Businesses and audiences alike have now come to expect great things from virtual event platforms. Before the pandemic, a virtual event was either the last resort or an add-on to the live event, usually meant to include those that couldn’t attend it physically. However, this is no longer the case. Now, virtual events are anywhere, and everywhere.
Every company that’s looking to host online events - whether a summit, online conference meeting, career fair or trade show - relies on virtual event technology.
So the question now is, how do companies vet virtual event platforms effectively? With the numerous options available to event organizers, it is both tricky and tedious to find an offering that can deliver without compromise. To streamline the weeding-out process and identify a truly well-equipped provision, take a look at these 10 questions to ask when choosing a virtual event platform.
1. How easy is it to set up a virtual event on the platform?
No one has the time or the patience to wade through pages of technical information or fiddle around with different modules within a platform to set up an event. So the very first thing organizers need to look for when evaluating a platform is how simple and effortless it will make setting up and running an event ie. how stress-free it will make their lives.
This is not to say that organisers must compromise on the scale of their event or their creative vision of it. It simply means that a platform must be able to offer ease-of-use no matter how large an event, and no matter what an organiser wants to do within it.
2. What are the communication features available to participants?
Networking and open communication is crucial to any virtual event and the platform in use should be able to offer this without any hassles or glitches. Ideally, the platform should have functionalities that allows participants to message speakers, attendees, vendors or hosts through an organized system where participants are easy to find and contact.
For instance, live 1:1 video chat options create an immersive experience and help audiences better connect with one another and the talent present. Private chat options are also great for building better relationships. Some platforms even give attendees to drive the direction of a group discussion via Q&A, or live polling.
These are value-added features that can enhance the overall experience at a virtual event.
3. What is the audience capacity?
This is among the first questions to ask as the platform you choose should be able to accommodate the number of attendees you need without any issues.
Some platforms have a maximum audience capacity, which could be as low as 50 or as high as 10,000. Knowing the maximum capacity the platform can handle while ensuring uptime is key to pulling off a successful event, and knowing that a platform can enable easy management of your large-scale event will give you a much needed peace-of-mind.
4. How can your audience and talent engage on the platform?
A virtual event shouldn’t hinge on one-sided interactions. Attendees should ideally be able to engage with different forms of media and some platforms have provisions to do just that.
There are platforms that will let organisers set up dedicated areas within the virtual venue to enable discovery, and better engagement opportunities. Some examples are lobbies to welcome guests, exhibit halls with Expo booths, promotional sections etc. And via touchpoints throughout the event, such as an exciting entry video, prerecorded audio clips or presentations and any other promotional material, organisers can help attendees in these spaces get more out of the event.
5. How well can you track event data?
Being able to track event data is, of course, crucial for any organizer. You need to be able to analyze data and align them with the goals for the event. Event data tracking is a feature that must be available when choosing a virtual event platform as only data can offer insight on whether or not the event was a success, for instance whether your content was engaging, whether it helped to drive traffic to your website or with lead generation.
Moreover, event data allows businesses to notice gaps in strategy and better prepare for them in the future. Apart from the number of registrations, check to see if your shortlisted virtual event platform offers insights into visitors by location, average time spent in various zones, connections made by attendees, number of attendees who interacted with polls, used chats and clicked on urls. All this can help you take the guesswork out of ROI and use meaningful metrics to refine strategy and drive conversion.
6. Does the platform support live broadcasting?
It’s a no brainer that live broadcasting is a must for any virtual event. No one really wants to attend an event populated solely with pre-recorded videos; Netflix is a far better option when it comes to that. So platforms that support live broadcasting - and more importantly, can support multiple live broadcast sessions - enable organizers to offer better value to their attendees.
7. Can the platform support monetization or advertising?
It is common for in-person events to have sponsors present, and virtual events should be able to accommodate this as well. Thankfully, this is possible as there are platforms that offer organizers the option to choose from a range of monetization facilities, and give their partners or sponsors more branding opportunities.
For instance, branded, interactive Expo booths allow sponsors or partners to customize the design of their booth with their logos and signage. They can place media collateral such as product demos in their booth and can also share downloadable marketing material such as brochures or business cards with attendees that stop by their booth. Each booth can be manned by booth staff who can chat with attendees and answer questions in real-time.
Some platforms allow organisers to allow ticket-based zone access for attendees to facilitate exclusive experiences and therefore can monetize based on different audiences.
The opportunities are endless with platforms that offer more and better customisation features.
8. Does the platform have automated systems and functions?
Considering the backend work that goes into organizing and executing a virtual event, it is wise to look for a platform that leverages automation effectively.
Without it, the entire event relies on flawless manual inputs, which isn’t ideal and leaves room for error. Automated processes like email marketing also give invaluable insight into the platform as a whole, as it means that the event platform partner understands the need for seamless execution.
9. What can be customized on the platform?
This is the big question. Event customization is imperative to hosting an event that looks and operates exactly as you want it to, and the platform should be able to give the organizer complete flexibility in doing so.
Customization enables effective branding, marketing, and audience engagement - all critical to the success of an event, and in generating ROI for an organiser. You should be able to make a Stage appealing for your target audience for instance.
You should be give your partners as many branding opportunities as you want to. You should be able to generate delight for your attendees throughout the event - for instance by setting up a Selfie booth. And you should be able to build a feeling of community, of togetherness through customisable design, such as setting up Networking or Watercooler spots for people to mingle, talk and connect.
Go big or go home. Full customisation will be the differentiator.
10. Are there any real-time troubleshooting facilities?
As any event organiser knows, last minute changes and challenges are to be expected. So, while you can offset most problems with effective planning, any event partner platform you’re considering should offer 24X7 support.
Ideally, the platform should provide a dedicated troubleshooting team to address any technical issues during execution or help with any other problems that pop up. At the least, a platform should offer website chat support, and even help with onboarding. All these features of a virtual event platform become critical sooner than later and having a good idea of the resources you can count on is simply thinking ahead.
To sum up...
Getting answers to these questions allows businesses to easily vet virtual event platforms for their event needs. From event registration tools to data tracking and easy set-up to the extent of customisation available, when choosing a virtual event platform, organisers need to be as circumspect as they can be - the success of your event depends on it.
But it takes the correct virtual events platform partner to make the difference. Take a Zuddl demo today to explore how you too can host a virtual event that is unique and branded, and drives engagement and ROI.
Zuddl is a unified platform for events and webinars that helps event marketers plan and execute events that drive growth. The platform has clients across the globe, such as the United Nations, Kellogg’s, Microsoft, HSBC, VMware, Google, StackCommerce and Cipla amongst others. In January 2022, Zuddl announced that it closed $13.35 mn in Series A funding.