An Overview of Virtual Event Software Platforms
After what feels like an eternity of the lockdown period, Covid-19 has resulted in a ban on face to face events since March 2020, pushing all meetings and events online – creating the virtual experience. Some have been more successful than others, largely due to the following few reasons:
- Copying & pasting the whole live event to online
- Boring content that lacks interest and stimulation
- Wrong choice of event platform
I’d like to share some tips for creating an engaging online event experience and will compare and contrast online event software platforms.
So what should meeting and event organisers be looking for?
In my view, you should be looking for a software platform that is:
- Uncomplicated and very simple to set up and navigate
- Creates a seamless experience for all your attendees
- Is good value for money and can translate into a hybrid platform when we return to live events
- Is the best platform for that event concept – don’t take the one size fits all approach
Creating Online Event Experiences
So where do we start? Content will always be KING in my world so I suggest starting with the content or concept of your event. What is your event – a conference with a series of speakers, a networking event, a workshop, a live stream music gig or some other experience?
Why this event? To disseminate important industry information, connect people, provide a learning or education experience or entertain.
When shaping content for online events I suggest the following approach:
- Less is more. Avoid screen fatigue by breaking up the event material into bitesize chunks and deliver over a few days or weeks in maximum 3 hour sessions
- Deliver interactive content – create exercises and games for attendees to leave their screens to go off and do – whether it’s find solutions or brainstorm ideas.
- Always deliver value – understand your audience wants & needs and create that compelling reason to attend your events.
- Mix and match your formats – think about all the different channels that can be utilised to deliver content e.g. writing articles, doing online interviews, creating podcasts and doing opinion polls.
I’ve noticed that we are inherently displaying the ‘herd-mentality’ and following the crowd. Zoom has its advantages – free, cheap, simple and straightforward to use, but for more sophisticated event formats, Zoom just isn’t cutting it. Video and sound quality can be dreadful and there have been privacy issues in the past.
So what other virtual event platforms are out there? Well, how long is a piece of string? It really depends on what type of event you want to deliver and of course budget constraints.
If you are simply looking to deliver a straightforward town-hall style broadcast to many presentation or perhaps a simple conference format with a few presenters, then the Video conference platforms such as Google Hangouts, Zoom, Cisco Webex, Lifesize, Microsoft Teams, Skype and Jitsi will do a decent job for you. Lifesize in particular offers HD quality video. These platforms are also fine for meeting groups of up to about 25-50 people with Q&A, depending on the platform and all have freemium options.
For the Virtual event platforms that offer more for your money such as break-out sessions with peer-to-peer networking, audience engagement, virtual exhibitions and analytics, then platforms such as Workcast, Glisser, Blue Jeans, All in the Loop and Hopin will be your best bet. Selection of these platforms is largely driven by the desire to create more audience engagement, offer a networking feature, create lead generation for sponsors & partners and generate insight post event such as the most popular sessions and well received speakers.
The ultimate Rolls Royce of virtual event software are platforms such as e.g. vFairs and INEXPO that offer immersive video, multi-lingual content, full event support and audience avatars & personas which most won’t need but it’s nice to know these options are available.
Other items to consider that enhance the virtual event experience are things like dedicated studio space for broadcast quality presentations, digital backdrops, the creation of holograms and gamification of the event experience to name a few.
Take a look at my Virtual and online event management software platform grid that is a comparison of all major platforms and what they offer in one handy table! To get the grid, click on the link below.
If you want to learn more about the platforms, attend my webinar on 15th July.
Michelle has 19 years event design and project delivery experience starting her career with UBM and Informa with clients such as The Economist, Nursing Times and African Farming magazines plus more.
She is a member of Meetings Professional International (MPI) and has lectured on Events Management at University of West London, Anglia Ruskin University and Kings College, teaching more than 200 students on degree courses and several of her own private courses. She has worked with global corporates, celebrities, Government ministers and key pioneers in different fields, is a published and contributing book author and has designed and delivered events all over the world.
She is currently re-branding her business to The Conference Director, formerly Dynamyk Events.