As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, we now work in a virtual world. Meetings are virtual. Events are virtual. Training is virtual. Recruiting is virtual. In an unprecedented industry shift, companies are converging on virtual event platform providers in record numbers to deliver content to audiences–to the point where some virtual event platform providers have had to create a waitlist.
But with a deluge of complex requests, how are virtual event platform providers managing the increase in demand? And how do you choose between opposing virtual event platforms? Can you tell which vendor will be with you over the long term and which will fold after the crisis?
Following are six suggestions for determining which virtual event platform best fits your needs.
1. Will the technology actually deliver what the vendor promises? You’re pivoting to a virtual event platform on a tight timeframe. You can’t afford empty claims. Do your homework so you know exactly which features and functions are available on the market, and then create two lists: 1) “must-have” capabilities and 2) “nice to have” capabilities. This will help you determine whether the platform really meets your business needs and enable you to ignore “shiny objects.” Another key consideration: make sure the vendor can deliver on your “must have” list now, not in the future. If you learn one of your “must-have” capabilities is on a product roadmap, and not in the current product release, it’s time to move on.
2. Reputation is critical. How long has the vendor been in business? What does the vendor’s customer portfolio look like? Are some of their customers in a similar industry, of a similar size, or targeting a similar audience as you? Does the vendor have repeat customers? Can the vendor provide customer references? What is the vendor’s customer turnover rate?
3. Do not compromise on support. We can’t emphasize this one enough! When it comes to technology, things can go awry. You want to ensure your vendor is continuously doing everything possible to prevent event hiccups. The team responsible for your virtual event platform needs to be 100% invested in your event’s success and committed to their relationship with you. This type of support cannot be outsourced. It has to be in-house and you should have access to a dedicated account manager 24/7/365. Hint: when you’re checking those customer references, ask the question, “Is your support team responsive, knowledgeable, and experienced?”
4. Can the platform scale? Understand the virtual event platform’s level of customization and scalability. As you expand your audience, the platform should scale accordingly. The last thing you want is to undergo the selection and implementation process a second time because the existing platform can’t handle new or growing needs.
5. Take a test drive. Before making a final selection, kick those tires! Reputable vendors will offer a demo to showcase features, benefits, and usability. This is when you can see the platform in action and learn what it can really do. Best practice: if the platform will be used for more than one function, make sure you involve all stakeholders to participate in the demo. The platform should meet everyone’s needs (and of course you’ll want cross-departmental buy-in). Then during your demo, make sure the platform really contains your list of “must have” capabilities. Remember this isn’t just about “cool features.” It’s about meeting your requirements. Also, keep an eye on usability. As you move through the demo, take note of how many clicks or screens it takes to accomplish a specific task.
6. Insist on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) before signing a contract. Put your new partnership to the test and collaborate with your virtual event platform provider to create Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) prior to signing any contracts. With KPIs in place upfront, both parties will know what defines a successful implementation.
Stay Focused on Creating Real ROI
Too often companies convince themselves it’s okay to down-play criteria like capability, reputation, and support in favor of a lower-quality, lesser-value platform–only to discover the platform doesn’t really meet their needs. Suddenly, they’re back to square one, perhaps even re-visiting the platform provider they should have initially selected. Following the six suggestions above will build your business case and help you identify the “best fit” platform for your business, one that offers the most value and yields a quick ROI. Have questions? Contact a 6Connex product specialist today to learn about our online event consulting services or get a demo!