With remote work being the new normal across myriad industries, companies are finding themselves immersed in much trial-and-error as they muddle through tools and strategies to get it right. Event management companies, and the businesses that rely on their products, services, and expertise, have been extraordinarily challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic over the last 20 months or so. With events halted worldwide, from conferences to product launches to trade shows and fundraising galas, the event management industry has had to adapt to change more swiftly than ever.
Virtual event platforms have emerged as an excellent technological adaptation to fill the space that was emptied by limitations and restrictions imposed on in-person gatherings because of the global pandemic.
What Is an Event Platform?
An event platform is a flexible and interactive software solution that provides event organizers with customizable tools to create and host virtual meetings, conferences, and other types of events. Beyond a standard Zoom call, a virtual event platform transforms mundane video conferences and webinars into something more immersive and interactive. With elements like virtual booths, breakout rooms, polls and surveys, or even fireside chats, a virtual platform brings the feel of a live event into the digital world.
Not surprisingly, the virtual events market itself is experiencing unprecedented growth. The industry that was valued at $20 billion in 2017 grew to $94 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow an additional 23.7 percent by 2028.
Why Are Event Platforms Important?
Event platforms matter because, like it or not, that is the event location today. It took a pandemic to make everybody realize that there’s an audience that wants content delivered digitally, and now that it’s out there, the genie can’t be put back in that bottle. Some in this group are new customers who have never attended a live event. In fact, 34% of planners consider increased attendance the most positive result of pivoting to virtual events. Even when we get back to live, there will always be that contingent that wants to stay online.
If an organization or event host decides they don’t want to just do a Zoom call, or a Teams meeting, or a Webex video conference, an event platform is the way to go for a more customizable high-quality event. Zoom is always going to look like Zoom and Webex is always going to look like Webex, but a virtual event platform can give the event a look all its own—a look that reflects the company’s corporate brand.
One of the biggest advantages of event platforms is that everything the event offers is available to attendees all in one place. Participants don’t need to leave the event to visit another website to view something, take a quiz, or play a game. Everything is included right on the platform they logged in to, and everyone gets a front row seat.
What Does the Typical Client Want in an Event Platform?
Besides top-quality video, the types of features that are available and customizable with the best event platforms range from typical things like branding and logos, text and video chat, and breakout rooms to more stimulating engagement tools like live polling, pre- and post-event data analytics and reporting, and even treating attendees to snacks or cocktails from participating vendors. The sky’s the limit.
But just because event hosts can offer innovative bells and whistles doesn’t mean they necessarily should. Some event platform features will be overkill for a lot of clients. Content is still king, and event organizers need to remember to respect the audience’s time. Flashy features don’t mean engagement, so hosts shouldn’t waste participants’ time with a treasure hunt on the platform if there is no content there adding value. The majority of attendees, especially in the B2B sector, just want quality information—not entertainment—and they want it quickly.
Here at ICV Digital, when we meet with a client to create an event using our in-house event platform, Rubicon, the first thing we do is establish the three most important components of the event: content, audience, and presenters.
As we say here at ICV, it’s always about the content and always will be about the content. Unique features can be fun and exciting, but without good content that is curated to the event’s specific audience, those features won’t matter.
An understanding of the preferences, expectations, and style of the presenter(s) is essential. Knowing what kinds of visual aids they typically use, their skill level as it pertains to technology, the size of the audience to which they usually present, and even the personality traits of the presenter(s) will help build a cohesive virtual event platform that will meet the needs of the client, the presenter, and, most important, the audience.
Considering the audience is obviously of utmost importance when planning any event, and in the event platform business, some things that need to be considered are the extra features the event platform should have. One size doesn’t fit all, and a client that thought X, Y, or Z was important to include in an event six months ago, or a year ago, might not consider it to be appropriate now. Some audiences would probably love to be able to press a button on their screen and throw digital confetti at a speaker who has just wrapped up their talk; others, not so much.
In-Person AND Virtual
While most of us are looking forward to being together in person, with no restrictions, there is no longer one event medium that is superior to another, and that’s OK. In-person events provide value and virtual events do too, especially in today’s global digitally aligned world. The event management industry is poised to no longer have events be defined at all by the medium, but merely by content and experience, and the best event platforms make sure they will be judged well.
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