Zoom for virtual events: is it really your best option? This has been the question on many planners’ minds. And now that virtual events are set to be the norm in the industry, it’s more pertinent than ever. Because everyone knows Zoom. It’s been around for a while and many companies use it as their go-to conference platform. But how does it fare where virtual events are concerned? Should you even bother looking for another option since Zoom seems like a safe choice?
These are only some of the questions we’ll be answering today. Our incredible host Will Curran is a veteran Zoom user. So that means he can offer you all the guidance on the topic of Zoom for virtual events! If you’re ready to learn more, then wait no further – press play and join us for another awesome edition of the Event Tech Podcast!
Not Zoom Newbies!
As Will explains, he’s been using Zoom for years now. “We’ve been using Zoom as a company, for Endless, for many years. I think five something plus years now. It is our preferred video chat platform internally for all of our events; it’s what we use for all of our client meetings. We’ve probably logged thousands and thousands of hours inside of Zoom as a total”.
“In addition to that, we also have used it as a webinar platform”, he adds. “Both for our straight-up webinars, but also, if you’ve never heard of our other podcast called #EventIcons, we use Zoom as the platform for the recording of that show. One reason why is it allows you to put four people on the screen simultaneously. And we like that kind of Brady Bunch look. And so, we actually used it for #EventIcons to broadcast the live stream of our show, almost like a webinar and almost like a virtual event as well. So, we had to know it very intimately. We’ve seen it evolve over the years and essentially wanted to kind of share our experiences of what it’s like”.
Zoom For Virtual Events: The Two Sides
“Let’s talk about two major differences with Zoom that people need to understand as well. There’s the Zoom meeting element, and then there’s the Zoom webinar element”, Will explains. “So, what most people are used to and use on a daily basis is the Zoom meetings element, where you have a host of the meeting. And you have attendees, and everyone can put their webcam on, anyone can talk whenever they want to talk. Also, there’s a chat, and there’s some whiteboarding elements and some collaboration elements. But it’s really meant for pretty much as if you’re sitting in a boardroom. Anyone can raise their hand, just start talking at any given moment”.
“Then you have the Zoom webinar platform, which is more like going into, for example, a theater. And someone’s on stage, and maybe multiple people on stage. Everyone can watch them, but the people in the audience don’t talk, but they might raise their hand, they might be able to slip a note, that sort of thing. It’s very much audience and stage kind of separated on each other”.
What You Should Ask Yourself
“So, the question I always recommend, if you’re looking at Zoom for virtual events, is that you first go to their website, and then click on the Pricing page. They do a really good job educating everybody on what all the different features are and what’s possible. So, for example, with personal meeting rooms, the Zoom meeting rooms, you can host up to a hundred people for free. Unlimited one-on-one meetings for up to 40 minutes each, for free. And there’s a bunch of other features and things like that included”.
“Well, then when you step up to the next level for the meetings tool, you can do up to a hundred participants again”, he adds. “But you can have a meeting as long as 24 hours. You also get some user management, you get the ability to record onto the cloud and things like that. Then the next step up is you can do a meeting with up to 300 people. Again, meeting, talking, everyone can talk, and it’s more like anyone can raise their hand and join on in. Obviously, you can mute someone and choose to mute them if they’re getting outrageous”.
Understanding The Pricing
A neat feature that Zoom offers is that you always pay for more people. “So, for example, that previous Pro plan that you get for $14.99 per host per month, you can basically bump it on up”, Will explains. “So, they have an option here where you can have a thousand people in a meeting. Then that next step up is that Business level, it’s the $19.99 plan, 300 people. You get some additional things like vanity URLs, custom emails, company branding”.
“And then the next step up is they have Enterprise plans, like any software. They have custom availability if you want to talk to them about unlimited cloud storage. Go in and talk to them about that, but you’re going to have to talk to a salesperson to get the full pricing. And there’s probably some minimums on there as well. So, the Business plan for 20 bucks a month has a minimum of 10 hosts, and the Enterprise has a minimum of 50 hosts. Definitely different settings when it comes to your meetings, as well”.
