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!
And don’t overestimate how prepared your reps are to make their conversations worthwhile. Help your reps become virtual conversation pros and they’ll be ready to take on every opportunity to chat.
Whether your program is for customers or employees, you likely have representatives assigned to help out during live webcasts and other activity. Prepare your reps to engage the audience and answer questions with these simple ideas for 1:1, small group and public chats.
Create a live event guide for your reps that includes mini-scripts for conversations, answers to commonly asked questions and a predetermined method to manage a large audience. Be sure to include a full agenda with notes on how reps can help throughout the day.
Who are you inviting to this event? Be as specific as possible. Is the program for employees? Are they administrative staff, salespeople or product engineers? Or are you inviting prospects or customers? In what industries and with what titles? The “who” will drive many elements of your virtual environment.
What will you offer attendees who show up, either because they want to or because they have to? Product updates, chats with product experts, peer-to-peer connection, continuing education credits – there are many things you have to offer attendees. Brainstorm a long list with your team.
It’s virtual so the easy answer is “anywhere.” But maybe your audience is global; then the “where” drives the timing of live sessions. Or maybe you’re doing a hybrid event, so you have an actual physical “where.” A simple answer will help you make several key decisions.
This is much more than the hour-by-hour timing of your agenda. Is this a one-time live event? Or are you creating a persistent environment? Do you plan to host weekly chat sessions, quarterly live programs, or a 3-day follow the sun conference? There are a lot of options when deciding the timing of your virtual program.
Arguably the most important question to ask. Why are you hosting this virtual event or launching this virtual program? The answer leads to a number of other questions: What are your goals? What do you hope to achieve? What are your desired outcomes, and how will you measure ROI? Make sure every person on your team, and your executives, are very clear on your “why” long before you kick off the project.
The bonus question. That’s where we come in. Talk to your account team today and let us help you take the answers to the five W’s to make your virtual program a success.[/vc_column_text]
Before you schedule sessions, review your expectations
How much time can you reasonably expect your audience to spend at your event? How many sessions do you expect them to watch? Do you expect them to visit sponsor booths? Do you expect attendees to seek out peers or engage with reps or product experts?
Now think about what you want them to do
Attend sessions, ask questions, connect with each other, connect with sponsors? What actions can attendees take that will help you meet your overall program goals?
You agenda should reflect all of the above, giving attendees the opportunity to engage in different activities throughout the day and making the most of the virtual platform.
Plan your broadcast messages in advance of the live day; use messages liberally to engage attendees and direct them around your virtual environment.
Whether you’re considering your first virtual event program or are an old pro at managing virtual environments, we have tips and best practices to help you create successful programs. Be sure to check back often, or subscribe to our blog!
Follow these do’s and don’ts to stay focused on success. Whether you’re hosting a virtual tradeshow, creating a virtual academy, or planning a virtual recruitment center, your virtual “floor plan” should make it both easy and intuitive for attendees to find what they need, while also supporting your program goals.
Leverage entitlement to create a unique experience for specific attendee groups, such as a Press Briefing Lounge or a Manager’s Classroom.
Use this powerful feature to tell attendees what to do, then watch them take the actions you want.
Target messages to specific rooms or booths to highlight a specific content item or to move attendees from one location to another.
Here’s a quick primer on the different roles you will likely need to fill. The Leaderboard is a perfect blend of game mechanics and content metrics that drives competition among your audience.
Of course you may not have a unique individual for each role, but keeping these needs in mind as you build out your program will help ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
If your program is internal, you’ll want to engage IT resources early to ensure network access for all required employees, as well as possible integration needs and security protocols.
While true games like trivia or concentration can distract attendees from your content, borrowing from the gaming world can focus attendees’ attention on the activities most important to your program goals.
The Leaderboard is a perfect blend of game mechanics and content metrics that drives competition among your audience.
Follow these steps to make your Leaderboard program a winner.
Some people will take actions only to gain points, not because they are interested in the content. Balance that with knowing attendees are being exposed to content they may not have otherwise seen, creating more possibilities for interest and connection.
Ask select sponsors or partners to provide the rewards. This is great way to get additional exposure and to generate some goodwill with the audience. Even better if the rewards somehow reflects the sponsors products, hometown or personality – get creative!