Virtual Platform Design: What is it really?
The virtual event platform design concept is simply the elements of your brand that come to life when you use creative tools in this interactive, virtual space for events and meetings. It’s what you do to engage audiences and maximize ROI for those that invest in you.
Identifying the online platform with the creative ideation that will push you to recreate the vibe of an in-person conference or trade expo over the internet isn’t as easy as it seems. Virtual hosting platforms come in all shapes and sizes. And they all have different levels of flexibility and customization at the core of the build.
But…selecting the best platform isn’t just decided by features and benefits. Your event platform is:
- How you will build and emphasize your brand
- How you creatively promote sponsors and engage participants
- Your pathway to increasing revenue channels
- The way to gather real-time analytics
Dealing with technology in a new way when it comes to virtual platforms should not be a quick decision. It’s not just about what you can put into it today. It’s about what it can do for you and your attendees 365 days a year. To elevate your event beyond your guest’s expectations, work with an experienced creative team that have production talents. They can help you define the branding and delivery of every detail.
How do you make a choice that puts your brand on the creative map and kicks boring webinars in the tail? Here are the specific design capabilities you should have on your checklist.
Ability to Customize
Creating an on-brand event experience means integrating your brand and messaging throughout the virtual event platform. From websites, registration forms, and the virtual environment itself. Customizing your brand at each stage will ensure a dynamically creative experience for your audience, sponsors, and partners.
Check to confirm the platform gives you the flexibility to customize your brand and messaging for different event types. For example, a medical conference is going to need to look unique from a gaming conference. Can you customize the attendee experience with things like personalized schedules and agendas? Or making some sessions visible to some people versus what is available to everyone?
Audience Engagement Tools
Find out what tools are offered for things like:
- Chat rooms
- Breakout sessions
- Live polling
- Social sharing
Having an account manager to support your platform can also help. They’ll ensure you don’t go overboard with features to avoid a negative experience for attendees. This is a big topic, covered extensively in this eBook on virtual engagement.
Connections & Networking
The top two reasons most people attend events is to learn and make valuable connections with like-minded people. Discussion forums or live chat feeds are obvious solutions for this type of engagement. But, as human beings, we gain so much value from information and emotional connection when we see someone’s face when speaking to one another. The ability to have live video calls within the platform, either one-on-one or in a group, is a great way to replicate the value you would get from an in-person event.
Consider housing an “Attendee Library” where interesting, pre-event content is announced and gives guests a head start to connect with one another. You could set up a simple Q&A chat room for them to banter about the content and build a buzz for what’s to come in the full event. Foster “Icebreaker” activities to, well, break the ice. Split attendees into project groups. Have them work on mini projects prior to the event then add some element of gamification to the final outcome.
Engaging Sponsors & Exhibitors
This process is really no different from the live event. However, what does change is that you now have new elements for sponsorship. At a virtual event you don’t need lanyards or sponsors for coffee breaks, but you will have different opportunities for sponsors to showcase their brand, like:
- Educational sessions to host
- Banner ad campaigns
- Pop-ups and footers that target specific audience interests.
Make sure the platform you choose enables you with the tools you need to show sponsors their ROI. Having on-demand capabilities increases their visibility long after the event, which is a big selling point and worth the money.
The same goes for exhibitors. Explore platforms that allow exhibitors to participate in the event through virtual booths. Attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors can arrange live video calls (group and 1:1), inquire about product features, and schedule demos. Make sure there are no limits on the duration of calls. Support exhibitors with auto lead capture. And provide dashboard capabilities for post event analytics including number of leads, meetings, page views per exhibitor and more.
Data Management & Analytics
Data helps you determine your events success and figure out what improvements to make in the future. Captured data is one of the main incentives for your sponsors and exhibitors to put money into your event. What is the depth of information you want to extract … is it attendee downloads, which exhibitors and sponsors they interacted with? Ask:
- What type of data a virtual platform can collect
- What reports it will help you generate
- How that data is held in a secure and compliant environment
Creativity in design is often overlooked for those making their first investment in a virtual platform. If you are experts at running all types of events yourself, then the sky is the limit. You won’t need much support, just a long-tail menu of options that you can choose from.
If your needs are more custom and you want a supportive partner that will onboard and assist you once the platform is built, emphasize that in your due diligence questions:
- Will they help with set-up?
- Is there an onboarding process?
- What about support on the day of the event?
- Do they have other add-on services that can help things like AV requirements and remote speaker management?
Make sure their support options are clearly described and a single point of contact provided so you won’t be wondering who to call if you need help. Knowing these answers will help you decide whether the solution is going to be a good fit for your events in the long-run and give you a much better return on your investment.
Don’t rush the process. Remain objective. And involve the right people from your organization from the start. Get stakeholders involved too — their opinion and feedback will be important. Ask questions and discuss workarounds and you’ll find the whole process will go a lot smoother than you thought possible.