“Well, when we go in and look at the webinar setting, that’s where you’re going to be paying $40 per host for 100 attendees. Again, you can expand it up to more people can view, you can do up to where 10,000 people could watch a single webinar on here as well. And it has things like, for example, Q&A”.
Zoom For Virtual Events: First-Hand Knowledge
Will elaborates on his experience using Zoom. “So, let’s talk a little bit about the meetings side of things. Obviously, for internal meetings, we still use it to this day, and we love the platform. We think it’s super-duper easy to use. It integrates, for example, with Slack, so all we have to type is /zoom and we can start an instant Zoom room and start chatting with each other”.
“We love, for example, the Google Calendar integration that allows us to instantly add a Zoom meeting to an existing calendar event. And also its recording abilities look really, really good. There are so many possibilities when it comes to recording, and we absolutely love it for meetings. At Endless, our go-to tool for all of our team meetings and our virtual happy hours”.
The Pros & Cons
“Using Zoom is not going to be perfect for every virtual event. But what it’s really, really good at, it’s if you have someone who needs to present content. Especially in one enclosed kind of environment, and then needs to finish, for example, an hour-long webinar, or you’re going to do a panel discussion with a couple of different panelists. Great for that sort of thing”.
“Where I don’t see a lot of value in Zoom is the ability to hop from multiple things to multiple things. So, for example, if you wanted the ability for people to choose your own adventure and go to different sessions, and hop in and out of rooms, well, you’re going to need another system to be able to do that”.
“Where it worked out really well for #EventIcons is that we were needing a platform where we could bring in up to four people, maybe more, to have a discussion around a topic. And what we really liked about Zoom is, from a marketing standpoint for webinars, is that it integrated with HubSpot, and that was one reason, number one feature that we’re looking for”.
“And what we essentially did is set up a reoccurring webinar every single week at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, and it worked out really well, it was seamless. The only thing we had to worry about was communicating with the panelists and adding and subtracting panelists from the system. But what’s great about it as well is you can add panelists. So, I obviously, among a lot of people, needed to come in and out as hosts and be able to host at any time. So we added them all as hosts, they could come in and host at any given moment. But we needed the ability that we could add a panelist in and subtract them when there wasn’t an episode”.
Where’s The Issue?
“And so, what was great about it is that it was super easy to use. But here’s where the problem kind of landed, is that we had this reoccurring series that was happening. We didn’t have the ability to say, “Seven weeks from now, John’s going to be our guest on the podcast, let’s put him on that episode,” because Zoom didn’t allow you to quite do that. We had to just add and remove people every single week, and if we added them too far in advance, it would send them a reminder of every single reoccurring webinar leading up to that point”.
“So that was one of the tough parts, there had to be a very heavy-handed portion of communication with the panelist to understand which link they were going to, made sure they had it. So, what ended up happening is we ended up having to create a role called the podcast manager, who literally sole job was scheduling and kind of handholding guests to make sure they showed up on time”.
What Made Zoom Great
Several things from Will’s experience with the platform make Zoom for virtual events a solid choice under the right circumstances. “We really liked it because it allowed you to record very, very easily. In fact, the cloud recording was really nice, because we could record to the cloud and someone else could access it. I didn’t have to download a file, wait for it to upload to Google Drive, then share it for it to be edited. It recorded very easily”.
“One thing that we also really liked about Zoom initially is the Q&A features. They’re fantastic. In fact, I think it has one of the best Q&A functionalities of any webinar platform. For example, you can click on a question and say, “I’m going to answer this question,” which is great when we had multiple hosts. Sometimes people would ask things like, “Hey, I can’t hear anything, what’s going on?” You don’t want to hop on the webinar and be like, “Hey, John, I know you’re having trouble hearing, here’s how you do it.” Sometimes you just want to type a response. So, what was great about it is it literally had a type and send private messages in response to questions coming in the Q&A panel, which I absolutely loved”.
