Virtual Space Hero

How to choose the best online platform for your virtual event?

Written by

BarbaraCV

Founder
#virtualspacehero

Katja Keischnigg


#virtualspacehero Blog Team

Hosting worldwide virtual events and connecting with participants through robust engagement solutions is an amazing way of increasing the outreach of your activities. The question is, what are the specifics of the major platforms to drive easy registration processes, deliver on-brand experiences and bring people together. And more important, how do you get to measure your event success by integrating event data across a unique platform.

This blog post sums up the LinkedIn Live talk with William Thomson (Gallus events) and Barbara Covarrubias Venegas (Founder #virtualspacehero) about online platforms and how to choose the right one from the vast offer that exists.

William Thompson is a virtual event expert and recognised events industry speaker.

Having run several large event departments and having consulted for over 20 event businesses, William’s experience had fused with an innovative approach to events.

Often the simple answers escape the internal team. William is able to spot and highlight the solutions to improve events. After graduating from University William set up an event management company organising student graduation balls. After setting up an exhibition department for a commercial conferences company in 2003, he successfully re-engineered the events departments at two of the UK’s largest financial services trade associations and Europe’s largest professional membership organisation. William has organised over 700 events in the UK and abroad.

Connect with William on LinkedIn here

What do platforms allow us to do that we couldn’t do at a physical event?

As virtual enthusiasts, we try to underline the advantages that virtual space has to offer. When it comes to virtual vs. physical events, there are quite a few. While some might seem pretty obvious, others tend to be overlooked.

✅ More people can attend the event. Most platforms make it possible for an unlimited (or nearly unlimited) amount of people to attend your event. Furthermore, there is no need to travel to the location of the event. Neither for attendees nor presenters. So people that would be unable to participate in the physical event can join the virtual one. Moreover, it increases the pool of possible speakers for the event, which can be a significant value-added for organizers and participants alike. 

✅ Evergreen content. Since virtual events can be recorded easily, different time zones are not an obstacle either. The same event can be held two (or even more times) in 24 hours, and people can join whenever it best fits their schedule. It also allows you to make the most out of the content generated for and during the event, as the recordings can be offered (or even sold) to customers after the event for training purposes. This additional training aspect increases the perceived value of the event and the content. Therefore, the price that customers are willing to pay for it increases as well. The recordings can also be used to attract new participants for future events or new customers for other services that your organization is offering.

✅ Possibility to show pre-recorded content. Being able to show pre-recorded content during the event has many benefits. First and foremost, the quality of the content is not dependent on the presenter´s internet connection. An unstable internet connection could present a problem during a live event. It also makes it easier to control the content of presentations or talks, as irrelevant information can be cut out before showing it at the event. Pre-recorded does not mean that there is no interaction between speaker and attendees. While the pre-recorded content is being played, the speakers can answer in real-time questions in the chat and stimulate interaction.

“I experienced fantastic conferences with a lot of pre recorded content. The speakers attended the chat and interacted with participants, while the pre recorded content was streamed. This creates way more interaction, than would be possible if the speakers had to present live and additionally focus on the chat, what not many people are able to do properly.” (Barbara Covarrubias Venegas)

✅ Nice environment for people to connect. Nearly every platform offers a chat function and/or the possibility to divide the participants into small breakout rooms. This means that people can be connected randomly or in a selected way, either in a small group or just one-on-one, for a conversation. The fact that the camera could be turned off during the conversations (we do not recommend that though), and the possibility to just writing a private message in the chat, might make networking easier for some participants. It also facilitates easier networking once the event is over, so the participants can focus on the content, and think about networking afterwards. 

✅ Become greener & produce less waste. This is often forgotten, but big events like conferences can create a lot of waste. All the food left from the buffet, printed material handed out to the participants (that is rarely read, let’s be honest), as well as empty water bottles, and much more. Not to talk about the carbon emissions that could be saved on travel. That even nature gets something out of it might be a good argument for going virtual, or at least hybrid, with your future events.

Should virtual events be priced the same as physical events?

The short answer is NO.

When it comes to virtual events, the value generated for their participants needs to be considered.

No food or drinks can be offered, and it is harder to organize some form of entertainment, for example. Because of this lower perceived value, few or no people would be willing to pay the same amount of money to attend a virtual event. As this means that less turnover is generated from the tickets alone, the costs can not stay the same, if the goal is to make a profit. Usually, we see on the market an amount between $50 and $499 that is charged for a virtual event, depending on the value it brings to the participants. Generally, we would suggest it should be 2-3 times less than what you would charge for a physical event.

The pricing strategy depends strongly on the business model of the company and on what specific goals should be reached with the event. If the goal is to generate interest in other services or products of the company, for example, event organizers often choose such an event to be free of charge. Another possibility would be, to charge for the event and offer the recordings for free, or offer the event for free but charge for the recordings.

“We have to concentrate on the value, not on replicating what was a pretty poor concept to begin with, which is the usually stale environment that exhibitions have.” William Thomson

What needs to be considered when looking for a platform for your virtual event?

Before even starting to look for a platform for your event, you need to be clear about what the platform needs to cover. There are three main pillars to consider, but you might only want to focus on one or two of them:

 Is the platform going to cover the planned content? Providing attendees with high-quality content is even more important during online events. People can simply turn off their computers or go do something else. That would not be possible during a physical event. So finding a platform that helps you bring better content on stage while keeping the participants engaged is crucial. 

 Is it helping people to connect in the desired way? Depending on the type of activities planned during the event, there might be a need for dividing people into small groups, or for participants to contact each other individually. So the platform needs to have a chat function, breakout rooms, or both. 

 Is good coverage for my commercial partners needed? Commercial partners might want to hold product presentations or demonstrations. They should always be on the program, so the attendees can decide if they want to see them or not. In other cases, they might want to display ads or be present in breakout rooms, so interested customers can approach them directly. 

Once some platforms are chosen that meet your criteria, it is time for testing. Testing the platform should always be possible, either for a small fee or even free of charge. One possibility would be to hold a small test event with colleagues, friends, or family. Only after doing that, you will know if the platform meets your expectations. Another approach would be to consult a specialized company that helps companies with finding the right platform. Especially since 2020, the competition between the different platforms has become quite fierce, which means that most of them offer excellent customer service. Including tutorials on the use of the platform or training sessions to ensure the contentedness of their customers. 

How successful have platforms been in replicating the exhibition?

Replicating exhibitions virtually is quite easy, and organizers of virtual events are getting better at it as they gain experience. The real challenge is rather using the many possibilities of the virtual space, to add value to the experience, like:

✅ Smarter, more interactive branding
✅ Using available data for a more personalized  experience
✅ Involving sponsors by letting them deliver content, moderate panels, or present their products

We all know how boring exhibitions can be. So let’s use the many possibilities of the virtual space to make a valuable experience out of it for everyone.

“We have to concentrate on the value, not on replicating what was a pretty poor concept to begin with, which is the usually stale environment that exhibitions have.” William Thomson

🎧 Prefer listening to inspiring conversations around remote work and virtual learning?

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