Choosing the right virtual event platform takes time, and careful deliberation. Thanks to the boom in popularity of online events, there are tons of options to choose from – which makes the decision-making process all the harder. At least it means that there’s a much greater chance of finding a platform that suits your needs to a tee, though.
You just need to define those needs first, and then – get your comparison hat on.
In this article, we look at some of the key features to look for in a virtual event platform, and offer a step-by-step guide to choosing the right one for you.
What to look for in a virtual event platform
Some key features to look for in a virtual event platform include:
Communication capabilities – like the ability to broadcast to a large number of viewers (without compromising on quality), and one-to-one video chatting
Multi-speaker capabilities – the ability to have multiple speakers at the same time
Attendee-engagement features – like multi-tiered chat, gamification, and live polls
Expo features – like virtual booths, and the ability to use pre-recorded video content (YouTube, Vimeo etc.)
Customisation ability – the ability to customise the event with your own branding
Recording functionality – the ability to record events and make them downloadable
Monetization capabilities – like space for sponsorships or product placements (we have an article on monetizing virtual events, which might be useful)
9 steps to choosing the right virtual event platform for you
Define your virtual event goals
To choose the perfect virtual event platform, you’ll need to have a clear idea about what you want your event to entail first. Write down all of your ideas about the content and structure of your event as a starting point – does it need to have interactive elements? Recorded elements? How many attendees do you plan on having? Will you need to monetize your event?
Audit the things you love about other virtual events
One of the best ways to get familiar with what you expect from your own event is to look at others. Make a note of the things you like about other virtual events, as these can come in handy when it comes to making sure a virtual event platform has the functionality you need.
Write a must-have list of virtual event platform capabilities
By now you should have plenty of ideas about what form your virtual event is going to take. Start solidifying this vision with a must-have list, including all those non-negotiable features your virtual event platform has to have for you to even consider signing up to it. This might include things like multi-speaker capability, ability to record sessions, and the ability to have X number of attendees.
Define your long-term virtual event goals
When deciding on the features your virtual event platform needs to have, it can be easy to overlook long-term capabilities. But if you’re interested in running a long-term project, it’s essential to include these in your must-have list. Things like audience analytics, for example, can be an essential if you want to build a long-term strategy around increasing audience engagement. You might also want to look for a platform with multi-year packages if you’re looking to run virtual events for the foreseeable.
Consider any event management tools you’re currently using that might need integrating
Lots of virtual event platforms offer an end-to-end solution – covering most aspects involved in running virtual events, like marketing and ticketing. But if you’re already signed up with platforms you trust, like an online event registration platform or analytics tool, you might want to integrate these into your virtual event software. Make a note of this as it’ll come in useful when looking through the integration capabilities of platforms.
Define your virtual event budget
Of course, pricing will be a huge factor when it comes to choosing a virtual event platform, so make sure you’ve worked out what you’re able to spend in this regard in advance of your search. Don’t forget to consider all the other costs that’ll go into your virtual event, like equipment, ticketing, and marketing.
Start researching and comparing platforms
Now it’s time to get the wheels properly in motion – start researching the various platforms out there, using all the information you’ve gathered about your event and needs so far to draw up comparisons. Try using a trusted, impartial comparison site like Capterra to get started.
Sign up to some free trials where possible
‘Try before you buy’ has never been more apt than when investing in something as important (and potentially pricey) as virtual event software. The good news is, lots of platforms offer free trials, which are definitely worth utilising. That’s not to say you have to actually run an event using a free trial – but signing up to one can give you a much better feel for a platform than just doing research alone. During any trial, focus on things like how easy the platform is to use and navigate, how robust its features feel, and the overall quality of its broadcasting functionality.
Go back through your initial lists – and sign up!
You should have a pretty good idea of the platform you want to go for by this stage – or at least a short list. For the final push in the decision-making process, go through the initial information you gathered around platform ‘must-haves’ and ‘things you like’ about other events, and see how the platform you’ve chosen compares. It can be easy to lose the wood for the trees when comparing so many platforms, but doing this can help you to make sure you haven’t forgotten about any important features.
Once you’ve done this final step, you should be in a good position to sign up to a virtual event platform. Most of all, you should be in a position to feel confident that the choice you’ve made is absolutely the right one for you. Bingo.