All The Cool Features!
“And then, what was also great is Zoom had polling platforms. We didn’t really use it for that. But we also really liked the chat as well, so people could send in reactions and things like that. We’d also use it so we could communicate directly with the panelists. They could message us directly, not on the actual webinar that was being recorded, but text directly with us”.
“The video quality was very, very good, compared to some other platforms like GoToMeeting and some others that really downscaled the video. Zoom really kept video quality very high. And I’ve noticed that even when you’re doing a mobile device and calling in for a meeting, video quality always looks pretty spot-on. And it always prioritizes audio over video, so, for example, if someone’s internet connection’s slow, it’ll start dropping the video before it focuses on audio. But the video usually looks really, really good compared to a lot of platforms”.
Even though Zoom for virtual events can be great, it also has its downsides. “Most people don’t realize that Zoom is primarily used for spoken word, it’s used for meetings, it’s used in webinars where people are talking. It is not used for streaming full-quality media”, Will explains.
“Zoom actually does a lot of smart things to compress the audio to make it a lot easier to stream, and that’s why it sounds and looks so good. Well, when it comes to sharing things like high-quality music or a really epic video intro played, you’re not going to get all that low end. In fact, it usually chops off the low end of the audio, so then that way, it can save for the quality of what people are really hearing, the high end and the mid-range, which is where you hear your voices. So, Zoom can actually have a poor audio experience. I highly tell so many clients that if they want audio quality to sound fantastic for music or video trailers, Zoom is not an option”.
Beware Of What You Want To Share
“If you’re sharing your screen, it has this “optimize for full-screen video,” which is kind of a deceptive box. But one of the important things for people to know is that when you’re sharing your screen and playing a video in a PowerPoint, or sharing your screen and showing a video in QuickTime, Zoom is not going to show the full quality of that video in the full-frame rate. What it does is, to save bandwidth and make it work for everybody, is it drops it down to like 10 frames per second”.
“An important thing to know, too, and why Zoom might not be the best platform. If people ask questions on social media or chat in social media, that information does not come back into Zoom. So, if live streaming to social media’s important, and engagement on social media’s important, and you want to be able to engage directly when someone leaves a comment, Zoom for virtual events is not the option”.
Zoom For Virtual Events: Other Considerations
“The hosting structure can be kind of complicated. So, obviously you pay $40 per month per host, so if you are looking at, for example, you want to get a lot of people on webinars, and you have a lot of people hosting between multiple webinars, you’re going to have to buy a lot of accounts for every single person. If you’re looking at doing this regularly, and you want people to be turnkey, be able to set up their own webinars, you’re going to end up paying $40 per user per month, and that can add up really, really quick for a platform as well”.
“If you’re looking at Zoom and you like the quality of Zoom or your attendees are used to Zoom, but you’re looking at expanding and doing multiple Zoom rooms, you’re going to start wanting to look into some virtual event platforms. And asking your technical event production company or your virtual event production company, “Hey, how can we integrate these together and bring it all together there as well?”
“Ultimately, though, at Endless, we decided that Zoom was not cutting it for us anymore from the live streaming standpoint, from a cost standpoint, and everything like that. So we ended up just deciding to move on to a different platform. We still use it internally for webinars, we still use it for the occasional one-off because it integrates really well with HubSpot. But there are honestly so many more platforms available, and I lean a lot more towards some other ones as well. Because they tend to be innovating a lot faster. Zoom was doing a great job and had great quality, but honestly, they’ve kind of hit stagnation at this point, and we’re kind of begging for a little bit more features, a little bit more”.
And that’s a wrap on this week’s Event Tech Podcast! So, this is our official take on Zoom for virtual events. If you’re still unsure of how to navigate your virtual event, get in touch! We’d love to help you take the experience to the next level. So make sure you check all of the amazing content we have. Plus, don’t forget to tune in next week for another awesome episode!