When hosting any event, whether it be in-person or virtual, your brand reputation is on the line. Attendees and sponsors expect certain standards, which is why choosing the right technology partner is important, especially during such unpredictable and turbulent times that seem to be defining the year 2020. Choosing the right virtual event technology partner isn't easy. There are tons of vendors out there promising low cost, high quality options to choose from but there's no way to really know if your event will receive the experience they're promising until you take the risk and try it out.
I'm proposing a different way to think about virtual event platform considerations. What if instead of thinking about what you want from a virtual event platform, you think of it as what you want to avoid? This notion was popularized by Warren Buffet's business partner, Charlie Monger, when it came to researching stocks: “you don’t think of what you want, you think about what you want to avoid and invert.” Some of us may be familiar with this pre-mortem mindset - in order to succeed at something, you need to think of all the ways the project could fail and then create plans or pick paths that avoid those situations. When applying that logic to your virtual event platform provider, what could go wrong? Here are a few:
- Attendees can't connect to the event
- The entire platform has an outage or experiences detrimental delays with the connection
- Data breach
- High drop-offs due to difficulties with navigating the platform
- Poor customer service throughout the build and deployment of the event
The list could go on and on. I'm sure you're probably thinking of your own things to add to it already. Does this mean you should avoid virtual events entirely? Absolutely not - there are entire industries that focus exclusively on events and there's nothing out there that says its success relies on in-person participation. What this does mean is that you need to evaluate your event platform options on more than just features and price. Here are some questions you should be asking any virtual event provider when evaluating your options:
1. How does the hosting infrastructure support the event platform?
For a physical event, you need to know if the size of the space can support the number of attendees. That same consideration needs to be accounted for in a virtual event. Location is no longer a limiting factor when it comes to virtual events so the amount of attendees you support could grow exponentially. It's very important to understand how hosting infrastructure works to support events of various sizes in order to ensure that the event experience itself doesn't fail due to technical limitations.
2. How does the platform collect data and ensure data security?
We all know that event metrics are the most valuable form of data when it comes to supporting budget for future events as well as displaying the ROI for the event itself. For physical events, you collect that data through registration information, badge scanning technologies, signup sheets, feedback forms, and good old-fashioned conversations. In virtual events, the types of data you can collect is shocking. You can track paths throughout the site, see how long someone spent in a particular place, see what content resonated and what didn't, etc. -- and you can do this for EVERYONE, not just the ones who struck up a conversation at your "booth". Not only is that data incredibly valuable but it's also incredibly personal. Once you start collecting data online about somebody, it becomes YOUR responsibility to keep that data safe. Just look at what happened at Facebook. Make sure you know how your event platform handles data security before you purchase.
3. What integrations does the virtual event solution support?
Chances are this is not your first event ever. In fact, you probably already invest in tons of other software to support the events you've run in the past. From registration technology to CRMs, it would frankly suck to have to change EVERYTHING you already made investments in to then have to use whatever the event platform uses. In fact, your repeat attendees and legacy sponsors would have to take on the burden of learning something completely new just to even work with you again. That's a big change management and customer service hurdle the event managers would have to take on because you know that's who folks are going to call to ask those sorts of questions. Make sure you understand what your prospective virtual event platform can and cannot support when it comes to technologies you're already using.
4. How customizable is the platform? Can it adopt my branding or sponsors' branding?
You'll want to know how much of the platform can be tailored. Does "customize" mean people can add some logos or make a banner ad or does customize mean they can build a more robust, branded experience throughout the entire experience with all sorts of content? A lot of branding, design, and advertising goes into in-person events so how does that translate to virtual? You'll want to understand how the platform can offer "more than a website" and how branding can manifest in the digital space.
5. How easy it is to use?
Technologies come in varying levels of complexity and it's important to understand how much training and support goes into the platforms you're considering. Will the new platform require an extensive multi-day training? Are you just reading a manual? Will there be "on-site" support during the event itself to handle any technical hiccups that could arise? You want to make sure the solution you choose is comfortable for not only you, but anyone else who might need to touch the platform at some point (including sponsors!).
There's a lot that goes into evaluating and choosing a virtual event solution AND there's a lot on the line. All events are not created equal .. so why should a virtual event solution be one size fits all? If you're looking for a strategic virtual event or exhibit partner, here's where to find us.