How to choose a virtual event platform
Choosing a virtual event platform to add to your marketing technology stack is no easy task. With the rise of the distributed workforce, virtual event platforms have been sprouting from the ground left and right.
Just like any other piece of technology that you add to your stack, it requires careful consideration and a series of important decisions need to be made.
The impact of selecting the wrong virtual event platform for your needs is too significant. In this article, we will go over the main decision trees to ensure that you find the right platform.
1. Determine your budget
The first and foremost consideration in choosing a virtual event platform is determining your available budget. The platforms come in all shapes and sizes, from budget-friendly options to enterprise solutions.
We’ve got a detailed article on the costs of virtual event platforms and additional services that most vendors offer.
In short, virtual event platforms typically charge a monthly recurring subscription fee that is supplemented by your expected number of annual attendees.
2. Internal or external events
The features of online event platforms are tailored to their ideal target audience. The two main segmentations are events for external audiences such as (prospective) customers and internal audiences such as employees.
When it comes to choosing a virtual event platform, you need to decide if you will be hosting events for internal or external audiences.
Internal event platforms are often designed to promote collaboration such as workshops. On the contrary, external event platforms offer features such as sponsorship booths and ticketing.
3. Understand your audience size
The size of your audience is a key point of determination when selecting your virtual event platform. When you are expecting a large audience, you will need features to break them down into more manageable sizes such as the ability to host multiple sessions at the same time.
If you’re going to host an event with 3000 attendees, you are looking at enterprise-grade platforms. On the other hand, if you have a small event of 20 attendees, then an enterprise-grade platform will be over the top.
4. Selection of crucial features
Before getting started with your virtual event platform selection process, it’s essential to sit down and create a list of key feature requirements.
My recommendation is to take a look at your current MarTech Stack to determine which types of integrations you require. You don’t want the event platform to be a standalone piece of technology in your stack. It all has to be integrated to streamline data flows.
Below is a list of features to help you with your list:
- Sale of sponsorships
- Virtual booths
- Hybrid event capabilities
- Email automation
- Event agendas and scheduling
- Landing page builders
- Dry-run capabilities
Here at Markletic, we review virtual event platforms on 80+ features. For a full list of features, you can take a look at one of our reviews and scroll down to the features section.
5. Determine sponsorship capabilities
For virtual conferences, event organizers typically require sponsorship capabilities. Event organizers sell sponsorships to enhance the audience experience and to generate revenue streams.
When selecting your virtual event platform, it’s important to determine whether you are going to need any of the below sponsorship features.
- Custom events platform branding to include assets of sponsors.
- Virtual booths and the ability for sponsors to configure the booths themselves.
- Audience engagement features at virtual booths. In other words, features that allow sponsors to interact with booth visitors.
- Features to sell tiered sponsorship packages.
- Sponsor-hosted breakout sessions.
- Reporting on audience engagement at virtual booths. Sponsors typically aim to generate leads at virtual events and you need to transfer the leads to them after the event.
Tip: Here you can find our example of a virtual event sponsorship prospectus.
6. Ticketing requirements
Event organizers sometimes choose to sell tickets to their virtual events to generate revenue and offset the costs of the virtual event platform.
When choosing your virtual event platform, it’s important to determine which ticketing features you require. Below is a list of common ticketing features.
- Tiered tickets
- Discount codes
- Payment gateway integrations
- Session access restrictions according to the type of ticket sold
- Revenue reporting
- CRM integration
7. Determine the importance of networking
According to our research, the second-largest reason why people attend virtual events is for networking purposes.
When hosting any virtual event, you are likely looking for features that enhance interaction between the audience and the speakers.
Especially when it comes to virtual conferences, networking features play an increasingly important role. The features of the online event platform play an integral role in audience satisfaction. Your attendees will be satisfied when they’ve been able to create new relationships and learn from their peers.
When selecting your online event platform, take into consideration whether you need the following networking features.
- 1-on-1 matchmaking
- Live chat with speakers
- User profiles
- Private audience chat
- Video conferencing integrations such as Zoom
8. Determine virtual event formality
Virtual event platforms come in all shapes and sizes. Some event platforms have designed their product so that it feels like you’re in a video game. On the contrary, some platforms are more traditional that are better suited for a formal audience.
The formality level of your virtual event is primarily determined by your audience. For example, if your end-users are developers, they will love a virtual event platform that feels like a video game. Those platforms offer fun features such as walking around the venue with a character and entering a racecar to compete with other attendees.
On the other hand, the above-mentioned example might not be suited for a C-level event.
You need to fully understand your audience and look for a virtual event platform that fulfills their primary intent to attend and keeps them interested throughout the event.
9. Determine your internal end-users
An important consideration in selecting a virtual event platform is the end-users. Who in your organization will be creating events?
The virtual event platform selecting criteria for employees in your HR department will differ from the criteria of your Field Marketing team.
People in your field marketing team likely will have some prior experience with online event platforms. On the contrary, your HR team might be new to this world of virtual events.
The level of maturity of your employees with event platforms will impact your choice of virtual event platforms and the enablement packages that the vendor offers. For people with no experience with event platforms, you will need a solid enablement plan.
In addition, the required features will depend on your internal end-users. To stick with the above example, HR employees will likely host virtual events for collaborative purposes. Field marketers will host events that accelerate demand generation. These different requirements will impact your virtual event platform shortlist.
10. Hybrid event capabilities
Most virtual event platforms that are designed to host virtual conferences offer hybrid-event capabilities such as:
- In-person attendee management.
- Live streaming capabilities.
- Event application for your attendees.
The goal of hybrid event management is to seamlessly integrate the virtual and in-person audience.
During your selection process, you will need to determine if you will host an explicit virtual event, or if you want to branch out to hybrid events.
All in all, the virtual event selection process requires many decisions. You need to decide on your budget, feature selection, sponsorship capabilities, end-users, and hybrid event capabilities to name a few.
When choosing a virtual event platform, the decision outlined in this article will guide you toward creating a shortlist of platforms.