How many Zoom meetings have you participated in since March? 10, 100, over 1,000? You probably can’t count how many. Like it or not, Zoom has been a great tool to quickly react to the giant pivot that is 2020. But is it the correct tool to replace your larger meetings and conferences?
It is important to understand that Zoom and similar products (GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, Adobe Connect, etc.) are conferencing services or streaming providers — they are not full-service virtual meeting or event platforms. They provide basic options for simplified meetings with small teams (think two to 50 people) that do not have a lot of moving parts.
Much of your decision will boil down to the goals and objectives of your event. If it is a complex, multi-day program, you are likely going to have better results by using a virtual meeting platform. They offer more visual and marketing appeal, allow for more engaging content and interaction, and provide a higher value for sponsors and exhibitors.
Virtual meeting platforms widely vary on services and their price point. It is important that you determine the needs for your event and get quotes from vendors who can provide the services you need. By utilizing a virtual platform, you can take your meeting to a whole new level and increase attendee engagement.
Below is an extensive, though not exhaustive, list of services or features you can find from a full-service platform that you would not from a conferencing service. Fox can provide consultation for each of these areas in helping you pick a virtual meeting platform.
- Detailed reports about attendee engagement.
- Privacy and password-protected event access.
- Breakout sessions with expanded attendance capacity.
- Personal agendas so attendees can create a personalized schedule exhibitors and sessions.
- Virtual exhibit hall with the ability to schedule one-on-one appointments with vendors or visit a “table” to meet with the exhibitor. Exhibitors can also add their own videos and fact sheets for participants to view or download.
- Sponsorship banners and other ways of showcasing sponsors to participants.
- Speaker management for collection and display of profiles, photos, session content, etc.
- Event or company branding.
- Attendee communication such as banner reminders or push-notifications for upcoming sessions, deadlines, etc.
- Technical supports.
- Continuing education credit tracking to monitor the amount of time a participant was in the session to determine credit achievement.
- Chat, polling and Q&A. Some platforms allow attendees to up-vote questions so you see what topics are most popular.
There are also proctored testing and poster session features available in some platforms. If these are an important part of your program, know that there are options to meet this need.
Successful virtual events have shown that clear and regular communication with attendees can reduce issues and confusion. Examples include detailed emails or FAQ lists about the platform, video tutorials, practice test sessions, and detailed instructions on platform features. Having extra hands on deck to monitor email, social media, chat or phone calls where attendees might reach out for assistance is also a good idea.
Regardless of the type of platform you use, your organization should plan for the unexpected. You will never be able to control that unpredictable last mile of your virtual event – the device, connection, or attendees’ and speakers’ comfort with technology. Fox can help organize a Plan B for any situation that might arise.
In the end, virtual meetings provide a digital alternative to hotels or convention centers. When you’re ready to start planning your virtual event, Fox can consult on determining the platform that is right for you. You’ll find peace of mind in our support of these platforms to produce a flawless event for your attendees.
By: Alison Huber, Fox Program Manager II, Meetings and Incentives
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