During this Coronavirus crisis, many planned conferences are being transformed into virtual events. In response to this demand, there are new companies springing up each week. So, beyond your standard questions about event schedule and production cost, what are the other most important questions to ask a virtual events vendor as you investigate their services? Here are 10 questions that you should be sure ask:
In order to cut down on costs, some digital event providers are leveraging free and/or open-source platforms that they do not control and maintain. This is fine for supporting simple events, but for larger high-exposure events it is best to work with a vendor who controls their own technology platform. This ensures that they can be responsive to your requirements and can quickly address any issues that might occur while you are working with them.
There is a wide variance in how virtual events are priced. If pricing is based on attendance, be sure that pricing is in broad bands of users, so that you do not unnecessarily get saddled with high overage fees. You may not yet have a solid sense of what attendance will be at your virtual events, so having pricing that is flexible is very important.
Some virtual events will be best served by using a webinar platform that is fully managed by your vendor-partner. There are significant differences between Zoom, GoToWebinar, WebEx, Adobe Connect and others. Your virtual event production company should be able to explain why they use the webinar platform they have chosen, and exactly how they manage your webinar events efficiently. Do they train speakers? Provide attendee support? Help you design presentations? Manage the recording process and edit the archives?
Depending on your target audience and budget, you may want to consider the high-touch feel of 3D/VR environments. These can be quite fascinating, and the avatars can be fun for people to design. However, keep in mind that these environments are more costly to design and support, less Accessible for those with visual impairments, and generally less mobile-enabled.
While many virtual event platforms support sponsor logos and links, there are a few that are very strong in the virtual tradeshow area. This includes not only a “tradeshow-like” user experience but also marketing analytics and the integration of dynamic, intelligent graphic advertisements all over the virtual event space. if a trade show is a major part of the event revenues that you are looking to replicate then you may want to invest in a virtual tradeshow solution.
Don’t be afraid to ask for references! Talk to at one or two organizations that have implemented the kind of event you need, or at a minimum read a verified case study about how they worked with the vendor. Websites like Capterra are also a great place to look for client testimonials.
It can be a real gotcha to find out that you are required to hold your virtual event recordings with a specific vendor for six months or a year before you can transfer them to your own site and use them as you wish. Stay away from any virtual event vendor that does not give you free and clear and complete ownership over the intellectual property of your conference.
Virtual events provide an opportunity for the meetings and education departments to work together. Virtual events are a fantastic way to launch new e-learning programs, because you generate so much new great content during a virtual conference. But how will these materials be reused over the coming years in order to maximize their educational impact and revenues? For this kind of strategy, you need a learning management system (LMS). Some digital event services are built on top of an LMS, and this can be an advantage because a virtual event is a great way to launch or extend your eLearning offerings. If your virtual event provides continuing education units, then you have yet another impetus to use an LMS as its foundation.
Who supports your attendees when they need technical assistance with any part of the virtual event? Some vendors will train your team to provide first tier support. I strongly recommend against that. Demand that the vendor provide all technical support to attendees as well as presenters and your staff. They are the ones that know the platform the best, and your team can and should be focused on the program, marketing, and other aspects of the production.
It’s important to have a team supporting you that is not just made up of one or two people! Be sure to “roll back the curtain” about the size of the dedicated support team that will be working with you, both for production of digital elements and for technical support. Ask to see their standard operating procedures, where they have written down how they work with clients and how they deal with any issues that might arise.
If your events are supporting U.S.-based programs, why not use a U.S.-based company with U.S.-based support personnel? You will get better language support and better support hours.
Stay tuned for my next blog, where I will list the 10 questions you should be ready to answer when talking with potential virtual events partners!