Don’t let your virtual event become the next horror story!
Some of you may have hosted a lot of online events already, some of you are still nervous when it comes to transferring your live event into the virtual world. Confidence comes with experience. But how do you safely step into digital meetings and conferences and decide for the best virtual event platform to host your event? Here are some things to consider and keep in mind when selecting your next service provider.
Different tools for different event formats
First, you should be clear about the purpose of your virtual event. Is it a video conference or a live stream? There are specialized platforms for each of the different event formats. Of course you can choose an all-in-one event platform, but I would suggest you only do that if you really need the majority of the functions. Very often a tool that can do everything will only perform average on all its functions. They have to compromise somehow, right? Therefore, you should rather pick the top tools for the purposes you will need and integrate them for your event. Having an all-in-one platform customized to your needs will be quite expensive.
Benefit from the specialization of each supplier and know that they are very good at what they offer. However, beware of not getting too many individual platforms though because this could sum up in the end as well. As you see, making up your mind of what is really essential for your event’s success up front is crucial to decide which event platform suits you best.
Which functions do you need?
Does your event require one-way communication only with questions via a chat? Then look for webinar tools. Video conferencing on the other end requires a two-way communication and is ideal for up to 50 pax using video and audio. With a live stream, your focus lies on high quality streaming and reaching thousands of attendees. Or do you have a complex virtual conference in mind which requires multiple tracks of content, virtual exhibition booths, and gamification to keep attendees engaged? Each event platform is suitable for a certain event format, so narrow down which of the following providers cover your main event purpose:
- Full service provider
- Virtual event platform incl. app
- Streaming platform
- Video conferencing platform
- Webinar platform
- Virtual conference provider (3D virtual venue vs. website with integrated tools)
- Live stream production (incl. green screen, mobile studio, etc.)
- Proximity chat
- Game app, etc.
Compared to a webinar which people watch to learn about something, a virtual conference wants more engagement, so the tool should have the possibility to react to content or sessions, like comments, clap, or give a thumbs up, etc. Will you need a profile function for your participants, a Q&A option, chat, groups and/or virtual rooms? Think about your team and the target audience and whether they are comfortable using the different event apps and platforms that you want to use. Sometimes it is best to exchange one for another in case that the other one integrates with other apps and platforms to avoid a copy-pasting of data all the time and being able to use a single sign-on. In the end, the technology is supposed to enhance your content and not make it more complicated.
Ask the tech supplier the right questions
Now, how will you know for sure that the selected event platform can perform what you require? Some important questions to ask are whether they are the tech provider of the respective platform or if it is white labelled and someone else operates behind the scenes. When technical problems occur at your virtual event you need support immediately, so ask how quick they can change something on the fly should there be any issue. Sometimes it might also be good to know how many events they are hosting on the same server at the same time, which may influence server capacity on their end when it comes to large-scale events.
Every platform out there wants to sell, right? Of course they can deliver whatever you need. But don’t just take their word for it. Test it! Ask them for an event that has approximately the same requirements like yours and check it out yourself if that is possible, or attend a large demo event and see how each function works when there are many people using it. If there is nothing to offer, speak to other agencies or clients that have already used the event platform in the past. While credentials on the provider’s website can look impressive with international, well-known companies being listed, this does not necessarily mean that they are real. The provider tells you about a 10,000 delegate event they had just run successfully? Let them show some proof. Not necessarily data protected content details, but technical data showing used bandwidth, users at the same time, etc. When they have a client who is very satisfied with their service, they might be open to share that feedback with you.
Stay flexible and take necessary changes
Even during the course of the planning phase of your event, stay alert to any red flags. Maybe it turns out that the event platform you chose cannot handle sponsors’ requests as they had promised, or other issues pop-up that make you feel uncomfortable. Listen to your gut feeling and don’t hesitate to switch providers in due course or get a second team on board to handle sensitive areas that have to perform no matter what. While this is a scenario nobody would wish for, number one priority is that the show runs on the day of event, so take all support possible. And like with in-person summer events, it always comes in handy to have a ‘bad weather’ alternative even when going virtual. Have a back-up plan. Is there a company tool you already use inhouse? Or maybe just a simple Zoom version of your conference that reduces the content to the minimal that will be delivered when everything else crashes. Run through different scenarios and let your event production company show you what the options are. Like this, you will feel more relaxed and well-prepared to deal with the (un)expected.
Stay confident and flexible!