HomeThe Virtual CrunchInnovationAre virtual event platforms taking the center stage?

Are virtual event platforms taking the center stage?

With in-person events temporarily postponed due to health concerns, virtual event platforms took center-stage in 2020.

If you’ve been online at all this past year, you’ve seen an advertisement promoting a virtual event. It makes sense. After all, in-person events are a no-go right now because of COVID-19. But maybe you’ve thought to yourself, “What is a virtual event anyway?”

Virtual events are very similar to in-person ones, except they’re hosted over the internet rather than in a single physical location. Still, people show up at an appointed time, listen to speakers, watch entertainers, network with each other… All the regular, in-person event details, except online.

Oftentimes, virtual event content is recorded and made available to audience members after the event concludes. In fact, that’s what we did for Nutshell’s BOUNDLESS 2020 event — you can check out the session recordings on YouTube.

Here’s the thing, in order to host a virtual event, you’ll need a virtual event platform. Let’s dive in:

A little girl belly-flop diving into a swimming pool from a platform.

What is a virtual event platform?

A virtual event platform is a tool that will allow you to recreate the vibe of an in-person conference or trade expo over the internet.

Users should be able to host multiple speakers in both live-streamed and pre-recorded sessions using this kind of software, as well as enable attendees to interact with event hosts at predetermined times.

This kind of tool is different from a virtual meeting software like Zoom or GoToMeeting. Virtual meeting software is designed for small groups to come together in an intimate, face-to-face way — even when participants happen to be miles away from each other. These solutions generally featured limited permissions and features as well.

Virtual event platforms are different because they provide administrators with a multitude of ways to engage with attendees, including waiting rooms, polls, Q&As, live chat, and more. Where virtual meeting software places every user in one “room,” virtual event software is for presentations between a handful of speakers, and all attendees are “in the audience,” with their webcams and microphones turned off.

You can think of virtual meeting software as bringing users together to sit at one table, whereas virtual event platforms place users in the audience and the presenters are on the stage.

What can you do with a virtual event platform?

Now that we know what a virtual event platform is, let’s talk about what you can do with it. There are quite a few options, which we’ll cover below:

Virtual events

Of course, it wouldn’t be a virtual event platform if you couldn’t host virtual events on it. The kind of event you host can range from small, exclusive webinars to large get-togethers that include thousands of people from around the world.

Basically, we’re talking about any virtual event that features one or more speakers and an audience that tunes in to listen and learn, but not necessarily speak themselves.

Q&A sessions

A proper virtual event platform will feature an integrated Q&A system so that attendees can ask speakers and/or moderators questions at specific times during the virtual event.

It doesn’t matter what kind of event you’re hosting, in-person or virtual, audience engagement is key. But gatherings hosted over the internet need to pay special attention to engaging audiences as attendees can easily log off and do something else when they get bored.

A Q&A session is a great way to engage your audience and bring value to them during your virtual event. When selecting a virtual event platform, make sure it has this feature.

Audience chats

You’ll want to choose a virtual event platform that allows attendees to ask speakers questions at appropriate times. But don’t forget about audience chats, too!

Many people attend events to network with their peers. This can be difficult to do in a digital setting — especially if a convenient chat option isn’t provided. Select a virtual event platform that enables attendees to talk with each other, as well as speakers and admins.

Interactive workshops

Interactive workshops, also known as breakout sessions, are usually small trainings that allow attendees to get “down and dirty” with specific topics, ask questions, and otherwise participate much more than they can during standard keynotes. 

During an interactive workshop, attendees should not be muted and encouraged to engage in back-and-forth dialogues with moderators and other viewers. Make sure the virtual event platform you invest in will allow you to host interactive workshops.

Audience polls

Another way to keep your audience engaged during a virtual event is to ask them questions via a digital poll. Most virtual event platforms allow for some kind of questionnaires that can be distributed before, during, or after the virtual event in question.

What should you ask your attendees? Anything you want! For example, ask them what session they’re looking forward to most or how to improve your next virtual event.

From the movie "Mean Girls," an entire auditorium of students all raising their hands at the same time.

Free handouts

If you’ve ever been to an in-person event, especially one hosted for business professionals, you know that handouts are abundant. From event schedules to lesson materials, sales pitches, and discount coupons, event attendees always leave with a pile of stuff.

You’ll want to make sure that the virtual event platform you choose makes it easy to hand out these pieces of content as well.

Live streaming

The best virtual event platforms will allow you to host your event on a specific website and stream your sessions to social media and YouTube.

By integrating your event platform with various social networks, you’ll be able to engage more people and expose your company brand to a wider audience. And isn’t that the reason you’re hosting your event in the first place? Select a virtual event platform with this feature.

Custom landing pages

Presumably, you’re not hosting a virtual event for the heck of it. You’re probably doing it to promote your company brand and reach a targeted audience. Because of this, you’ll want to have attendees register for your event so that you can acquire their contact information.

We suggest working with a virtual event platform that offers custom landing pages for this purpose. That way you can embed forms and widgets of your choosing, and also select colors, images, and logos that reflect your branding.

Event marketing options

If you don’t promote your virtual event, no one will attend. Fortunately, many virtual event platforms feature marketing tools you can use to help draw a crowd.

For example, your platform of choice might give you the ability to create email lists based on registration forms and send automated messages to remind them about your upcoming conference, workshop, or seminar. While you probably already have marketing tools at your disposal, ones built into your virtual event platform of choice can be quite handy.


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