Looking for the best virtual event software out there? Here are 30 questions that will help you find and purchase the perfect solution for your virtual needs.

The impact of the novel coronavirus has been far-reaching, accelerating the need for many event professionals to shift from in-person events to virtual events and hybrid experiences.

As most of the world continues to practice social distancing or some form of shelter-in-place, resilient event professionals are opening their event programming to include more interactive virtual events or webinars.

With so many solutions cropping up to bring people together virtually, how can event professionals find the best tools to suit their needs?

To help guide you through this process, we’ve created a list of 30 questions you can ask virtual event platform providers throughout your shopping journey.

The Growth of Virtual Event Solutions

First, let’s take a look at the context that has shaped the virtual event solution market as we know it today.

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Marketing leaders understand the power of having an event touchpoint—whether in-person or virtual—as part of a larger marketing program. In fact, 85% of marketers in leadership roles have identified in-person events as critical for their company’s success.

However, in the last few months, events professionals have had to adapt their strategies to the emergency circumstances surrounding the novel coronavirus and COVID-19. The world took notice as events across the globe were postponed, canceled, or moved to a virtual platform at the beginning of 2020. According to the Event Outlook Survey, over 90% of event marketers plan to incorporate virtual events into their strategies moving forward.

Well-known tech companies led the charge by moving their larger conferences to a virtual event format. This includes Adobe Summit and Atlassian Summit 2020, which were initially live events re-envisioned as remote events. Similarly, Adobe Summit 2020 adapted its highly anticipated Las Vegas event to a virtual format and provided free access to all event activities to all registrants. 

For more ideas on hosting virtual experiences, check out 20 virtual event ideas.

How Virtual Events Differ from Webinars

As organizations continue to discover ways to harness the power of virtual experiences, event professionals are coming up to speed to understand the ins and outs of virtual technology and tools. Before diving into the types of questions to ask your virtual event solution provider, let’s review the main differences between virtual events and webinars.

Virtual events allow event organizers, speakers, attendees, and sponsors to interact remotely through a virtual environment. While webinars and virtual conferencing tools have been around for a while, innovative approaches and tools are more closely aligning in-person event goals to the virtual channel.

Webinars are a valuable channel for connecting with an audience but they differ from virtual events in a few key ways. 

Uniform vs. Curated: First, webinars are uniform. They provide attendees with a single session to attend. If I as an attendee participate in a webinar, I am participating in a single session. Virtual events, on the other hand, can have single-track or multi-track agendas that span across hours or even days. The result is that the attendee has the opportunity to “curate” their own experience and determine which sessions they’d like to attend.

Passive vs. Interactive: Webinars can feature polls, surveys, and Q&As but the majority of webinar interaction is limited to these outlets. Virtual events feature communities where attendees can connect with one another during and in-between sessions. These same community features make it possible for attendees to communicate with speakers and sponsors, as well, as part of the greater event experience. This is in addition to other presentation tools like polls and surveys that are similarly found in webinars.

Similar Experience vs. Unique Experience: Because a virtual attendee has the opportunity to curate their own experience and interact beyond a single session, they are able to personalize the event experience like never before. By this same coin, event organizers can better learn about the preferences of their attendees through analyzing their journey across a virtual event. The resulting insights will help organizers send more nuanced follow-up messages to attendees and better tailor both virtual and in-person experiences to their audiences in the future. 

Expanding the Event Experience

Moving forward, event professionals will invest more in producing high-quality and engaging virtual experiences. Despite the current uncertainties, we predict event programming will expand to include virtual and hybrid events and that in-person experiences will return sometime in the future as the desire to meaningfully connect draws people together.

Virtual Organizer Experience

  • Can I get a demo of the product? 
  • What does the integration with my current event management platform look like?
  • Can I create interactive virtual experiences between attendees and speakers?
  • Can I gate virtual sessions based on ticket types?
  • Can I create multi-track and single track virtual experiences?
  • Can I create multi-day and single-day virtual events?
  • Can I record my virtual event sessions?
  • What are the A/V and system requirements needed to produce a virtual event on the platform?
  • Can I send scheduled and automated personalized emails through the platform?
  • What are the customer branding options?
  • What support or services packages are available?
  • What analytics can I capture?
  • Will this solution allow me to have connected virtual event data tied to my overall event strategy?

Virtual event organizers should look for solutions that cover every aspect of the virtual event experience. 

Virtual Speaker Experience

  • Is there a prep room for my speakers before broadcasting the virtual event?
  • Can I host multiple presenters? 
  • Can my speakers prepare their content in advance and organize it in folders?
  • Can a speaker upload their content?
  • Can a speaker privately chat with other speakers in the virtual solution?
  • Can a speaker take questions from attendees?
  • Can a speaker create quizzes or polls?
  • Can a speaker use a whiteboard to engage the audience?
  • Can a speaker upload external videos?
  • Are there breakout rooms where speakers can moderate a smaller group of attendees?

Focus on tools that help your virtual speaker shine and provide a more lively and memorable speaker experience. Virtual events provide a unique opportunity for attendees to have unusually direct access to expert speakers. Look for tools that focus on this connection.

Virtual Attendee Experience

  • Do attendees need to download software to enter the virtual event?
  • Can attendees access virtual events through a mobile device, tablet, or computer? 
  • Can attendees access virtual events live as well as on-demand?
  • Can attendees chat with other attendees in the virtual solution?
  • Can attendees submit questions to speakers in the virtual solution?
  • Can attendees search and filter virtual event sessions?
  • Are there ways for attendees to engage via chat, polls, and a whiteboard?
  • Is there a way for attendees to go live during a virtual event?
  • Are there ways for attendees to network with each other?
  • Can attendees provide survey answers after the virtual event?

Make content accessible on a variety of channels and devices so both extroverted and introverted personalities can engage.

Interested in how you can incorporate virtual events into your event strategy? Check out our in-depth guide Going Hybrid: How to incorporate virtual experiences into your event strategy.

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