Once you’ve outlined your objectives, engagement strategy and online sessions for your virtual event, the next step is selecting the right virtual event platform provider to bring this vision to life. There are several components to consider:
- Self-Service Versus Full-Service: Most platforms have a self-service offering in which customers can create, design and produce events independent of any assistance from the vendor, which will be less expensive. They will also offer a variety of services to assist you from creative to production, a more expensive route. Self-service is ideal for an organization with dedicated staff for producing several physical and virtual events a year, if not monthly. Full-service may be best for one or two events a year or an organization stretched on staffing resources.
- Support Ecosystem: Next should be a review of the vendor systems in place to assist you in designing, building and producing a virtual event. A systematic approach for managing your event will ensure that all mistakes are minimized, while smoothing the overall process. Determine if the vendor has developed best practices for your particular objectives and/or industry. For example, medical meetings may require a deep understanding of governmental regulations while a lead generation virtual event for technology would not. Find out who your main point of contact will be for your event and ask to have a conversation with them.This will help gage your comfort level with the individual’s ability to understand and meet your business objectives.
- Custom Development Versus Templates: Each virtual event platform provider offers a library of templates. Determine if your virtual event requires a custom look and feel, which will increase the production costs, or if there is an available template that will fit your event and user interface needs.
- Communications Backend: Whether for partner and customer education or for lead generation campaigns, organizations will communicate with their audiences before, during and after the virtual event. Based on your marketing strategy, determine what communications tools are available to you. For example, you should be able to draft and schedule emails to specific audiences; craft email reminders to deploy at a specific time, or send event announcements to all audiences with linkable surveys.
- Platform Reliability and Scalability: The platform must be available when you open the doors to the event and have the ability to scale to hundreds and thousands of attendees. Ask for customer referrals, which are similar in scope and size to your anticipated event. Also, ask what kind of live day event support you will receive within your virtual environment.
- Product Roadmap & Vision: If you are planning to incorporate virtual events as part of your training, learning, event or marketing strategies, you want to select a platform that will grow with your needs. Evaluate if the vendor’s product roadmap and vision aligns with your overall strategy.
- Metrics & Analysis: Each vendor touts the ability to provide metrics regarding attendees’ actions within the virtual environment, such as document downloads, webcast views, and chats engaged. The key is determining not only if the vendor is capturing the right virtual event statistics, but also has tools to analyze these stats to provide insights into behaviors and trends which are mapped back to your overall business objectives.
- Proposal Evaluation: Each vendor will interpret items in your request for proposal differently. It is critical to review and evaluate each proposal carefully to ensure an apples to apples comparison. For example, does the webcasting service include services to edit and capture the content or just the raw video file itself. Furthermore, it’s easy to select a vendor based on final cost. Rather first develop a shortlist of vendors who meet your business and events needs. Pricing can then be leveraged as a negotiating tactic to make the final vendor selection.
Deborah Greif, Managing Director of bXb Online, a marketing agency uniquely focused on activating global business stories and experiences online. This new agency offers hybrid and virtual event solutions that result in experiences that corporations and associations are seeking to deliver to their key audiences.