Buying or hiring use of a virtual event platform can be an overwhelming experience for many event organisers. The pandemic gave rise to hundreds of platforms with everyone claiming to provide the best product.
Unfortunately, this meant that many event organisers found themselves rushed into deciding which either turned out to be the wrong one or presented hidden costs or unforeseen problems.
There are plenty of excellent platforms on the market to suit a range of events and needs, so how do you find them?
During your next platform demonstration, make sure you ask these questions:
1. How many delegates am I paying for?
You need to establish exactly what comes with the package. Are you paying a flat rate for a one-time use of the product with unlimited delegates, or do you get up to 300 delegates for a flat rate and are then charged per person for everyone above that threshold?
Some platforms charge you per registration, even if the delegate doesn’t turn up to your virtual event, which could result in a lot of excess spend.
You must be clear as to how many delegates you are paying for and be sure to get it in writing.
2. Am I buying it or renting it?
This might sound like a strange thing to ask, but many event organisers are confused as to whether they are buying the platform to be able to use it as many times as they like or are renting it on a one-time usage. There are multiple options, so don’t be afraid to ask.
3. Do I get technical support?
Some virtual event platforms have a 24/7 helpline to help you with any technical problems you may encounter before, during, or after your virtual event, yet some do not. Some will charge extra for any support, which is not ideal if there is a problem during the event. Be sure to ask the salesperson to outline exactly what the technical support options are. You should also ask which time zone or where in the world the support staff are.
4. Do I get training?
If you are running a purely virtual event, are you going to be the person letting in delegates and pushing speakers live, or will the platform provide a technician to support you on the day, and what might this cost?
If you have to run the event yourself, make sure you are given full training.
The same is true for any speakers, hosts, or panellists you have scheduled for the event. Who will train them on using the platform on the day, and is a rehearsal required?
5. Will it integrate with my current systems?
You may already have your own registration software; will this connect seamlessly with the new platform? There have been instances where virtual platforms do not integrate with some systems, so be sure to know exactly what you have in place already and be sure to ask if everything is compatible. You may also want to ask where the registrations go once they come in.
6. Can my server handle it?
During the pandemic, one of the biggest causes of virtual event platform failure was down to servers being unable to cope with the traffic.
While in a testing situation for small quantities of people things might be fine, the server may crash if your numbers exceed one or two thousand. It is vital that you ask the virtual event platform provider exactly what is required to handle different numbers of delegate. Not having correct server capability can ruin your entire event.
7. Do I have the right hardware and browser?
It might sound obvious but make a note of your computer model and which browser you often use. Ask the platform provider if what you have is suitable.
8. Can I record sessions to use later?
Again, this might sound obvious, but make sure the platform can record sessions so you can use them for playback purposes later (should you wish). This sometimes comes with an extra cost or may put an extra stain on the server. Be sure to ask where the recordings will be saved, in which format, and how you can download them.
9. I want to use it with a production agency, is this possible?
If you are broadcasting your virtual event live from a broadcast studio or with the support of a production agency, it is a good idea to bring them into the conversation as early as possible. The earlier they join the brief the better they can advise you. Many production agencies are platform agnostic, but they will have a good working knowledge of good – and bad – systems.
Let the platform know you are planning to use an agency and ensure it is compatible.
10. Do I need all the functions?
It’s to be expected that a salesperson will want to tell you all about the platform’s functionality, so it is important to be clear with what you do need and what you don’t need. Audience engagement through polling and chat boxes is usually a popular request, but do you really need a networking element for your virtual event? Don’t pay for things you don’t need.
11. Does it come with sponsorship options?
Monetising some virtual events has become an important element over the last few years. There is no one way of doing this but ask if the platform comes with the ability to personalise with sponsor logos or other assets. They might be able to advise on what other organisers have done to maximise return on investment.
12. Is it secure?
Cybersecurity is one of the greatest threats of our time and you must be sure that the platform is secure from hacking and online attacks. Those working in sensitive industries like pharmaceutical and finance have strict compliance regulations to follow, so be sure to arm yourself with as much information about your or your client’s internal policies. In some cases, major organisations will only permit use of a limited range of platforms in the first place.
13. Is my data safe?
GDPR rules were introduced in 2018 to protect people’s data. It applies to all EU and UK citizens, even if the data owner is based outside of these territories. As the data owner of the event, you are responsible for ensuring all data is handled correctly by the platform provider or you could risk a hefty fine. Ask them about what assurances they offer, anyone who is unable to present a data policy should be treated with caution.
14. Who owns my event data?
This might seem like an odd question, but there are cases in which a platform provider claims an organiser’s data as their own. This data could be your most valuable asset and you need to be sure that the provider will not keep it beyond the terms of your contract. You would be wise to be suspicious of any platform that insists on claiming your data as their own.