If you’re still sorting through the (seemingly) infinite number of online event platforms to find the right one for your next event, you’re not alone. Evaluating all the promises of enhanced networking, engaging content delivery, facilitated commerce, new sponsorship opportunities, and more can become a full-time job. At mdg, we’ve developed a process that utilizes 5 “P’s” to measure virtual event platforms’ strengths, weaknesses, and overall ability to deliver on attendee and exhibitor expectations.
Why does your event exist? To keep your audience warm until physical events resume? To maximize revenue? To keep your industry suppliers connected to buyers? To provide CE credits? To build community? Too often we see a rush to technology that ignores the fundamental considerations of your event. The answers to these “purpose” questions have helped guide some organizations to platforms with advanced marketplace functionality, others to technology solutions that allow them to extend their engagement model before and after an event, and others to solutions that create a personalized experience through AI-driven matchmaking and recommendation engines.
A thorough understanding of your audience, their needs, and their preferences for receiving information will build on the first “P” and is essential to choosing the best platform. For example, if education and content are the priorities, focus on livestreaming, UX-friendly platforms, on-demand capabilities, and support. If audience engagement is a priority, focus on features like Q&A, live polls, open chat, and social-media conversations. If delivering value to exhibitors is important, place more emphasis on the online marketplace. Knowing your audience’s expectations will help you formulate a plan to exceed them.
Since platform pricing models vary according to number of attendees, levels of customization, service agreements, and license length, it’s likely you’ll end up with a custom quote. Before you get there, though, approach the demo process with a good understanding of the pricing tiers of various platforms so that you’re not wasting your time with unrealistic options. After determining which features are priorities and which are “nice to haves,” you can assess if certain functionalities are worth the investment.
There’s no perfect platform, and not every platform fits every event. Most promise the same foundational set of features, including the ability to broadcast live and on-demand content, seamless networking capabilities, and enhanced sponsor ROI. Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of leading platforms and aligning them to your audience and organizational priorities will help you narrow down your options, allowing you to spend less time on demos that aren’t relevant and more time testing the performance of a more curated list of possibilities. You may also find that to get the kind of performance you expect, you have to combine multiple solutions.
Selecting the right platform won’t guarantee an amazing event, but it can help. Some platforms offer services such as attendee acquisition, programming support, video production, custom designs, day-of technical support, and overall project management. More often than not, however, you’ll need to pair several partners and solutions to deliver the best virtual experience possible.