With the rise of COVID-19, companies have been forced out of their in-person conference plans. Without a physical space to host these business events, webinars and virtual event production services have become the dominant form of conferencing—Zoom being a large player in this industry.
Yet, Zoom is a video communications platform, not an actual event platform.
While it’s great for small to mid-sized groups to communicate efficiently, attempting an engaging event—one that mimics the feel of an in-person event—is another matter entirely. For this, you need to invest in a platform dedicated to events. This will ensure quality and professionalism across the board.
That leaves just one question: If you organize online events, when should you make the switch?
Online Conferencing with Zoom
A host of online conferencing platforms are available to companies, but Zoom stands out among the rest. From sales calls to meetings with clients, Zoom offers an easy solution for video communication that has been widely embraced.
But while Zoom offers many features and benefits, it cannot resolve all of your conferencing woes by itself—it is only an application, not a full-blown event service.
Video conferencing software like Zoom, Webex, Teams, and Jabber are great tools to use when planning out the logistics of conferences, but knowing the limits of these services can help you understand what additional features are needed to host a full online event.
When Should I Use Zoom?
Zoom can be utilized for online conferencing and webinars, and is in the process of unveiling more and more solutions for businesses. With COVID-19 not letting up, companies are further invested in integrating virtual communication solutions.
Traditionally, Zoom can host meetings of up to 300 people. Plus, it offers specialized webinar services that provide additional features depending on which license you purchase.
Some of these include:
- Large Meeting Size – Zoom has begun integrating webinar services into their model, with the ability to host groups of up to 100 interactive participants and 10,000 attendees.
- Marketing Automation – Analytics tools are built into the platform to identify leads and automatically follow up with participants that are imported into your current marketing strategy.
- Integrations – Zoom is integrated with many different applications including PayPal, SalesForce, Marketo, Hubspot and more, to expand the service offerings of an event.
With many people utilizing Zoom as their primary video conferencing tool, it might seem that it alone can host a conference for you. However, without staff in place to run these events, it can only exist as an application rather than a full event service.
In short, you can use Zoom as a method of hosting your event, but don’t rely on technology to do all of the work for you. Any successful event requires individuals available to explain both what tools are at an attendee’s disposal, and how they can make the most of their experience. This means using an actual event platform.
Online Conferencing With an Actual Event Platform
Actual event platforms use tools like Zoom as the foundation for their event, along with other key services that can ensure everything operates smoothly.
Software is one part of a massive online event hosting equation; one that includes the staff you have to run the event, the speakers you choose, and the services offered. There are many other factors to consider, such as:
- Breakout Sessions
- Platform Features
- Security and Technical Support
- Virtual Activities
An actual event platform can provide you with all of these tools tailored to meet the specific needs of your guests.
Breakout sessions are a crucial component of hosting webinars and a good conference. Having a platform that allows potential attendees to select which sessions to attend must be incorporated with robust communication tools so that they can participate with the speakers they identify with.
Make a decision as to whether breakout sessions can be switched between, or must be attended for the full duration. Having the flexibility to jump in and out of sessions can supplement the whole experience, but is not feasible for educational seminars, such as Continuing Medical Education (CME) and Continuing Education Units (CEUs).
By offering guests a choice over which speaker or breakout session they attend, they’ll feel a bit of the freedom that comes from in-person events.
Video conferencing software is only a tool for presenting. Event platforms offer more sophisticated design and functionality that are customized and integrated into the web page where your conference will be hosted.
Webinar platforms must offer features that parallel or enhance in-person events.
Merely presenting a series of informational videos does not constitute a full conference. What you need are:
- Updated schedules for speakers
- A member directory with one-on-one networking functionality
- Online video repositories
- Q&A sessions
By providing features that imitate real-life interactions, event platforms are able to enhance the way that attendees are able to engage with the material you present.
A conference is more than just a space to hear people talk: it is a community-building space that allows like-minded professionals to network and connect.
If your webinar can reflect that, this brings tremendous value to attendees.
This could be done with dedicated online spaces where you host meet-and-greets, ice breakers, and create networking circles. With the power of virtual mediums, you can even have a forum where two people are connected based on a questionnaire of their needs.
For example, if a software engineer is looking for a web developer, by having this displayed in the dedicated networking space, connections can be made easier.
While most conferences follow similar structures (keynote speakers, breakout sessions, informal gatherings) each one has different value propositions. A personalized conference space enhances your brand image, and can add the flavor that your in-person conference may have offered in the past.
A personalized event website for your conference solves issues such as acknowledging sponsorships or displaying a directory of exhibitors. Social media integration can be added, so event attendees can share their experience and the content they may have learned from your online event.
This makes the event more personalized, and actively works to promote your conference for next year.
Security and Technical Support
Nothing slows down a web conference like a hijacked internal meeting or technical issues. Using an event platform mitigates this risk by having professionals at-hand to solve any problems that may emerge during a webinar.
- Security concerns – There has been a great deal of concern over hijacked Zoom calls over the course of the past few months. Having specialists trained for de-escalating or removing these individuals comes with most event service packages, along with pre-implemented security measures to prevent unwelcome attendees.
- Technical questions – Individuals who are struggling to use the platform might also require the services of a technical support specialist. In a conference without dedicated staff specifically suited for this role, one person can interrupt hundreds of other event attendees with an individual problem.
- Seamless transitions – When it comes time for the event to start, all the practice in the world can’t prevent unexpected technical disasters from striking. With a support staff ready to go, you can ensure seamless transitions from start to finish.
Bonus Virtual Activities
Webinars don’t have to end with strict business. Adding virtual events, such as online happy hours and trivia, can be a fantastic way to offer different methods of attendee engagement and make the experience more enjoyable for all.
Event services often incorporate additional features to round out the conference experience, such as awards that can be viewed by all of the attendees. They might even have virtual gathering spots for socialization.
Adding these layers help bolster the experience by offering incentives for participation.
Making the Switch
It isn’t easy to make the decision to go to an all-virtual event, but there are many good reasons to do so that aren’t strictly related to COVID-19. Companies that opt for virtual events through event agencies see benefits such as:
- Fast Turnaround – Webinars tend to be much faster to organize than physical conferences.
- Cost – Without the physical rental space, permits, food, drinks, and accomodations, virtual conferences reduce the event price tag dramatically.
- Time – Time is money! Utilizing event agencies to plan your digital conference is far more effective than trying to organize within your company or organization.
Vario excels at hitting every mark in your digital conferencing checkbox. With expertise in executing solutions on a short timeline, we provide peace of mind with guidance on the best technology to implement and how to turn in-person conferring into an online phenomenon.
Our services are compatible with almost any video conferencing software, such as WebEx, Zoom, Teams, and more. Plus, our virtual exhibit hall promotes direct sales and remarketing capabilities. Contact us today and we can walk you through our full offerings.
Source. Zoom Video Webinars. https://zoom.us/docs/ent/media-assets/pdf/Zoom-Video-Webinars.pdf