When choosing your virtual events platform quickly there are a few things that you must consider. This can be tricky, as you usually go through an entire RFP process which can take months, and months, and now you find yourself having to make this decision in days.
Evaluating your Virtual Event Platform and Vendor quickly forces you to focus on the important questions and answers you need to ask them in a short period of time. I hope to break them down one by one to provide some tips on how to go through this process.
The Beginning of a Long Journey
Let us start with identifying some of your organization’s long term goals. One of those goals, I am sure, is to build an online audience. You have been talking about it for a long time and now we are all just thrown into this. The most important thing that you want to consider when choosing your virtual event provider is whether their platform has the functionality that will help you grow your online program for the next several years.
This first event will not be your last, so an important factor when growing your online audience is delivering a quality online event with a consistent user experience. Switching platforms several times will lead to an erosion of your audience and it can be costly to get your audience back. Your online audience will become an important component to your organization’s overall goals and you want to make sure that you start out with an engaging experience.
Automation Saves Time
When evaluating each vendor’s platform and services, you must ask to see how the back-end of their platform functions and how automated are their systems and processes. This is crucial when you need to create an event in a short period of time or if you start to scale and find that their processes are taking up a significant amount of time. It is important to evaluate the systems that are in place to upload your data, such as your speaker info and session titles, into their platform. How long does it take to create your event page and provide access to the registrants of your event? Having good systems in place will save money and eliminate mistakes. Nothing is worse than relying on the “copy and paste” process to make sure your event is successful.
Keep it Simple
You want to be sure that your first online event goes smoothly, so it is important to keep it simple. Focus on the most important aspects of the event, which I believe are:
- Make sure it is easy for attendees to register and get into the platform
- Deliver an engaging experience
- Assist your attendees with a robust Technical Support System
If you’re trying to convert your face-2-face meeting in a short period of time, then I suggest that you leave out the bells and whistles and focus on engaging your attendees through using chat and polling techniques. A few simple questions to your users in chat, or a timely polling question, can create a lot of engagement. In the words of an attendee of a virtual event that was held this week, “This chat feature has been a great networking opportunity! “
In order to keep it simple, it is important to consider whether you can make changes and manage the back-end of the platform. Nothing slows down the process than having to pass information off to someone else, when it can be done in seconds by yourself. So be sure to ask if you can change the information in the back-end without having to have the vendor do it.
Finally, how flexible is the platform? You do not want to spend a lot of time having to make workarounds. Platforms that are designed to make it simple tend to be very flexible. Ask questions!
“Thank you for making this available this year! So glad it worked out that I was able to join in even though the in-person event was canceled.”
— Carina, Virtual Attendee
How To Save Your Registration Money
For the past 10 years, Digitell has been live streaming conferences for over 100 associations and we have adopted a specific business model that has proven to be very successful. We discovered this model by luck, when we were asked to live stream a conference because of another type of crisis, a snow storm. Our client was concerned about losing their registrations, so we came up with the idea of live streaming one room for the duration of their conference, and adding to that all of the pre-recorded sessions to make a “Virtual Meeting Product” that was valued at the same price as registering for the physical meeting. Since we were already recording the conference, it was easy to provide the virtual registrants with access to the archives. The event turned out to be an incredible success, our client saved hundreds of thousands of dollars, and 10 years later we are still suggesting the same model to our clients today.
One of the keys to this model is the fact that the attendees are still able to attend an equal number of session hours, as if they attended the physical meeting, allowing them to earn the same number of credits. We have offered this model since 2010 and the attendees love it. Over time, you will be able to increase the number of live sessions as you build your audience and grow your online community.
Here is the best part of this model. It is the easiest to execute, the least expensive to create, and it provides your registrants with a product that delivers the entire meeting in one package. A win-win-win!!
Now it is time to review a few vendors and evaluate their platforms. Take into consideration the things we discussed earlier. Ask your vendor what their suggestions and ideas are to convert your face-2-face meeting into a virtual meeting. Ask a lot of questions about how automated their systems are and whether you can have back-end control. Don’t forget to ask about their technical support system.
It should only take an hour to really get a good sense of which platforms are the best and which ones are going to allow your organization to grow. Choose your vendor and begin building your first virtual event. These are very challenging times but don’t be worried. If you have selected the correct vendor, you should feel like they are supporting you 110%.