How To Find The Best Virtual Event Software Platform
Have you recently decided to transform your live event into a virtual event?
Does the idea of choosing a virtual event software and employing a virtual event strategy seem a little daunting?
We’ve put together this virtual event software guide to help you to understand what you need from a virtual event software and what to look for in a virtual event space.
Businesses worldwide are making the decision to transform their event online and pivot their sales and marketing strategies to adapt to the current environment. There are hundreds of virtual event solutions out there, but not all of them will align with your goals.
Here’s what we’ve learned from helping our clients “go virtual” and building their online event starting with the basics...
What is a virtual event
A virtual event is an event that takes place within a virtual environment rather than taking place in a physical location. A virtual event can take place via a website, video platform or virtual environment; this means that content, experience and interaction between the organiser and guests all take place remotely.
The chances are that you’ve attended a virtual event before, in the format of a webinar, online class or video conference.
How do virtual events work?
Your attendees can access the virtual event using their PC, Smartphone or tablet and login into your chosen virtual event platform via their internet browser. Depending on your chosen solution some platforms will require guests to download an app to access the event, this is an important feature to consider when planning your virtual event and ensuring ease of access for all.
The fundamentals of event planning apply to virtual events as with live events:
- Maximise attendance with a targeted marketing campaign to promote your event
- Tailor the content of your event to your target audience. When hosting a virtual event consider how your attendees can easily access, share and interact with content
- Encourage attendees to interact with content, this more challenging to achieve within a virtual environment but can be achieved if the event is designed and executed with interactivity as a central focus
- Data is key, the best way to improve attendee experience and increase virtual event ROI is to capture and measure attendee data
To understand more about the fundamentals of virtual events, you can look at our Virtual Event FAQs which will walk you through the most common questions we receive from clients when consulting with them about their virtual event.
What to consider when planning your virtual event
You may be familiar with the phrase “content is king”, this is certainly the case with a virtual event. Content is everything, and therefore the success of your event hinges on creating content that creates an impact and actively engages your attendees. Remember it’s far easier for a guest to decide to leave a virtual event than it is with a live event.
Take a keynote speaker as an example, at a live event they can respond to the reactions of their audience, encourage participation, questions and answer sessions are simple to facilitate. Whereas with a virtual event, all these things are possible but they do require the session to be designed and structured with engagement in mind. When planning a session think through the following questions, these will help you to create accessible content:
- How will attendees find the session in the virtual platform?
- Will there be a limit to the number of attendees in the session?
- What functionality can you build in to make the session more interactive?
- Will the content be live-streamed or available on-demand?
- Would you like to run multiple speaker or content sessions concurrently or would you like to offer unique single content experiences to attendees?
- What should the event space look like?
Webinars and virtual events are the medium that people are most likely to spend the longest length of time engaging with. Far outweighing engagement with article content and email communications.
A staggering 92% of people want to see live interaction and Q&A sessions within the virtual events they attend. However, in reality only 24% of people say that they have actively engaged and participated in a virtual event.
This demonstrates that there’s a captive audience who are ready and excited to be participating in virtual events but when they attend, they aren’t receiving the level of interactivity they expected.
Let’s continue with our speaker example from earlier. Here are two versions of how a speaker session can take place. Ask yourself which session would you rather attend?
A 40-minute keynote speaker session on the future of the events industry, the opportunity for a Q&A session for 10 minutes at the end.
A 50-minute discussion with a keynote speaker where you have been able to submit a question prior to the event to be covered in the subject content and you’re able to actively participate in the conversations using interactive polls and chat functionality.
The likelihood is that the second scenario will have a higher level of attentiveness with your virtual audience, which in turn will increase engagement with your content and can heavily influence the ROI of your event. What you will also achieve with the second scenario, is a commitment to the event before it’s taken place, which will help to increase attendance.
When it comes to selecting the virtual event platform for your virtual event, make sure that you consider the delivery and interactivity of, and engagement with your content. If you’re unsure on how to deliver your event content in the most engaging way, get in touch and we can guide you through the process.
Why do you need a virtual event platform?
To increase the reach of your event
Virtual events allow you to reach a large global audience, who otherwise may not be able to attend your event.
A virtual event can significantly reduce your cost base. Without the need to hire a physical space and paying for hosts and speakers to travel, there’s an opportunity to engage your attendees for a fraction of the cost.
