Virtual Events 101 for Associations: A Guide to Choosing the Best Technology

June 14, 2023
Blue Sky eLearn virtual event facilitator running a live stream event
After the world paused in 2020, many organizations and businesses were forced to harness the power of online virtual events. Previously underutilized platforms became go-to tools for small and large organizations. Webinars, although not a new concept, gained widespread popularity and became an essential part of day-to-day work almost overnight.

With numerous platform options available, it's common to feel overwhelmed and stick with what you’re used to. This blog will provide tips and tricks for planning a successful virtual event for your association. If you missed our live webinar, what follows will serve as an additional valuable resource to help you shape the right questions.

The Benefits to Keeping Events Virtual

Association virtual events encompass a range of event types, such as virtual conferences, meetings, seminars (better known as webinars), panel discussions, advisory boards, and award ceremonies. Running these events online offers numerous benefits for your staff and association members:

  • Anyone with internet access can be invited, eliminating geographic barriers.
  • Travel planning, venue negotiations, and related expenses become obsolete.
  • Food can be easily managed through online gift cards or vouchers, reducing event costs and freeing up the budget for additional future events.
  • Switching presenters, rearranging the agenda, and sharing links can be as simple as sending an email or message, all from the convenience of your desk.

Most importantly, virtual events enable collaboration and input from people worldwide, requiring only a computer and a fraction of their time. You no longer need to spend hours or days on transportation or allocate a significant portion of your budget to compensate thought leaders. Proper planning and preparation allow you to host the event you desire without leaving your house or office.

The (Minor) Challenges of Virtual Events

While virtual events offer advantages in today's technologically evolved world, it’s important to acknowledge that planning virtual events for associations comes with its own set of challenges and drawbacks:

  • Virtual events may feel burdensome to an audience already spending significant time online. Many of us seek opportunities to disconnect from our devices and be productive in other ways.
  • In-person events often rely on venues, food, or the location itself to create a memorable experience. With virtual events, creative thinking, and out-of-the-box approaches are necessary to match the experiences we have grown accustomed to.
  • As your reach expands, you'll need to manage a larger audience, which requires careful attention, thoughtful planning, and effective event marketing.
  • A larger audience also means an increased likelihood of technical issues and variations in technologies that must be anticipated and addressed.

If you’re facing any of the obstacles listed above, reach out to Blue Sky eLearn for guidance. However, if you're here to learn about platform selection, you have likely considered these concerns. Whether you're an experienced virtual event veteran looking for new options or planning your first event, let's delve into the topic.

Selecting the Right Platform for Your Event 

The right platform could depend on the type of event you’re hosting. You may need to stick with one platform or implement multiple throughout the year to achieve your goals. At Blue Sky eLearn, we primarily use Adobe Connect, Zoom, and live streaming on Path LMS™ for virtual events. Each platform has its advantages and disadvantages, making them excellent examples for consideration during your selection process.

Adobe Connect

Before 2020, many were unfamiliar with Adobe Connect. This versatile and customizable pod-based platform allows you to preload content into different pods and rearrange them in various layouts with a simple click.

Adobe Connect offers numerous options, such as closed captioning, third-party teleconference integration, translation services, separate presenter and host interfaces, games, and more.

The platform has undergone significant updates, including a modernized interface and valuable feature enhancements, making it a competitive virtual event platform. However, Adobe Connect does have a steeper learning curve for hosts, presenters, and possibly even attendees, depending on the services used.


Zoom encompasses two primary services for virtual events: Zoom Meetings and Zoom Webinars.

Zoom Meetings are commonly used for smaller, more interactive gatherings where participants can see each other's faces and engage in conversations. They work well for advisory boards, internal meetings, focus groups, and similar settings.

Although Zoom Meetings allow presenters to be promoted as co-hosts while maintaining control over participant privileges, it’s advisable to familiarize yourself with Zoom settings that disable or limit specific options like audio sharing or chat to prevent chaos.

Enabling features such as polls and Q&A can help separate questions from general chat discussions. Also, breakout sessions can be used to create more intimate meetings or accommodate larger groups that need to be divided for feedback purposes.

Zoom Webinars are ideal for larger events requiring substantial information or content while allowing audience feedback. Zoom Webinars provide greater control for presenters, with attendees participating without webcams but still able to raise virtual hands and ask questions verbally.

This platform offers more automation, including features like waiting rooms where specific individuals can be allowed in before the official start. Panelist links and separate attendee links ensure smoother management.

Attendees can use chat if enabled, participate in polls, and use the Q&A feature. However, you have the option to turn off these features. It is crucial to be comfortable with your platform’s technology, or you can rely on a vendor like Blue Sky eLearn to handle these concerns.

Live Streaming

Finally, let's delve into live streaming, which provides seamless, high-production events with music, video files, lower-thirds for names and titles, custom graphics, watermarks, and more. Streaming events resemble what you might see during sporting events, news broadcasts, or live performances, where all content is displayed on a single screen. These events can be played through a video player or embedded on websites such as Path LMS.

A downside to streaming is that you need to rely on external sources for audience feedback and participation. Streaming tools like Livestream Studio or VMix require additional equipment and a platform like Zoom to connect presenters, while streaming requires a dedicated location.

Keep in mind that streaming events often lag between what is said and when the audience hears it (around 10-20 seconds), making live dialogue or real-time feedback challenging. That time can be minimized with the proper tools and settings but is not guaranteed, depending on the streamer you are using. Solutions like Vimeo Webinars also exist to stream, and host events on the same site, but planning and awareness of complexities are essential for success.

Additional Virtual Event Considerations for Associations

Sometimes, you may encounter deal-breakers during platform selection. For example, if you prioritize high production value alongside audience engagement and feedback, a Zoom webinar may be the best choice despite sacrificing some production quality. Alternatively, Adobe Connect might be a better fit if you require breakout sessions but want presenters to have a separate chat area, despite its higher learning curve.

Remember, no single platform will perfectly align with your requirements without some level of compromise. This compromise may involve training before the event, utilizing chat instead of word clouds, or sticking to a familiar platform due to resource or budget constraints. However, it is crucial to avoid last-minute realizations that features aren't working as expected or are inactive. Familiarity with your chosen platform and considering your audience's needs are vital to hosting a successful virtual event.

Technology remains a tremendous boon for fostering global connectivity but can also present challenges and complications. Many, but not all, platforms, offer accessibility options such as AI captioning, interpretation services, screen readers, transcriptions, and recordings.

Moreover, as more platforms become browser-based, compatible browser access becomes essential. Some plugins and applications may work on Windows PCs but not on Macs, and vice versa.

Mentioning these complications is not to overwhelm or discourage you but to encourage proactive planning. Often, a 30-minute training session with presenters the day before the event or having a dedicated tech person to handle technical issues during the event can resolve 90% of the problems that may arise.

Make sure to watch our webinar for even more virtual event insights. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about hosting a memorable virtual event, contact us today!

About the Author

Jesse Pitzler, Senior Virtual Events Producer
Jesse Pitzler is a Marine Corps Veteran and talented professional with a passion for bringing the world of life sciences to audiences everywhere. With a Bachelor's degree in Digital Film and Video Production, Jesse has honed his skills as a creative visual artist and technical expert. He has been working with Blue Sky eLearn since July 2020, using his expertise to create and produce high-quality virtual events that captivate and educate audiences.

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