1. The first step to picking your virtual platform is understanding your virtual event needs. Start by discussing your “must have”, “nice to have” and “dreaming of” needs with your stakeholders. Also important is determining information about the event such as: the date and time of the event, the format of the event, the number of days the event will take place, are they full day or half day sessions, how long is each session, will there be pre-recorded and/or live components, will there be panels discussions, fireside chats, Q&A sessions and chat sessions? All of these are very important questions to have answers to before you pick your platform.
Depending on your content and target markets, you will need to discuss security, and how your
attendees will access the event. Two popular methods are via web link or web registration. Will you have a full registration process? If so, what information is important to collect? Is there specific data points you need to collect about your attendee and their experience and interaction with your event? Do you want to know how long each attendee was present at the event? Is this a public event that is accessible by just a link? If so, how will you monitor inappropriate chat and the “zoom bomb”. Does your platform function on a private separate server or is it on the cloud? By answering these questions you will be further engaged with your planning process and it will make selecting a platform easier.
It is important to understand that your virtual event will eliminate the travel, live event production costs and food & beverage costs from the event however, there will be considerable organizing, training and production involved with the virtual event that will need to be accounted for when budgeting. Decide what the budget will be and if needed, which revenue model will be used. Discuss how much is feasible to charge for the content/networking you will provide. Or perhaps your event will be free of charge.
2. Once you have searched for platforms that meet your needs, begin to demo as many as you can. Make a list of questions that you will ask on each of the demos. Having standard questions will be helpful during this evaluation stage. Important information to collect: Tech support (make sure this person is in the same time zone as our core group), size of company, age of platform, ease of use, video playback vs. stacking content (it is important to know if you need to also hire a production company), how has the communication been thus far. Has the company shown sufficient LIVE examples of what you need or have you only seen mock-ups? Does the company respond quickly to your questions?
3. You are almost there! Now you can enter the execution stage with the confidence that you have collected all the information you need to make an educated decision on the right virtual platform for your event. Make an evaluation grid to compare all the information gathered and narrow the search to two or three final choices. Compare pricing and long term goals. There should be a clear winner.
4. Experienced Virtual Event Producers will be familiar with many of these platforms and should be able to guide you towards the ones that are most suitable for your event and your budget. There are many options out there and many new companies that have pivoted their live event platform to service virtual events. Some platforms are great and some platforms are not so great. Lean on your Virtual Event Producer to help you make an educated choice for a reliable and responsive virtual event platform is that is going to deliver all that you contracted for event.