Your live event has been cancelled
In the unfortunate circumstance that your live event has had to be cancelled, using a virtual event platform will enable you to connect and deliver content to your attendees remotely.
Your live event has been postponed
If your event has been rescheduled you may want to offer your attendees support, information and entertainment to engage with your business or brand until the live event takes place.
Reduced carbon footprint
Hosting your event virtually can have a positive ecological impact, by reducing the carbon emissions caused by travel, hotel stays and catering.
Different Types of Virtual Events
One or more speakers present content that usually lasts 60-90 minutes and involves Q&A
Similar to live conferences, virtual conferences are built around an agenda that includes keynotes, interactive sessions, breakout opportunities and more.
Virtual Award Ceremonies
Attendees and sponsors are invited to a virtual award gala where they can receive recognition remotely. Consider letting finalists know how they can accept awards prior to the event so the ceremony runs smoothly
Virtual Trade Shows
Attendees can interact with a range of different businesses and network within the virtual event software.
This is where an event takes place in a physical location and also in a virtual online environment with a live interactive audience. This type of event is rapidly growing in popularity as they increase attendance but at a relatively low cost. It is challenging to provide attendees with the same value and experience as in-person attendees are able to network more freely and engage easily with content than those attending virtually. If you are planning a hybrid event, you will need to ensure the software you choose has networking functionality.
“From 2019 to 2020 the number of virtual and hybrid events has risen from 43% to 58% in North America, and from 49% to 66% in Europe.”
Amex: 2020 Global Meetings and Events Forecast
The opportunities for virtual events are endless; virtual concerts, virtual exhibitions the list goes on! Over the coming months we predict that we’ll see many more virtual events hitting the mainstream media.
Virtual environments can be custom built to your exact specifications and can even replicate a physical location. Or alternatively, you can choose a virtual environment and customise the event space to suit your event goals.
Align your virtual event software with your event goals
Before making the decision as to which virtual event platform you want to use to host your event, make sure you have clarity over the goals and the details of your event.
- What are your event goals? Do you have a previous live event that you are benchmarking against?
- Event date and length of your event
- Number of attendees this number should include exhibitors, speakers as well as guest and visitors
- Language would you like your event to be accessible in a single language or multiple languages?
- Guest user interaction do you want your guests to be able to interact publicly or privately?
- Timezone does your event content need to be available across multiple time zones
The success of your virtual event hinges on aligning your event plan with your business goals. Being clear on how you measure and determine success and calculate your event ROI will be crucial when deciding on which event platform you need.
Virtual event software features
The features of the virtual event software you need will depend on the complexity and level of customisation required for your event. Using the answers to the questions in the section above you can start to hone in on the functionality you need.
Each different virtual event software will have its own range of features and level of customisation. Here’s an overview of the features you can expect:
- Analytics and reporting on attendee engagement
- Event space customisation
- Sponsorship space
- Virtual lobbies
- Live interaction and chat functionality
- Live streaming for entertainment and speakers
- Gamification features e.g. collecting points for prizes
- User polls
- External linking to e-commerce websites
- Social media sharing options
- Technical support (the level of support will vary across different providers)
- GDPR compliance
This list should give you a glimpse at how large the scope of opportunity is when planning a virtual event. Not all virtual software providers will offer the full range of features outlined above and the level of customisation on features will depend on whether you select a basic or more premium package.
How do you network at virtual events?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions we hear from clients when transforming their live event to a virtual event. Nothing can replace face-to-face interaction, however there are certain event softwares that have features and functionality that allow your attendees to interact with each other.
If you want to understand more about how virtual event software can be used to facilitate networking remotely, we can work with you to understand your requirements and to find the best option for your business.
Get started with your virtual event
There are many options available if you are planning a virtual event. It’s important to find the right solution for your business and make sure you have carefully considered the event format and experience you want to offer attendees before making a final decision.
Do your research and we recommend that you have a demo of the virtual event software before making a decision.
If you are planning a virtual or hybrid event and are unsure whether you are set up for success to take on this project internally please get in touch and set up a call with a member of our team. We have been helping our clients with end-to-end solutions for their events and can navigate this new and constantly evolving virtual landscape. First, we will learn about your business, then we can demonstrate the most suitable virtual event software platforms to help achieve your event goals and deliver ROI.