A virtual event platform is a software that enables users to host virtual conferences, meetings, seminars, online trade shows, virtual sports events, and much more with relative ease.
They come packed with features that go beyond traditional video conferencing software.
What makes a virtual event platform unique is that it provides both peer-to-peer interactions as well as one-to-many interactions for the participants. This interactivity and engagement is what makes it one step ahead of present day webinar tools.
In fact, they can be accessed through a web browser to create, host, and manage virtual events. Users can participate in virtual events through the web or mobile browsers.
A virtual event is akin to a social event happening at scale. It is hosted by a group of people or by a specific entity with a large number of audiences in attendance.
Video conferences are largely used for internal meetings, discussions, or for day-to-day decision-making. Both formats have different objectives and purposes. There are still more differences that distinguish a virtual event platform from a video conferencing tool.
The table below captures some of them.
Built to host tens of thousands of participants.
Usually used for smaller and private events where matters of confidential nature are discussed within the members.
Admins can enable waiting rooms where guests can be asked to wait in the line until the entry is granted. Other interactive elements are restricted or unavailable.
Allows only guests belonging to a specific organization or group to attend the conference. The admin has to specifically invite the guest to the event.
Used for events with large audience participation like sports events, entertainment shows, public performances, etc.
Comes equipped with a host of interactive elements like emoji reactions, Q&A sessions, polls, surveys, Wordclouds, chat rooms, virtual guest lounge, etc.
Built to host a relatively smaller number of audience.
Allows guests to join impromptu. Hosts can restrict entry based on prior registration, paywall, or invite-only access.
During the past two years, there has been a spike in the number of virtual events that are being organized around the world. Markletic found in its study that at least 49% of respondents host at least 20 to 30 events per year.
Some plausible reasons include:
COVID-19 has brought all plans of onsite events to a screeching halt. However, businesses, marketers, and other entities do need the power of events to bring together people.
Right from introducing a new product to the market to making a big announcement, events are necessary to bring together people and make them part of an experience.
Virtual event platforms can help recreate that experience, albeit in a different way without diluting the experience.
A single physical event can host participants who can actually arrive at the venue in person. That restricts the reach and also the hype that a brand can achieve through the event.
A virtual event makes the whole world a stage for a performance. It makes it easy for users from all around the world to attend the event without any hassle.
While a physical event can be attended by thousands of people, a virtual event can be attended even by millions.
Planning and organizing a physical event is no mean feat.
In fact, the challenge is so huge that the event management industry is expected to grow into an 11.4 Billion USD behemoth by 2024. Right from the right venue to accommodate all guests in managing all logistics, planning, and organizing a physical event requires the coordination of several stakeholders.
Compared to that a virtual event is comparatively easy and less strenuous. Also, it offers a host of benefits that physical events cannot.
A virtual event can be rightly compared to an online marketing campaign. You can account for every single dollar spent, the outcome it delivered, and also the means you can take to optimize the campaign performance.
A virtual event does not just collect visiting cards, it acquires leads that have high potential to convert into paying customers.
Furthermore, the benefits of event marketing which was off limits for small businesses due to their limiting spending limits. With virtual events it falls well within their reach. Virtual event platforms create a level field for all businesses.
Does that encompass all reasons why we should turn towards virtual events?
As a matter of fact, there are still more benefits that a virtual event platform can offer.
A virtual event platform creates a connection between the participants, hosts, and the world at large. In the process, it also brings several benefits to the table.
Virtual events allow events to be hosted in multiple formats. They offer events to be hosted as live events where participants can interact with hosts in real-time.
Alternatively, they can also be recorded and streamed by guests as playbacks at their convenience. If required, hosts can also monetize the event video with a paywall and serve it as an on-demand offering.
There is a downside to physical events that might have been overlooked until now. They are always one-sided and do not offer an inclusive guest experience.
Virtual events augment an event experience by offering integrated chat rooms, polls, Q&A sessions, emoji reactions, and similar interactive elements. These features make the guests feel that they are an active part of the virtual event even if they are not physically present in it.
