6 Tips for Selecting the Right Virtual Events Platform

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!

Image of 6Connex Tip Sheet about Virtual Conversations

Don’t underestimate the value of the virtual conversation.

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.

  1. Greet attendees at the start of the day, welcoming them to the environment.
  2. Offer a suggestion for making the most of the program, such as how to find peers or what time a key session is starting.
  3. Move attendees through the day’s agenda; for instance, chat with individuals lingering in the lounge to move them to a live keynote.
  4. Ask attendees for their feedback on a main stage session or moderated chat; suggest the best datasheet/video/booth that will extend their learning.
  5. Introduce attendees to experts or executives by inviting them into a small group chat.
  6. Monitor public chats and contribute relevant comments to keep the conversation moving.
  7. Keep an eye out for anyone posting a technical issue; help out by directing them to the help desk or technical support.
  8. At the end of the day, suggest a next step; recommend attendees sign up for a future webcast or even schedule a formal sales presentation.
  9. Use the watch list to record notes and capture conversations on top prospects.
  10. Connect with other reps via the dashboard to ensure appropriate attendee coverage

Bonus Tip

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.

Set expectations and manage for success by answering these five (not so) basic questions about your virtual program.

Image of 6Connex Tip Sheet about 5 Key Questions to ask when putting on a virtual event

1) Who?

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.

2) What?

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.

3) Where?

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.

4) When?

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.

5) Why?

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.

How?

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]

Image of 6Connex Tip Sheet a about setting an agenda for your virtual event

Your agenda isn’t just about the timing of topics and speakers. Make your agenda work for you by keeping in mind these tips.

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.

  1. Keep your content sessions under an hour, ideally closer to 45 minutes.  Be sure to build in time for Q&A..
  2. Schedule breaks between sessions, even if it’s only 5 minutes.  Everyone needs a little transition time.
  3. During longer breaks, tell attendees what you want them to do, whether that’s network with peers, visit sponsor booths or browse the resource library.
  4. Keep the day’s full agenda in the main auditorium listing.  Include a specific time to “visit the exhibit hall” or “join the moderated chat” for example.  Remember to make it easy for attendees by linking directly to the specified room or space.
  5. Plan your most critical content for the start of the day, when your attendees are fresh and average attendance is at it’s highest.
  6. Encourage attendees to stay longer – or to come back if they’ve left – by closing out your program with a high-value session.

Bonus Tip

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!

It’s easy to get caught up in the options when choosing the rooms and spaces for your virtual environment.

Image of 6Connex Tip Sheet about choosing your rooms for your virtual events.

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.

  1. Don’t take the room metaphor literally; it should be a guide, not a crutch
  2. Don’t overthink it; while the architecture of your virtual space is very important, it’s your content and messaging that will ultimately drive success
  3. Do create only the number of rooms you need; too many rooms can result in too many clicks to reach the right content
  4. Do make sure every room has a clear purpose; know what you want attendees to accomplish or find in that specific space?
  5. Do give your rooms specific names to help guide the attendees; Solution Center, Main Stage, Breakout Sessions, Expert’s Lounge
  6. Do add unique rooms that support your unique program; Recognition Room, Video Gallery, Sponsor Stage

Bonus Tip

Leverage entitlement to create a unique experience for specific attendee groups, such as a Press Briefing Lounge or a Manager’s Classroom.

The best tool in your live day toolbox, broadcast messages can make a big difference in attendee participation.

Image of 6Connex Tip Sheet about broadcasting messages

Use this powerful feature to tell attendees what to do, then watch them take the actions you want.

  • Plan your broadcast message schedule in advance. Don’t wait until the night before, or the morning of, your big event.
  • Leave room for inspiration; even though you have a schedule, respond to in the moment needs, like a speaker running late, or the latest popular news – World Cup finals, anyone?
  • At the end of each session or activity, preview what’s coming next, while you have the attendees’ attention.
  • Remind your audience to come back for the next live session or activity; try both a 5-minute reminder and a “live now” message.
  • Use broadcast messages to open and close your day. Welcome attendees with excitement about the day and thank them for their time and attention at the close.
  • Be as specific as possible. Instead of simply “Visit the Networking Lounge,” tell attendees what you want them to do, i.e. “Join the conversation and share your experience with peers” or “Get your questions answered live from our experts.”
  • Use fun facts to drive traffic to individual booths versus promoting visits to the exhibit hall.

Bonus Tip

Target messages to specific rooms or booths to highlight a specific content item or to move attendees from one location to another.

Image of 6Connex Tip Sheet talking about assembling a team for your virtual event

No matter how big or small your virtual event program, it’s important to identify early on the individuals who will help you achieve success.

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.

  • Executive Sponsor – The final say on the big picture, and the person who’s most committed to the overall success of the program.
  • Program Managers – A core team of 1-4 people who own the program, overseeing the timeline, the team(s) and progress towards specific project goals.
  • Content Contributors – The individuals you’ll rely on to submit either existing or new content. Webinars, datasheets, training materials, videos – you’ll need a lot of content for any virtual event program.
  • Speakers – Maybe also content contributors, these individuals are your “talent” for live and recorded presentations.
  • Promotion/Audience Recruitment – The individual or team who will manage the promotion of your program, whether that’s outbound demand generation or an internal marketing effort.
  • Representatives – On point to connect with attendees during any live day activity, this team is often sales reps, product managers or other customer support.
  • Design/Graphics Support – A key role, this individual or team will provide brand guidelines, images, signage and ultimate approval on all elements related to your environment look and feel.
  • Sponsor/Booth Liaison – The “go-to” for any sponsors/partners/internal teams who own a booth or room in your environment.
  • Attendee Support – Responsible for all the small questions about your content, your agenda and your overall program.
  • Live Day Team – A mix of all the roles above, it will take full team coordination to execute a successful live day.

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.

Bonus Tip

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.

Get smart about gamification to engage attendees across your program – with your content, your staff, your sponsors/partners and each other.

Image of 6Connex Tip Sheet about gamification and the leaderboards for your virtual event

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.

  1. Make a list of important activities. Do you want attendees to visit booths, listen to keynotes, consume specific content, add items to their briefcase, chat with reps?
  2. Rank those activities in order of importance. Which ones will make the most impact on reaching your program goals?
  3. Assign point values to each activity; be sure points reflect the relative importance.
  4. Provide rewards that motivate attendees. Everyone likes gift cards, while sometimes recognition may be enough.
  5. Set clear expectations regarding how many winners/prizes will be awarded, including how you will handle a tie.
  6. Schedule a start and end time that dictates how long attendees have to earn points.
  7. Promote the Leaderboard and get attendees excited to compete!

Remember:
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.

Bonus Tip

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!

Harness the power of virtual events to connect with a global audience