Initially, when the pandemic set in, it was a challenge to create and curate virtual events, especially for event organizers who carried with them years of virtual experience creating spectacular on-ground events. But it is a new and important skill that event organizers must develop because, well, the future is virtual.
Although the fundamentals of event management remain the same in both formats – physical and virtual, the latter requires some specific skill-sets. For instance, hosting a virtual event is slightly different due to the different features and control mechanisms for the ground. In addition to this, the organizers must be familiar with event management platforms, know broadcasting, script-writing, moderation, etc.
To cater to this, plenty of virtual event platforms have come to the scene over the last year. They come in different sizes and shapes, and if you are new to virtual event management, it can be overwhelming. To make it easy for you to shortlist virtual event management platforms, here are a few pointers and steps you need to keep in mind.
Remember, a virtual event platform is an investment. A good one can make a great difference to the quality of your virtual events than choosing a mediocre platform.
Digital Transformation – Understand Your Event Well
Determine Your Virtual Event Platform Goals
Every Successful Event, be it on-ground or virtual, is backed by strong goals and objectives. These have to match with your business goals and increase the brand awareness of your business.
From this, you define the objectives of your event, which you will achieve through the event, engaging influences, and running a branded hashtag campaign on social media.
To measure these objectives, you need to establish KPIs. Virtual event platforms provide metrics that can measure these objectives readily, for instance, event shares.
Setting your event goals makes you more focused on a specific concept, and it can help you build a successful roadmap. To get started with event goal setting, do intense amounts of research on the market, competitor events, the persona of the attendee, and different event trends and challenges.
The next step is to identify SMART Virtual Event Goals. Understand why you want to conduct this event, why are your attendees being called to be a part of this event, what are they going to take away from the event, and how do you define this event to be ‘successful’.
From this, you define objectives and KPIs for them to measure. You will look for these KPI indicators in the event management platforms as well. Once you have this, you will start drafting an event plan that includes specific details such as time and date, the panellists, technology partner, budget, attendee engagement plans, etc.
Choose The Must-Have Features For Your Virtual Event Platform
Once you have a sure and clear idea about your event goals and objectives, the next step is to go to the granular details of the virtual event online and determine which features will achieve these goals.
For example, if your interest or goal is to have increased engagement for your attendees, you need to look for event management platforms that use tools like Q&A, polling, tweeting, etc., to engage your audience.
Since each event platform has its features, it is important to understand what you need first so that you are able to shortlist out of the different event management platform options. Some of the common features that all event management platforms include and are not limited to are event registration service, attendee management, data analytics, event production and rendering, promotion, website, and mobile application platform, etc.
Choose The Nice-To-Have Features For Your Virtual Event Platform
Then comes the enhancement part. There could be a lot of features that will not break your planning or budget but will provide a better time for the attendees at the event. Having a list of nice-to-have features can help you shortlist between platforms that fulfil your basic feature requirements.
Points To Note While Looking For The Right Virtual Event Platform For Digital Transformation
With the rising competition among event management platforms, it is imperative to spend time and resources to choose the best one. Several factors come into play before you make the right choice. The following will help you understand and potentially shortlist amongst those that seem fit for your requirement.
The Virtual Event Platform Must Be Future-Proof
The biggest lesson we all have been learning from the pandemic is to make investments fool-proof. You must pick an event management platform that will stand the test of time. Hybrid events, for example, is the future of events. The Event Management Platform must enable robust features for hybrid events as well. They must support experiences for all your virtual event ideas.
The best event management platform will be able to handle data from both virtual and hybrid events, and they can be fine-tuned and customized according to the specific event requirement. Such an investment will ensure your security no matter how the event management world changes in the future.
Choose A Virtual Event Platform That Focuses On Long-Term Investment
Finding the right virtual event platform is a long and tiring process. Given the number of options available in the market, it makes sense to find a solution that you would use for all your future events as well. Look for the event management platform that you would have a long-term partnership with. This is a good way to save money since freemium models over a long period cost less. There are some additional benefits of investing for the long-term in your virtual event platform.
It may take months together to choose the right event management platform. Consider demos, training, etc., to add to this. You do not want to spend a major portion of your time on this work rather than on Planning Events. Using a single platform for a long time will make you comfortable, so you will know how to plan and execute events perfectly according to the platform.
Consistency is the key when conducting events. Giving your attendees an experience that is similar in all events will enable them to drop off less. Make your events predictable and of the highest quality.
The data obtained from virtual or hybrid events is of the utmost importance. It becomes hard to keep the log of data if you keep changing your event platform providers often.
Sticking to a single event provider will make you predict the costs for years ahead. Therefore, you can set the budget for them beforehand. Also, as mentioned earlier, you tend to get discounts if you engage with a platform on a multi-year contract.
Platform Must Support Live and On-Demand Content
Here’s a fact for virtual events – while it is easy for attendees to access your event, there could be situations when they might be forced not to make it. However, making the content accessible to them post the event is a good solution. It could apply to keynotes, panel discussions, workshops, debates, etc.
Although some event organizers may think that post-event content does not provide the same engagement as a live session, it is not true in all cases. Having content accessible after an Hybrid Event can be a relieving solution for attendees who wanted to make it to the event but could not due to a last-minute change of plans.
Live sessions might provide the engagement opportunity for attendees through Q&A, polls, networking, etc., but recorded sessions allow you the opportunity to edit to make it concise and consumable and remove any last-minute glitches as well.