Can a virtual event be a complete replacement for a physical event? Not exactly. But, it can come closer with an immersive visual experience. Virtual event platforms use high-end video codecs that provide HD video broadcasting that liven up the event experience even if physical presence is amiss
Most virtual event platforms take the form of web-based solutions that can be accessed through a web portal. All one needs is a web browser or a mobile browser. There is no need for special software downloads, video equipment, or infrastructure. It is only in some cases that event organizers sent specific audio and video production equipment to speakers.
However, in most cases, a virtual event platform helps conduct an event without any specific hardware requirement.
A virtual event platform has capabilities that can engage and entertain guests with interactivity. It comes equipped with speaker lounges where host speakers for the event can catch up for a quick chat until the event starts in full swing.
Similarly, hosts can also enable e-lounges for participants where they can consume content created for the event or engage with other guests before, during, or after the event. In other words, it creates an avenue for one-to-one as well as one-to-many interactions.
This helps create an event experience that is not far from a physical event experience.
A virtual event makes it easy for the host to collect feedback from guests. They can leverage star ratings, text reviews, emoji reactions, or even surveys to gauge the event experience. Based on the event experience, they can always go back to the drawing board to improve upcoming event experiences.
Similarly, it is also easier to collect a variety of data that can be used for further analysis. Such data can tell what kind of content attendees engaged with the most, how many attendees visited the landing page or signed up through the event, how many demo requests were received, etc.
At any point in time in a year, events happen across all industries and at varying timelines. For each industry, a virtual event platform can provide unique capabilities that will maximize guest experience and augment the event’s success.
Here are some industry-wise use cases of a virtual event platform
Creating hype around a product launch, tuning up the curiosity around a product feature, organizing a lineup of speakers about a trending topic — these are typically activities that a marketer dabbles in from time to time.
In the offline world, the options are endless to turn any event into a great success. But, to create a buzz in the online medium through events, marketers need the support of a virtual event platform. They can use it to host webinars, product launches, workshops, customer summits, annual conferences, etc.
Governments and public service agencies usually resort to the press for making public announcements and for giving updates. With virtual event platforms, they can turn the one-way communication model around and turn into a two-way communication model.
A virtual event platform can enable the public to respond and react as and when the updates are giving.
Not-for-profit organizations work towards a specific goal. Most often, they work in far off locations where stakeholders cannot always visit and check for progress.
With the help of a virtual event platform, they can organize periodical events through which the progress of a project, the benefits attained by beneficiaries, etc. can be showcased in an interactive manner.
A virtual event platform can solve the problem of ensuring sound stakeholder relationship management for not-for-profit organizations.
Religious events, collective prayers, and similar events usually draw crowds in large troves. However, this has proven to be impossible and even risky in recent months, especially after the pandemic outbreak.
Can religious organizations still pursue their activities in such a scenario?
A virtual event platform can help create a customized virtual event ambiance where the prayer sessions and other events can be carried on without any hassle.
Perhaps, the biggest beneficiary of a virtual event platform could be corporate organizations. When the pandemic struck the world, corporates had to either cancel their in-person meetings and interviews or move them to the virtual medium.
Existing video conferencing tools have several limitations which makes it difficult for corporates to achieve their objectives. With a virtual event platform, they can conduct all-hands gatherings, town hall meetings, internal events of scale, or even full-fledged job fairs.
The future of education will not be restricted to classrooms. They will take place on a mobile screen, tablets, and desktop monitors. They will be accessed anywhere, anytime at the student’s discretion. Virtual event platforms will set the stage for virtual learning.
Virtual event platforms will make virtual coaching classes a reality where students can interact with teachers individually or in a group. Both teachers and students will reap benefits like flexibility in schedule, self-paced learning, and personal convenience
Virtual event platforms came to the limelight in recent years when the need for instant interaction at scale became necessary. They fill the void that video conferencing tools have created due to their limited capabilities. The right virtual event platform can turn an ordinary event into a high-engaging and much-talked-about event.