With the coronavirus crisis in full swing and in-person meetings on indefinite hiatus, countless companies and marketers are scrambling for ways to stay connected to clients and provide critical business information.
Fortunately, the emergence of virtual event platforms is making it easier to host online events, stay in contact with target audiences and deliver essential brand updates when needed most.
Below, we look at what a virtual event is, key types of online business events and remote event platforms every leader should consider to navigate this new reality.
What is a Virtual Event?
A virtual event is any internal or external business meeting, presentation or conference conducted solely within an online environment. Virtual event formats and length vary depending on the event software, purpose and number of attendees, providing organizations a variety of options for enhancing brand interaction and sharing valuable information without the need to meet in person.
Even during times of ‘normal’ operation, virtual events can provide company leadership and teams a flexible, user-friendly alternative to communicate with clients, host large-scale meetings and educate audiences on trends, updates and services. With so many platforms and options now available, bringing large teams and groups together online is easier than ever.
“For businesses that rely on B2B networking, trade shows and other in-person events, social distancing and the fear of mass transmission have forced them to get innovative – and do it quickly,” says Robert Ratliff, Director of Digital Strategy at Marca Global®. “Fortunately, many companies have already done a large portion of the work.”
Virtual events: 3 types every business should know
Knowing which virtual event platforms offer the best fit means knowing which formats are available and which can deliver the best results for your team.
Here’s a look at the 3 types of virtual events to add or consider for your online event program:
1. Virtual conferences
Virtual conferences are much the same as in-person conferences in that they’re structured around real, complex agendas. Virtual conferencing includes all the trimmings of a large in-person event – keynote speakers, group interaction, presentations, etc. – as well as opportunities for attendees to engage and absorb content across multiple sessions.
Though perhaps not as effective for networking or capturing leads, virtual conferences do allow employees to learn, access valuable content and share ideas in meaningful, often inspired ways.
Webinars offer a powerful and popular online tool for educating large groups on important industry topics and trends, ensuring valuable, actionable content is delivered quickly and with maximum impact. Typically 1-to-2 hours long, webinar offerings are generally made available for free or a small fee and can include anything from pre-recorded videos to live presentations and Q&A sessions, depending on the desired level of engagement.
Webinars continue their dominance as one of the most widely used virtual events out there.
Hybrid events can include anything from company-wide events, department briefings, sales meetings, training sessions and more. Even before the current crisis, hybrid virtual events were allowing companies to bring employees together from across the country or the globe, all without paying exorbitant travel expenses or making time-consuming adjustments to everyone’s schedule.
The ability to hold team or departmental gatherings online provides a level of flexibility and savings often not available with in-person scheduling.
“Although digital alternatives to in-person events don’t completely replicate the experience,” says Ratliff, “the essential aspects of B2B networking can be accomplished with good internet, diligent planning, and an innovative spirit.”
5 Virtual event platforms to consider
With event types in mind, it’s time to look at a few virtual event platforms that may provide viable online event solutions for your business.
Because communication needs vary by business, it is important to carefully research and vet each platform before making a full commitment.
INXPO is virtual event and conference software centered on video streaming solutions including “Live Streaming, Webcasts, Virtual Events and Video Portals, for events and conferences for businesses of any size.”
Among INXPO’s claims is its ability to deliver an array of live streaming options, webcast/webinar functionality and event software that manages everything surrounding the day’s virtual event schedule (if you choose).
Unlike most other platforms, this enterprise video tool offers a virtual lobby and gives employees the option to create virtual avatars for attending different online sessions.
INXPO received an overall 4.7/5 customer reference rating based on 1,264 ratings on featuredcustomers.
BigMarker is a web-based event platform offering users video summit, series webinar and virtual conference solutions.
It is BigMarker’s web-based foundation that sets it apart from other event software. This functionality allows users to simply visit an event link to attend the next meeting or session.
This virtual event tool can be used to deliver both live streams and pre-recorded presentations, as well as to automate one-time or recurring sessions at your discretion.
BigMarker received a 4.8/5 rating on Capterra, based on 140 product reviews.
vFairs is an online events portal offering solutions to “Host Virtual Job Fairs, Online Trade Shows, Online Conferences & More.”
Among vFairs more notable features are tools for creating virtual trade shows, online conferences and job fairs for remote audiences. It also offers virtual onboarding solutions for online engagement and training of new hires.
And like INXPO, VFairs allows attendees to navigate a virtual lobby via customized avatars, thereby enjoying a more immersive experience.
WorkCast was initially designed as a webinar platform, though it has since evolved its offerings to include more robust virtual event hosting management and monitoring solutions.
A web-based virtual event platform, WorkCast can be used without ever needing to download software. It also provides full event set-up services to make event hosting a little easier.
Bizzabo is an event strategy and hosting service allowing start-to-finish management of small and large-scale B2B events.
As a holistic virtual event platform, Bizzabo offers a range of digital event planning and marketing solutions, including easy event set-up, one-on-one networking, audience engagement tools and more.
It also comes with an easy-to-use interface and integrates with more than “1,900 platforms” for a more comprehensive event management experience.
Marca Global CEO Colleen Brown was a featured presenter at the 2020 Disruptive Tech Virtual Summit, a recent virtual event hosted with Bizzabo technology.
Are you incorporating these technologies into your business strategy?
COOs, project managers and event coordinators: have a favorite virtual events platform… or one to avoid at all costs? Share your experience with event software and hosting online events in the comments below.