One of the most important differences between virtual and in-person events is just how open-ended the process of planning and running a virtual event can be. These events can reach attendees around the world, they do not have the space constraints of traditional events, and they can have any number of interactive components to keep participants engaged.
Perhaps most importantly, a virtual event can keep going indefinitely—you can extend the lifetime of your event with a digital content hub and continue to generate new leads even after your event’s official end date. And because the data gathered from virtual events can be leveraged to support marketing campaigns on an ongoing basis, event organizers have good reason to turn event websites into long-lasting community forums.
That open-endedness makes it especially important to choose an event service provider that can meet your needs from the very beginning. Although you may not know the scope of your event when you start working on it (the number of attendees, their variety of interests, the number of languages they speak, the duration of the event, and so on), it’s critical to choose a platform that will be able to meet all of your needs—even as those needs evolve.
So, how can you tell whether a given platform will be a good match for your virtual event? Here are nine essential questions to ask each service provider you’re considering working with.
1. How many simultaneous sessions can the platform handle?
Even if you have a clear sense of how many sessions you’d like to run simultaneously, it’s worth considering how to make sure you have flexibility in case your plans change. For example, if you plan to have five or 10 sessions at a time (or even more), could that number of simultaneous sessions rise should more attendees than expected sign up?
And what if the details registrants provide on your sign-up form seem to point to a broader variety of interests than you were originally expecting? Of course, the answer to that question varies from event to event—but it’s worth knowing what limitations (if any) you’re working with when it comes to your virtual events platform.
2. What’s the maximum number of attendees possible?
Just like the number of sessions you want to run simultaneously, the number of individuals who will attend your event may be difficult to predict, especially in the early planning stages. But it’s likely worth your while to make sure your event platform can support significantly more simultaneous attendees than you actually expect.
Given that virtual events (unlike in-person ones) need not limit the number of individuals allowed to attend, it’s important to avoid the risk that an unexpectedly good turnout will put too much of a burden on system resources and ruin the event experience for much of your audience.
3. What kind of event and design tech support is offered?
There is a difference between a platform simply offering a given feature—for example, a fully branded event design—and providing you with the support you need in order to use it effectively. Many event organizers do not have the expertise and human resources needed to plan and create all aspects of a virtual event without outside assistance.
That makes it a good idea to consider what your team actually needs in terms of support and guidance, and which vendors will meet these needs. Platforms like Kaltura Virtual Events are fully customizable and offer end-to-end creative services and operations support.
How do you choose the right virtual platform for your live event? Find your solution by answering just 6 questions.
4. What interactivity features are available?
As event organizers get used to running virtual events and participants get used to the experience of attending them, expectations among those participants are rising all the time. Interactivity is a key factor in keeping your audience engaged and in shaping the overall attendee experience, but platforms differ with regard to which types of interactivity are possible.
Keep in mind: As you’re in the process of choosing a platform, there’s no need to worry if you don’t yet know exactly which types of interactive features to look for. In that case, you’ll want to consider not just the actual engagement features that a given platform provides, but also the guidance and expert support you’ll need to help you come up with effective ideas for interactive event components.
Some key interactivity features to look for include:
- Like Buttons
- Text-based Chat
- Text-based Q&A
- Live Polling
- In-Video Quizzing
- “Choose Your Own Adventure” On-Demand Video with Branching Paths
5. What happens before and after the event?
As important as the features that your attendees will see during the event are, what you need from a service provider goes well beyond the duration of the event. During the pre-event period, you may want support with the process of planning and designing the event, as well as assistance with your marketing efforts to promote it.
And the post-event period can help you keep growing and strengthening the community that you started to build during the event—for example, by supplementing the event with follow-up content emailed to attendees or by adding new, high-quality content on the event website/content hub.
6. What analytics do you provide?
It is hard to overstate how much value the analytics from your virtual event can give you—a benefit that in-person events simply cannot match.
The numbers you gather can really help you understand your target audience, as they provide you with a detailed look at your attendees’ behaviors over the course of the entire event. But the specific metrics measured and the ease with which you can view them will vary depending on which platform you use to host your virtual event.
Perhaps most importantly, it’s worth considering how well an event platform will let you integrate your event analytics with the tools you’re already using (e.g., CRM) to help you make the most of your data.
7. Do you provide content creation tools and workflows?
Relying on general-purpose software for recording videos can make the process of building your event’s sessions cumbersome and inefficient—especially because your event’s various speakers might opt to use a variety of different programs to record their videos. Add to that the trouble of trying to send huge video files through email or other cloud-based services, and you’ll have plenty of potential for slip-ups and errors.
To avoid that hassle, it’s a good idea to choose an event platform that has built-in workflows for recording, editing, and publishing content. This way, you and your speakers can enjoy a uniform, seamless, user-friendly approach to creating your event’s content.
8. What do you have in place for localization and global event support?
You may or may not have a clear picture of how broad of an audience you want when you’re choosing a service provider, but it’s important to make sure you’ll have all the tools you might need to conveniently provide an excellent attendee experience across the board. This might include translating all of your event’s sessions into a number of different languages, as well as creating entirely different versions of the site for attendees from specific countries or regions.
It could also entail streaming any given simulive session at multiple times to accommodate participants in various time zones around the world. And don’t forget about those attendees who may have impaired hearing or vision and need accessibility features to enjoy a comfortable attendee experience.
9. What white-glove services do you provide?
In addition to providing support and guidance, some vendors will offer to entirely take care of some burdensome tasks for you. It’s important to find out which specific activities a given vendor will offer to take over, because this approach could help you to optimize your event without investing too much time in it.
For example, you might want your service provider to take care of streaming your pre-recorded simulive sessions at their scheduled times, moderating the follow-up Q&A sessions, and addressing any attendees’ technical questions that arise during the event. Depending on which interactive features your event includes, you may also want your vendor to take care of running your sessions’ polls and sending out notifications on your behalf.
This way, you can focus on creating top-notch content and planning an excellent all-around attendee experience, while your service provider takes on the responsibility for the event’s technical aspects.
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