Selecting Virtual Event Platforms
05/15/20

Virtual Events

Selecting Virtual Event Platforms
Written by
Cody Fraughton

SELECTING VIRTUAL EVENT PLATFORMS

The foundation of any virtual/digital event is your platform. A virtual event platform can be compared to your live event venue. When planning a virtual event it is critical that you’ve taken careful consideration when selecting which platform to use as it will house all of your content and will serve as a home base for your audience. Essentially, a platform is the channel in which you will push out your virtual event-related content. Pulling off a successful virtual event is no small task. Arguably they can be even more meticulous and demanding than live events due to the tremendous amount of planning and rigorous timelines that are necessary. Failing to secure the proper platform for your event could be virtually disastrous. If you’re considering a virtual/ digital event, start by asking yourself the following questions.

_______ WHO IS MY AUDIENCE? ________

As overwhelming as this question may be, it is likely that you already know some things about your audience. For example, where do they live? If your audience is global, you will likely need to support language translations and consider time zones differences between your audience. If you need to juggle some of these obstacles, give yourself enough time to handle these accordingly and make sure your platform can support these accommodations.

Another example, what’s the age of your viewer? Your platform may require a simplified platform for older audiences or accommodations for the hearing and visually impaired. Closed captioning should be supported by your platform in cases like this. The point is that the demographics of your audience will be most helpful when designing both the ‘look and feel’ and the functionality of your platform. Not to mention, it will also help you later in the game when you start creating your content. Most importantly, knowing your audience will naturally help you to make your platform accommodating to all, ensuring a user-friendly experience for your virtual event guests.

PRO-TIP:

Ensure that you can provide technical support to your viewers. Some users may require additional help navigating and accessing your virtual event platform.

_______ WHAT ARE MY GOALS? ________

Just like any live event, your virtual event will be most effective when you have a clear goal in mind. For instance, perhaps you want your event to be sales-oriented. In this case, you would want to integrate a sales functionality into your platform; essentially turning your viewers into customers. The most effective platform, in this case, would be one that supports online shopping or one that can redirect to your sales portal.

Or, for instance, maybe you’re looking to connect, bring your audience together, or create a dialogue between you and your viewers. In this case, it would be wise to integrate live chats, forums, polling, and other social sharing features. Keep in mind that social media platforms can work in unison with your platform to drive both your event presence and online engagement. The bottom line is that your goals are likely going to shape many of your platform's functions. The clearer your goals are, the easier it will be to tailor your platform to your needs.

_______ WHEN AND WHERE? ________

Platforms can be built to support a variety of delivery channels and methods. When deciding the correct platform for your live event, ask yourself ‘when’ and ‘where’ your content will live inside your platform. Is it live-streamed to your audience in real-time? Is your content available online and on-demand? Or, perhaps, is it a hybrid of both?

Certain aspects of your event might make sense to happen live; such as awards banquets, new product launches, demos, etc. Real-time content makes sense when you are looking to hype things up or when you are looking for interactivity. Live streams are great for building excitement as things happen live. With the right platform integration, they can enable your audience to participate in real-time dialogue. Live streams, while useful, can be quite complex and must be well-rehearsed in advance. Like live events, you just have one chance to get it right.

On-demand makes sense for content that doesn’t necessarily need to happen in real-time. Keynote speakers, breakout sessions, workshops, and any other smaller event elements can simply be pre-recorded and made available online and on-demand. This is especially useful to your audience so that they may pick and choose the content that is relevant to them and watch it at any convenient time. One strength of producing on-demand type content is that it is pre-recorded, allowing your event team more time and flexibility with editing. When using the on-demand method, ask yourself ‘when’ your content will be available and how do you plan on announcing its availability to your audience.

PRO-TIP:

Many event professionals are combining both live stream and on demands methods and producing a mixed media event. This is especially effective because you get the strengths of both methods.

_______ HOW DO WE INTERACT? ________

There are levels of interactivity within live event platforms. Your most basic interactions are direct responses from viewers. Often these are things like live chat functions or real-time Q&As. More complex and higher interactivity may be audio calls, ‘zoom’ type calls, or other higher quality call type formats in which you are video chatting with your viewers. Likely, the size, or rather the number of viewers you have streaming your content will determine which level of interactivity is appropriate for your live event. Keep in mind that the more people that you have streaming your event, the harder it may be to have higher interactivity, however that shouldn’t discourage you from interacting in one way or another with your audience. Interaction functions allow your live event viewers to feel as though they are still participating in your event, even from the comfort of their home.

Technically speaking, interactivity can be a challenge. If you’re looking to build a custom platform or need additional help securing one, reach out to a virtual event specialist at cornerstoneav.com

Thank You