that can safely store all virtual data and assets with minimal risk to participants.
Does the platform provide space for sponsorship or advertisements? This feature can be useful for promoting any sponsors that help fund your event.
Depending on your goals, your sponsors may have different expectations regarding their visibility and flexibility. Talking to them about their needs could help identify the best platform for you.
How many attendees can your platform support? And do you need access to multi-speaker sessions? The ability to run multiple streams without lag or interruption is key to the event running smoothly.
Does your platform provide quick and efficient support for any technical problems you may encounter? While you should always test-run your events, you may not be able to account for all possible mishaps.
Having efficient customer support provides you with a safety net in case something goes wrong. Your provider should ideally be there both when you're setting up, and when you're running your event.
Data and Analytics
A huge benefit of virtual events is how much easier it is to run analytics. Ideally, your software will allow you to collect data on multiple audience engagement metrics, providing you with valuable feedback to improve future events. After all, by seeing what is most and least engaging, you can better cater to your participants' needs and expectations.
The ideal event platform houses all the necessary features in one place- from registration and preliminary sign-ups to data collection and post-event feedback. Such an end-to-end experience will save you time and energy on administrative tasks, making it easier to focus on making your event as engaging as possible for participants.