Selecting an online event platform for your association

Insights

Selecting an Online Event Platform

for your Association

Following my contribution to the ESAE webinar “Events: Going Virtual” on 24 June, I wanted to recap the fundamentals of choosing an online event platform.

This article assumes the decision has been made to pivot to online and the association has defined the event objectives and completed the design work. So it doesn’t deal with the “why” but the next question, “what tool should we use to make this event concept a success”.

My aim is to summarise the essential parameters to consider in the online event tool selection process, and to raise as questions to the platform suppliers you will have shortlisted.

Neither I nor my company are linked to any provider, so companies are mentioned without any commercial interest or endorsement intended.

Author

Bénédicte Losseau

Partner, Events

benedicte_05

  • Event components and complexity

The online event platform is your virtual venue – so its complexity and breadth reflect the structure of your event, just like an onsite venue would (parallel sessions, networking corners, experience zones etc.)

For a Board meeting or a committee discussion, an online meeting tool like Zoom, MS Teams or Webex will be more than sufficient.

For a congress including plenary and breakout sessions, exhibition, poster presentations and networking functions, you will require a proper online event platform that connects all elements and allows your delegate to navigate the event through one access point. Tools like EventsAir, Intrado, Vfairs, Bizzabo, 6Connex and many others provide this central virtual hub.

  • Interaction

Interaction comes naturally when professionals are in the same room. But online, it needs to be set up, staged, organised and managed. When selecting the tool, knowing the level of interaction needed for each event component is key. Some platforms offer networking and engagement tools built-in, or you can connect separate tools, like Slido, Braindate by 180e or others, to create this interaction in the most user-friendly way. The experience of delegates and other event stakeholders must be at the centre of this interaction management – so informing them about how to navigate the virtual event and how to interact is also essential.

  • Data

Collecting of data before, during and after an online event has become almost effortless and costless. The availability of data provides opportunities for associations and stakeholders like sponsors. It also creates accountability, in this GDPR era, and requires the data holder to manage expectations, e.g. when a session sponsor expects lists, tracking and behaviour information. When selecting a tool, it should be part of your due diligence process to ask the provider about its data management, security and privacy features, so you find the one that works best with your association’s data management and compliance processes, and also instruct moderators and hosts accordingly.

  • Digital infrastructure and integration

The current digital infrastructure of your association, and how you want it to connect to the digital event platform, are key considerations in the tool selection. Your association has likely invested in software like membership database, CRM, website platform, event management platform and online marketing tools – you should check if these are already either offering elements of online events or connecting to existing online event platforms. The level of integration and the amount and type of data you want to synchronise between this current digital ecosystem and the online event platform is also crucial in selecting it and might have a significant budget impact.

  • Staff

Running an online event requires as much staff as an onsite event, however, in different roles. If you want your team to handle the event production: are they used to producing online events or do you need to plan some learning time? Or do you prefer using the expertise of an external company specialised in online events to manage parts of it, like the hosting or the technical set up?

  • Time

What is your lead time available: 4 weeks, 8 weeks, 6 months or more? Event set up and preparation, speakers and moderators coaching, stakeholder communication are key timeline elements, but also the availability of a supplier within your timeframe.

  • Budget

And last but certainly not least, what is your budget for the tool and how does this fit in the event business model. This includes considering the costs of the platform but also of the other components (webinar and streaming, web design for visual upgrade, additional staffing), as well as the short vs longer term aspect of the investment.

Keeping these elements into account, ranking them in your own priority order, and exploring them with the providers will ensure that you are not missing a key aspect when selecting your platform.

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As the number of online events is increasing exponentially, more and more case studies are becoming available and planners have a multitude of opportunities to try out the experience for themselves.

If you need support, whether to assess your needs, or to help deliver projects, the Exempla team can provide associations with independent advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

Following my contribution to the ESAE webinar “Association Events: Going Virtual” on 26 June, I wanted to recap the fundamentals of choosing an online event platform.

This article assumes the decision has been made to pivot to online and the association has defined the event objectives and completed the design work. So it doesn’t deal with the “why” but the next question, “what tool should we use to make this event concept a success”.

My aim is to summarise the essential parameters to consider in the online event tool selection process, and to raise as questions to the platform suppliers you will have shortlisted.

Neither I nor my company are linked to any provider, so companies are mentioned without any commercial interest or endorsement intended.

Author

Bénédicte Losseau

Partner, Events

benedicte_05

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