With the pandemic we’re currently experiencing, organizing a virtual event has become the solution for many planners. There’s been an explosion in the number of webcasting platforms and many companies have adapted their services to meet the growing demand. How do you sift through the various options and find the one that’s best for your event?

Here are 10 questions to ask yourself when choosing a platform to organize a virtual event.

1. Is my event a webinar or live webcast?

While they are similar, there are some differences between the two that will greatly influence your choice of platform. The term “webinar” implies an interaction between the host or speaker and the participants. Often used for collaborative work, the webinar feels like a face-to-face conference; participants can react, comment and discuss the presentation. A webcast, on the other hand, is not necessarily interactive. The range of actions possible is considerably reduced, or may even consist of simply viewing a presentation.

Based on your objectives, it’s important to have a solid outline of what form you’d like your virtual even to take.

2. What services will be essential to the success of your event?

Depending on the nature of your event, you may need additional services to broadcast your content. For example, do you need a recording studio and a full technical team to ensure the visual and sound quality of your event? Are your stakeholders [alt: speakers, panelists] located in different cities? Can your content be filmed in advance and streamed as a video?

All of this information will help you select the best supplier for your event. Choose one that will meet all your needs, rather than relying on multiple companies that may not be compatible.

3. How many participants will be connecting to the platform?

If you’re planning a small meeting with colleagues or a virtual happy hour, platforms such as Teams and Zoom may be sufficient. But what about when you need to assemble 200 people from across the country? The number of connections needed will impact your final selection.
Some providers set their price according to the number of participants, while others offer the same service at a fixed rate regardless of the number of users.

4. Who is my event for and how comfortable is that audience with technology?

The target audience for your event should be considered when selecting a platform. If it’s an audience that is less comfortable with computers and new technologies, it’s better to choose a platform that will be easy to understand. Conversely, people who work in the technology field will find an innovative platform more engaging.

Consider including technical support, or a concierge who will be available before and during your event to answer questions from users who have operational issues.

5. Do I need a streaming-style platform to deliver a better virtual experience?

If you are hosting a congress, one-day conference or trade show, you may want participants to have access to a schedule detailing the various presentations and an agenda to plan their activities. Group members may also want to network through a discussion forum and see who’s attending the same sessions as them. All of these options are possible, but are not necessarily supported by the streaming platform. You will therefore need a related platform on which to offer your activities.

In some cases, your webcasting provider will be able to direct you to suppliers they’ve worked with before. Also, the company may already be associated with an application that meets or can adapt to your needs.

6. Do I need interactive tools to create a better participant experience?

To hold participants’ attention, they need to be able to interact with presenters, whether by asking questions, inserting a comment, or sharing their impressions in a discussion group. All of these options result in a higher rate of engagement during your event.

So, when choosing a platform, consider the options that are available: question-and-answer, surveys, gamification, discussion forums and virtual meeting rooms are just some of the tools that can help you to engage your audience.

7. How much interactivity is required between participants?

If one of your goals is to encourage networking, you’ll need a platform that’s suited to this purpose. Start by assessing your needs: Can participants arrange meetings independently on the platform itself? Will you hold discussion sessions where participants will be randomly placed into groups? There are a multitude of options, ranging from live chat to the integration of e-commerce directly into the platform.

Again, it’s important to clearly define the different activities that will take place during your event in order to have your specific needs met by your streaming or broadcasting provider.

8. Is the platform’s customer support sufficient for my needs?

When doing your research, you’ll be speaking with account managers and advisors who will describe their service offering to you. Make sure you have solid communication with these professionals, as well as with the team that will oversee your project. If the company doesn’t allow you to make your own module modifications on your platform, expect delays between your requests and the time of completion. This team will quickly become your best friend, so it’s a good idea to establish a relationship of trust right from the start.

9. Does my event need to be monetized?

If the answer is yes, how do you meet this objective? Your platform may offer space to accommodate sponsors or advertising.

You can also make it a paid event provided you add a payment platform such as Eventbrite, so make sure your platform supports such an addition.

10. How can I assess the success of my event?

It’s important that your event platform supplies you with real-time metrics, such as the engagement rate of the people who connected, how long they were connected, and any other metrics you deem relevant. You can leverage this data to measure the return on investment of your event, as well as to collect information about the participants that may be useful for future events.

Don’t forget to enquire about the platform’s security. Just like at a face-to-face event, your participants need to feel that they are well protected and that their personal data is safe.

Once you have answered these questions, you will be able to better explain your event concept to webcasters and receive clear responses about what they can do to support you.

Our team can also help you plan your virtual event. Don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss it!

Maude-Laurence Champigny, our new senior consultant

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