Our 6-Step Process for Selecting the Perfect Virtual Event Platform (Tried, True, and Tested!)
These days it seems like everyone and their mother is now offering some kind of virtual event platform. Web conferencing solutions, registration systems, and mobile apps have pivoted to enter the space alongside total newcomers and established solutions. With literally hundreds of options to choose from, navigating which platform to use can be a daunting task, even for the savviest of event planners.
So, to help you out, we’ve put together our 6-step (tried and true) process for selecting the perfect virtual event platform for your next conference.
Step 1: Define your event goals.
Before even glancing at another step in this list, it’s absolutely crucial to take some time at the beginning of your event planning journey to define your event goals. We’re not just talking about event Registration or Attendee Numbers here, we’re talking about concrete business outcomes you’re looking to achieve. Include targets in the realm of:
- Generating $X about of dollars in Pipeline
- Bringing in $X in Revenue
- Building a community around a topic (identify scale of community)
- Onboarding new hires for a successful start
Once you’ve taken the time to identify your objectives, we recommend moving on to the second step in our list for selecting a virtual event platform.
Step 2: Define your event needs.
Arguably, just as important as step number one (brace yourself, we’ll be saying this about every step!), the next step here is to identify what your event needs are. Once you’ve grasped the functionalities you’ll need in a virtual platform, it will be A LOT easier to narrow down your selection. To get started, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- What type of event will it be? (example: Live, Simulive, Pre-Recorded, On-Demand, Hybrid)
- Will you need basic engagement tools? (Example: Q&A, Chat, Polls, Video)
- Or will you need advanced engagement tools? (Examples: Activity Stream, Networking (Video, Chat), Matchmaking, Gamification, CTAs)
- What level of branding is needed for the event?
- Will there be sponsor booths?
- What kind of integrations are you looking for?
- Do you need ample analytics and data or just the basics?
- What is your budget?
- Will you be using a self-service approach?
Step 3: Research platform solutions.
Once you’ve identified the key functionalities you’ll need to host your virtual event, do some preliminary research to see what platforms meet your criteria. We recommend using G2 Crowd, The Event App Bible by EventMB, asking your network for recommendations, or turning to our good old friend, Google, for insight.
These research tools will help you build out a list of the event services that match what you’re looking for while weeding out the ones that don’t. Once you’ve taken a look at all the offers and feel confident with your list, move on to step number 4!
Step 4: Attend platform demos.
The only real way to get a feel for a platform if you haven’t already used it before is to attend demos! We recommend:
- Checking out 10 platform demos, max (otherwise you’ll drive yourself insane, and we don’t want that!)
- Using Loom or Quicktime to screen record the demos as you go so that you can save them for your repertoire and review them as needed
- Asking to see both the front end AND the back end of each platform
- Asking for a demo link
- And, seeing whether or not they have any upcoming events that THEY are hosting that you can attend
Going through these motions should really give you a feel for each solution on your list. This brings us to our next point, ranking and referencing your options!
Step 5: Rank & reference your platform list.
For step number five, you’ll want to take your platform list and score options using the RFP Template. Identify the top 2 or 3 platform solutions that ranked the highest and schedule at least 1 reference call with a planner who’s already held an event of the same size, with a similar content mix (i.e., live, pre-recorded), and preferably in your industry.
The more insight, the better. The ultimate goal here is to determine whether or not the platforms you’re looking at will meet your needs so that you can pull off a (very) successful and (very) engaging virtual event.
If needed, include colleagues on another demo call to narrow down your choice selection.
Step 6: Make your selection.
Finally, we’ve reached the moment of truth. After completing steps 1 through 5, you’re at the stage where you’ve selected a platform and are now looking at the contract for it. A few tips here:
- Check for any registration caps
- Check for any streaming caps
- Identify what professional services are offered in the agreement
- And, check out what the tech support looks like (get clearly defined times)
The bottom line: ensure the contract reflects each and every one of your needs. Before pulling the final trigger and moving forward with a platform (or two), it’s important to check out the details and get all of your questions answered. Do not rush this step!
So yes, even though everyone and their mother now offer some kind of virtual event platform these days, using our (tried and true) 6-step process to select the perfect virtual platform should make this task an absolute breeze!
For more conference planning help, check out our #Eventprof tips!