When we all had no choice but to meet virtually the amazing technical whizzes got busy enhancing and creating many different virtual platforms. They are all now busy adding features that will allow you to use them to run hybrid events.
A true hybrid event is when the virtual and in-person delegate can have the same experiences at an event. Both types of delegates can meet each other, chat to sponsors and exhibitors and ask speakers questions.
Many of the platforms have been developed by companies that previously offered event management software, so they offer you a one stop shop for delegate registration, event websites and the virtual event space. If you are looking for a complete solution then this is a good option, but if all you want is the virtual event space then you are paying for a lot that you don’t need. Different platforms suit different events; it may be that your delegate registration software’s virtual solution is not right for you. There are many platforms that are stand alone and you can import your delegate lists from any registration software.
The Delegate Experience
The delegate experience can be very different on each platform. Most seem to have now opted for a simple Welcome Page. There are then the various tabs or links to the different parts of your conference. Each virtual event space allows for different levels of branding, sponsor space and exhibition stands. Most do now provide a main stage, breakout sessions, exhibition booths and some method of “chat” for the delegates. There are some platforms that create a virtual exhibition hall or conference centre where each area is sign posted. These are very graphically intense and do require support to set up but look great. You need to think about your target audience and how tech savvy they are. Many virtual events now have a personal agenda for each delegate; this is populated when they register for certain sessions, or if they highlight a “wish list” of sessions from the main conference agenda. This is very easy for those that do not have all day to spend at your event and it means they can simply see when their next session is and click into it from their agenda page.
For hybrid events to really work it is a good idea to pick a platform that has an app, so that the in person delegates can log onto the app, ask questions and take part in polls at the same time as your virtual audience. It is also a great way to allow in person and virtual delegates to interact with each other.
The Level of Support
The amount of support offered by the platform providers varies greatly and may cost a lot more. Most companies at least offer you training when you take out a subscription. If you pick a platform that is complex it may be that you have to work with the provider to produce the conference, which will add to the cost. Most virtual events can be built by the event manager; it depends on how confident you feel in the virtual world.
Then of course the other major factor is cost. Platform pricing models vary greatly. Some charge per event, some per registration, some a monthly or annual fee and some a combination of all. Often you pay extra for exhibition stands, networking lounges and breakout rooms.
Some platforms require you to have your own subscriptions to Vimeo for livestreaming, Zoom for breakout rooms etc. This may add to the cost, or if you as a company already have a Zoom subscription or Vimeo account it may save you money. If you are pre-recording content or live streaming it is always best to professionally record/stream sessions. Remember with a hybrid event then you do need to factor in the cost of the “streaming” equipment to your AV costs. The main point to remember is check the internet speed of your venue. Live streaming requires fast uploads speeds, so a wired internet connection to the main meeting room is necessary.
Reporting and Analysis
When thinking of running a virtual or hybrid conference it is vital to have your event goal in mind. You need to pick a platform that gives you the reports and analysis you need to prove your goal has been met. It maybe you just need to know who attended which session. Or you may need to know how many people viewed your exhibitors stands and downloaded content. This is all so important when looking at how successful your event was.
HotelRes have spent a lot of time evaluating different platforms and can help answer any questions you may have. We are happy to pass on any of the information and knowledge we have gained to help guide you in all things virtual and hybrid.
We have used some of the platforms ourselves and have great contacts so can arrange demonstrations if you want to see a platform in action.