Running a business in a post-pandemic era means going digital in every aspect of your wor,k from meeting clients to even running bigger events. While leaving the familiar setting of in-person interactions behind for a digital one might seem scary at first, online platforms have a lot to offer that can make virtual events even more effective at times than the ones in real life. Virtual conference platforms have plenty of advantages, from a more curated attendee experience to a higher potential for conversion.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the list of top virtual conference platforms, their main advantages, and how to pick the one that suits your needs best so that your next online event can be a success.
What Is a Virtual Conference?
A virtual conference or summit is a professional event that’s organized in the online space. Virtual events normally follow a similar framework and agenda as those in real life, with various presentations and sessions, networking opportunities, and interactive programs. You can also promote your products or services from a virtual stage, or invite sponsors and partners to showcase their offers to attendees on your event platform.
Virtual conferences are typically more extensive than webinars as they feature multiple presentations and can run anywhere between half a day to several days. Online conferences also have more opportunities for attendees to interact with each other and for the speakers or try out practical exercises, rather than simply listening to the speakers. For this reason, virtual summits also sell tickets of a higher value than webinars that are priced lower or offered free.
Just like at a physical location, you can choose to run sessions on a single stage or set up multiple tracks with presentations running parallel, centered around different themes and topics. Your speakers may simply participate from behind their desks, just like the attendees, or they can stand on an actual stage that’s being streamed live to your audience. With the help of an online event platform, you can easily create rooms for small group exercises or 1-on-1 networking to facilitate learning and networking at your event.
So as you can see, you can do pretty much everything with a virtual event platform that you would do at a physical event location. Digital solutions also have added benefits that make them more efficient than traditional conferences.
4 Advantages of Virtual Conferences
They Are More Cost-Efficient
Virtual events eliminate the need for traveling to the event location and commuting to the venue every day. It saves a significant amount of time and expenses for attendees since they can participate from the comfort of their homes, so they will be more likely to invest in a ticket.
Online conferences also spare you the trouble of arranging accommodation for your VIP guests, organizers, and speakers, not to mention renting a costly event venue. You’ll have easier access to top speakers around the world who might otherwise not have the bandwidth to travel to where your event is, not to mention skipping jetlag and being more rested for their presentations.
They Are More Environment-Friendly
Organizing your event in the digital space lets you avoid producing tons of waste that normally accumulate from takeaway food and drink containers, as well as printed promotional materials and handouts. It also significantly reduces the carbon footprint your conference leaves behind due to the elimination of travel.
They Are Easier To Curate
The biggest concern of attendees who sign up for an online event is usually the opportunity to network with other participants or the speakers themselves. Virtual conference platforms provide smart solutions like 1-on-1 chat rooms and digital business cards to make connecting easier.
Some tools even allow for AI matching between participants based on their interests and backgrounds, which is a much better alternative than randomly walking up to someone in a conference hall (just think about how many times you actually followed up with those people after an event.) These curated experiences make connecting the right people more efficient and can even appeal to introverts, who would otherwise struggle to initiate connections in a busy event space.
They Are Easier To Measure
Apart from the number of tickets or products sold, measuring the real success of a physical event can be challenging. When you use an online event platform, you can review metrics for engagement, returning attendees, conversion, and so on in real-time or right after the event. Surveys are also more likely to be filled while attendees are in front of their computers and their experience is still fresh, rather than if they receive them with a delay.
How to Choose a Virtual Conference Software
There are a couple of factors worth taking into account when you’re looking for an online conference platform to host your next event. The most important one is an intuitive interface with the design, navigation, and look and feel that provides a great user experience for your guests. It should be simple to set up and use for even your less tech-inclined attendees so that they don’t miss out on any key event or opportunity while trying to figure out how the platform works.
At the same time, it should be easy for you to dig into its features as well. Event templates and guides can save you a lot of hassle when organizing an online event, especially if you’re doing it for the first time.
If you’re onto something big, moderation tools like breakout rooms will be key for you to facilitate various sessions and provide the best experience for your attendees. Solutions for running polls, Q&As, fireside chats, and networking opportunities can turn a regular conference into something more engaging and help you attract more participants.
You might use your event as a way to not only expand your audience but to straight away turn them into subscribers or customers. In that case, tools for conversion will be a priority for you in the list of features virtual event platforms provide. Analytics and surveys will come in handy too, in order for you to gauge the impact of your event and what you might want to do differently at the next one.
Last but not least, you need to consider the different pricing plans of virtual conference platforms. Some offer yearly licenses for organizers running multiple events per year, while others let you pay monthly and cancel your subscription once your event is over. There are also platforms that charge based on the number of attendees or take a commission from your ticket sales, giving you a more flexible option.
4 of the Best Virtual Conference Platforms
Eventzilla is free for your free events and takes a small commission from each ticket sale. It’s a great option if you’re not sure how your event revenue turns out and want to play it safe. Their calculator helps you estimate how much you’ll earn this way after fees based on your custom ticket price and attendee count. Best of all, you get paid immediately after an attendee submits their payment so you don’t need to wait for cash flow to arrive after your event is over.
Their premium plans have plenty of tools for promoting your event and generating smart reports about its results. You can set up a custom registration page, email campaigns, as well as a flexible multi-track schedule on Eventzilla, and integrate your event with more than a thousand different applications you might already use.
Overall, the platform is more focused on marketing features rather than the event experience or networking, so it’s best for conferences where the content is the most valuable part of the event.
You can take Pine for a test run with up to ten participants per month or sign up for one of their paid plans starting from $150 monthly. A big advantage of being a Premium user is that you get a dedicated account manager, which comes in handy in case something goes wrong before or during your event (and as we know, it often does).
You can stream your presentations from an external platform (YouTube, Vimeo, Twitch, etc.) and use pre-recorded sessions at no extra charge, or use their native live streaming feature for $30 per hour. Pine is extremely well-designed and user-friendly, offering features such as 1-on-1 meetings and private chats for networking. They put a great emphasis on branding and sponsorships, which means you can significantly cut your costs by inviting partner brands to exhibit at your event.
Pine is a great alternative if your main focus is to create an impactful experience for your attendees.
Hopin is free with up to 100 registrations for a 2-hour event, but if you’re looking for something more extensive than a webinar, their premium plans will be a better option for you. For $1 per participant on average, you can host a 3-day event on a complete virtual venue with sessions, networking opportunities, and expo areas. Their native website builder lets you customize your event page and integrate it with Hubspot.
Hopin does take a commission from your ticket sales on top of your subscription, but in exchange, it offers plenty of tools for moderating your event and creating a great experience for your attendees. Some of these features include breakout rooms, a professional backstage, concurrent live video sessions, dynamic networking with live meetings, and private messaging.
Hopin is best for starting small and then scaling up your events with its flexible pricing plans.
B2Match is a community building and event platform that’s primarily focused on networking. Their AI Meeting Recommender pairs people based on their interests and background, which allows for powerful hybrid and virtual networking opportunities. Participants can set up their personal networking profiles, visit virtual booths set up by your exhibitors, and engage with your event sponsors.
B2Match doesn’t fall short in event management and marketing solutions either. Their integrated website builder lets you design your virtual venue with your own branding elements, set up multiple event tracks, and send out automated email campaigns to promote your event. While B2Match has some really advanced features, their plans start from $1500 per event and are scaled by the number of your attendees.
It’s best for event organizers who put networking in the center and want to set up large-scale events.