How to Choose a Digital Event Platform
Use our digital event inventory to make sure you’re asking the right questions.
The right digital platform can make your virtual event a smashing success—choosing the right one(s) requires a solid decision-making foundation. The landscape of technologies has expanded rapidly to meet today’s increased demand. Legacy players have scrambled to increase capacity and add features, but face challenges with scalability and stability. Newcomers offer platforms tailored for large-scale digital events, but lack the experience and continuity of more established providers.
There are more than a handful of providers to choose from.
Before diving head-first into vetting individual platforms, it’s crucial to establish the aims, objectives, and requirements of your specific event. With that information in hand, you’ll be able to build an efficient, effective platform ecosystem that helps your event succeed.
We’ve boiled the information-gathering process into ten questions to ask yourself (and your team):
1. Who is your audience?
Your team has hopefully developed extensive profiles of your target audience, but for this exercise, we can keep it high-level. Are you looking to engage internal (and perhaps mandatory) attendees? Targeting valuable potential customers? Influencers and thought leaders? Or maybe you’re aiming for the broadest audience possible? Knowing who your audience is up front will help you make the right follow up questions.
2. How large is your audience, realistically?
Audience size impacts more than technical considerations. The number of attendees impacts engagement strategies, moderation needs, content design and delivery, and more.
- Small audience (2-10,000 attendees) High engagement, easy moderation
- Medium Audience (10,000 – 25,000 attendees) More limited engagement, complex moderation
- Large Audience (25,000 – 100,000+ attendees) 1:many broadcast model, gated tools, support and moderation challenges
Just because you think you know what size audience to expect, be prepared to pivot if those numbers turn out to be a lot higher or lower than you originally expected.
3. How do you plan to deliver your primary content?
Digital-first events are built on three primary types of content:
- VOD: All content accessible all the time.
- Live: Broadcast in the moment and streamed via video player.
- Simulive: Pre-recorded content presented as live (sometimes with live Q&A).
There are no hard and fast rules here, so feel free to mix and match. Opus has had great results with a mix of all of the above.
4. What type of experience do you want to provide your audience?
Tailoring your platform(s) to your event’s needs is important when you’re trying to create an effective, efficient experience. Some primary platforms contain more bells and whistles than you might imagine, but that doesn’t always make for an ideal experience. Sometimes less is more when you’re focused on effective message delivery and inspiring emotional outcomes.
Find the right delivery method for your content.
- 1:Many Mainstage Broadcast
- Breakout Meetings
- Live Chat
- Live Q&A
- Live Polling
- Audience Networking
- 1:1 Meetings
Think of your platform like your venue—you can provide ancillary services to avoid screen fatigue and mix things up for your attendees. Taking your audience off-platform could provide a much needed palate cleanser for longer events.
5. Will your event be public or require registration?
Registering attendees enables user behavior tracking, segmentation and targeting, and a number of other benefits. It will impact your attendance numbers, however.
Tiered registration levels provide maximum flexibility.
Registration doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing; we have implemented tiered registration systems with great success in the past.
- Registration Required
Either way, have a solid analytics strategy defined to clearly report on audience activity throughout the event.
6. Will you use personalized content recommendations?
One benefit of registration is the opportunity to build personas for your attendees. These personas can feed into personalized content recommendations to help drive deeper engagement. This system can scale from a few pre-designed attendee tracks to a more robust AI-powered recommendation algorithm.
- Pre-fabricated content tracks
- AI-powered content recommendations
Think automated recommendations like Netflix-style “people who like this also like…” suggestions.
7. What is your timeline?
Nailing down a date is a crucial part of virtual and in-person events, but the timeline holds different implications in the digital space.
Lead times and extra software vetting can get complicated.
Info security approvals can slow down the vendor selection process. Platforms typically need 45-90 days of lead time to plan, build out, and deliver a fully featured experience. Virtual events sometimes take more time to plan than in-person events, mainly due to QA testing cycles, content lockout periods, and code freezes. Just because it’s virtual doesn’t mean it can be done faster, often the opposite may be true.
8. Are you facing baseline technology requirements or restrictions?
Do you have a hosting requirement (Microsoft Azure or AWS)? Do you need to use specific client technology stacks, or are you free to use whatever you’d like? Has your IT team flagged any tools for non-use (or preference)? Do you have a list of approved vendors from your Information Security team? Are there any platforms already onboarded that you can utilize? Know who to go to within your organization to avoid any last minute pitfalls.
9. Do you have specific accessibility requirements?
As audiences are consuming content in new ways, accessibility requirements have evolved accordingly.
Make your content accessible for all.
Make sure you’re meeting the needs of all your attendees when considering accessibility:
- Translations (ASL, double-byte character sets, right-to-left languages)
- Real-time captioning, or, for VOD, traditional closed captioning
- Bandwidth challenges
- Mobile-only users
- Visual impairment aids
These aren’t always nice to have’s, often they’re organizational (and sometimes legal) requirements.
10. Are you using in-house resources to produce your event?
Onboarding new technologies and tools to produce events in a novel format can seem daunting. Adding third-party event partners can be hugely beneficial, offering the flexibility and expertise required to create scalable, successful digital experiences. Take a serious inventory of your available in-house resources, and decide whether you’ll want to look for outside support.
- In-house resources only
- Dedicated vendor support
- Agency partners
The right partners will save you time and effort, and help improve your own organization’s ability to produce virtual events by association.
That might feel like a lot of questions to answer — digital events can be complicated! Making sure you have answers now will help avoid unexpected complications later in the planning process. We’ve created a simple digital worksheet that will help guide your decision-making and focus your platform selection conversations.
If you end up with more questions than when you started, we’re here to help answer them. Contact us today to start planning your next digital event.
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