Another advantage of this – if your event is highly engaging enough, having post-event content can provide you monetization opportunities.
Must-Have A Strong Customer Service
Choosing the event provider is a resource and time-intensive process. It starts with research, shortlisting, demos, onboarding and involves constant support requirements and troubleshooting in times of issues. Therefore, the trust and communication with the provider must be uncompromised. A good event platform provider will care about their customers’ concerns even after the signing and will always be available to fix issues with the platform. Make sure the customer service is strong, and they are easily accessible through multiple channels, including live chat, email, or on the telephone.
User-Friendly & Intuitive Virtual Event Platform
On the front-end and the back-end, the platform must be easy to use and navigate. It is equally important for the attendees to be provided with an interface that they can intuitively operate in and is responsible for no matter the medium through which they attend the event.
Remember that your event may be attended by people of varied technical experience levels, age groups, demographics, etc. Therefore, the event management platform must cater to the tech-savvy as well as the one not used to tech through its interface.
The best user interfaces are those that are aesthetically pleasing yet are not complicated. The more complicated the design becomes, the harder and slower it will be for attendees to find certain options. This might even put them off and make them exit the event.
Coming to aesthetically pleasing, that is important because you want the event to look sharable on other social media platforms. We usually talk about product and design to be ‘Instagram-worthy’, but the key here is to have the event management platform be ‘screenshot worthy.
For business meetings, having a simple yet intuitive design works the best.
Provide End-To-End Solution Through The Virtual Event Software
It’s one of the biggest mistakes that event organizers make – having multiple platforms for other purposes. Not only does it cause inconvenience in usage, but it can also be potentially costlier. Always choose a platform that has everything you want in a single place. It saves you both time and energy, which you can spend on the more important things – conducting and executing your event. Suppose you have other systems that you use for different functionalities. Usually, event management platforms have the capability of plugging them into it. Look out for such capability.
An end-to-end platform will work for you and enable you to put little effort into setting it up and using it for other events. The lesser your effort on administrative tasks, the better it is.
Capability to Engage Sponsors and Exhibitors
Monetizing your virtual events is one of the biggest challenges for event organizers. It is not as straightforward as live events where sponsors and exhibitors can meet customers or attendees face to face.
Although the fundamental concept and deliverables for sponsorship remain the same, the elements for these change, there will be no need for sponsored breaks, for example, on a virtual event, but you can have electronic ad campaigns and banners or different educational sessions.
In simple words, how you deliver will differ. Although this is challenging, it is exciting, thanks to the scope for innovation and creativity.
Must Be Customizable To Your Brand
Remember the event you host is going to speak volumes about your brand. It must be customized to provide the essence of your brand, and this customization includes everything from making certain functionalities available, the design, layout, quality, and pre and post-event engagement.
The event platform must be customized in such a way that as soon as customers land on the event portal, they must recognize your brand. If they do not, there is something wrong with you letting out your brand identity. A lot of your attendees are going to attend your event because they recognize your brand value, so you must show off the same during the event as well.
Again as mentioned above, consistency is the key when it comes to virtual events. Choose an event management platform that enables you to show off your brand across all shapes and sizes of events conducted through it.
The Barriers of Entry Must Be As Less As Possible
Remember, the entire concept of attending a virtual event may be overwhelming for attendees who are not used to it. It is not as simple and clear as just showing up to the event with the printed or m-version of the ticket.
If the attendee does not receive the access link on time, they may not be able to show up at your event at all.
Therefore, virtual event platforms that have registration and ticketing platforms built-in must be preferred. The lesser work the attendees have to do before attending your event, the more likely they are going to show up.
It is also better, security permitting, of course, to have an entry without the need for a username and a password.
Have A Robust Troubleshooting and Support System in Place
It is inevitable to expect things to go unexpectedly wrong during, before, or after an event. Many times, you as an event organizer might not have the skill, knowledge, or time to fix it. This is where a good troubleshooting guide or a support system from the event provider comes into play.
Choose the event platform that provides a detailed guide about the in and out of the functioning of the event management system. Your provider must be easily accessible and at any given time through a convenient medium.
Must Be A Part of An Active Community
It’s a unique time in the field of event management. The entire world is in the process of getting their feet warm in this concept of hybrid events, although technically, they have been in the scene for a long time now.
Many event organizers try trial and error to figure out the best strategies for their virtual events. Some event management platforms provide a virtual community with different event organizers who provide their event experience and share the best practices. Such a virtual community is the best place to increase your network of event organizers who are also trying to switch to hybrid events and learn more about virtual event management.
Strong and Simple to Understand Post Event Data Analysis
One of the biggest and unique advantages of Virtual Events or having a virtual element to events is that event organizers get access to a lot of never-seen-before data. These include real-time analytics, including event clicks, engagement rates, networking, etc. These data can help you understand what went right and what went wrong and thus, improve the experience of the event in the next gathering. Choose a platform that provides good and readable data reports before, during, and after your event.
Choosing the right event management platform is not an easy process. Well, the stakes are high too. The right one can make all the right difference and can complement your event in the right way. After all, you are putting in and investing a lot of money into an event, and it should reach and engage with your audience in the best way possible, right?
In addition to this, you can check out detailed and unbiased reviews of different event management platforms online. Further, you can talk to people who have been doing virtual and Hybrid Events for a while and get their opinions and recommendations.
This choice takes some time and resources. Make sure you put it. The right choice can make you a successful virtual event organizer for a long time.