You wouldn’t pick an office space without investigating the building, right?
So you can’t host a hybrid event without picking the right platform to host it. Choose wisely and it’ll contribute to your guests’ satisfaction, not just executing your event but also helping you harness it for marketing growth. Choose poorly and people will be logging off in minutes.
Your hybrid event platform will be the face and the structural backbone of your virtual event, so it’s important to research your options thoroughly and critically.
But before you begin, you need to understand all that your virtual event platform needs to do for you and your guests. This is three-fold; it needs to:
- Simplify the hosting and post-event follow up process for your team
- Ease the technical load for presenters/event sponsors
- Provide an intuitive and engaging user experience for your guests.
Next, learn about how the most sophisticated hybrid event platforms can help you meet those goals. The best hybrid event softwares are constantly adding new capabilities—engagement features, marketing capabilities, lead generation and more—that enhance both the host and guest experience.
Once you’re ready, start researching hybrid event platforms with the following in mind:
- Intuitive interface: The platform should be easy to use for hosts, presenters, sponsors/exhibitors and guests. This means that both the back end (admin) and front end (user) experience should have simple, clean design and a logical structure.
- Strategic alignment: Before committing to a hybrid event platform, consider its fit with both your present capacity and long-term marketing strategy. That’s doubly important if your company is expanding rapidly or planning a pivot.
Start with the following questions: Is its capacity high enough to accommodate increases in demand and viewership? Will upgrades to your plan be disproportionately expensive (i.e., will you need to pay twice as much money just to host 100 extra guests?) Does it feature enough stages and exhibitor/sponsor spaces to host that huge event in your long-term view? Does the platform have enough interactivity and lead generation levers to contribute to your company’s marketing goals and growth targets?
- History in the hybrid event space: Newcomers to the hybrid event space tend to make mistakes. Learning experiences for them, but potentially disastrous for your high-stakes event. Look for companies that have already learned from their mistakes and benefit from their expertise.
- Ease of self-service: Companies with smaller budgets are more likely to personally build and execute full events using the off-the-shelf software, without the support of a customer support team. If this applies to you, make sure that you can navigate to desired pages and build sessions/stages just by looking at a screenshot or video tutorial. (Brightly colored buttons, prominent plus signs, clearly labeled tags are your friends here.)
- Browser-based, no-download software: It’s the 2020s. Nobody wants to wait 10 minutes for their software to download before logging into their event. Browser-based, no-download software enables people to enter sessions directly from an email link, going from inbox to event in seconds.
- Domain hosting: Can you host your event under a custom domain URL? This lets you host the hybrid event under a company-branded URL, which associates your event more closely with your business.
- HD live audio and video
- Live streaming on the platform itself, as well as Facebook Live, YouTube and other live streaming service
- Automation: Presenters can pre-load videos, polls, chats and Q&As, etc., into their sessions, lowering the chance of mistakes and while giving speakers more time to talk to their audiences. Pick a hybrid event platform that incorporates automation into agenda sessions, as well as sponsor and exhibitor booths.
- A production studio for professional-quality streams that look and feel like live broadcasts.
Registration and Ticketing
Customization is one of your event’s biggest marketing and branding tools. The more you can customize your event’s forms, sessions, and pages, the more of an impression your company will leave with your audience—and the more leads you can generate. Choose a hybrid event platform that lets you customize every aspect of your event, starting with registration and ticketing:
- Can you create custom registration fields? You can optimize your registration form to generate and segment leads within your audience.
- Can the platform integrate with your current CRM platform to ensure your hybrid event attendees automatically become a part of your broader customer base?
- Can registration forms and widgets be embedded into your company website?
- Can you create a custom-branded, professional-looking landing page?: The right hybrid event platform will provide templates for a professional landing page. Pick your own, then insert your colors, branding, event description and copy to make it your own.
- Can you create differentiated pass types (early bird, all access, VIP)? Besides broadening your potential audience, this allows you to provide more tailored content to different segments of that audience.
Modules and Navigation
So much of the value of an in-person event comes between agenda sessions: conversations with other attendees, networking, demos and more. The same goes for hybrid events. The best platforms come with interactive modules that enhance the guest experience. Keep this in mind as you scout hybrid event softwares:
- How many different spaces and interactive modules does the platform offer?
- Does it offer a networking center?
- Chat rooms organized around event topics?
- Can these spaces be personalized and customized?
- What kinds of communication and engagement features do they include? (Session-level public chats, networking rooms, chat rooms organized around agenda topics, feedback surveying and polls in real time)
Event Site Design
Effective event microsites smooth the user’s path to their desired destination, with clean design and intuitively placed elements that directs the viewer’s eye where it needs to go. The right hybrid event platform will provide website templates, making it easy to quickly produce and edit a professional-looking, custom-branded event microsite.
- Is the event microsite easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing?
- Can you process payments on the platform itself, or will you need to use a third-party payment platform?
- Can you customize session pages with your logo and branding?
Sure, you could send your invitation, confirmation and reminder emails through your company’s preferred email provider. But automating your event emails will substantially reduce the risk of missing a send while minimizing your manual load. Many hybrid event platforms provide automated event emails. Make sure yours has the following functions:
- Does your hybrid event platform provide automated event invitations emails?
- Can you customize automated emails with your own colors, branding and copy?
- Does it include reminder emails for presenters?
- Does it include both event-level and session-level emails?
- Does it include email performance reporting?
Sponsors and Exhibitors
Sponsors and exhibitors are an indispensable part of your hybrid event’s monetization strategy. But to really resonate and provide value, sponsors and exhibitors need to go beyond banner ads—and introduce audiences to their products in a more personal and meaningful way.
Many hybrid event platforms struggle to provide ROI for sponsors and exhibitors, so look for a team that can really help sponsors spark meaningful interactions with your audience. Starter questions include:
- Where and to what capacity can you incorporate sponsors and exhibitor branding on your event microsite?
- Does the platform enable gamification? Hosts can harness gamification to offer prize packs featuring products from sponsor and exhibitor companies, promoting their partners while also giving audiences something to buzz about.
- Does the platform have a dedicated Expo Hall and customizable exhibitor booths?
- What kinds of content and offers can exhibitors provide attendees? This ranges from video demos to pop-up offers and more.
- Can attendees schedule time to follow up with exhibitors?
Reporting, Analytics and Repurposing
Hybrid events shouldn’t just be one-and-done projects, but contribute to an overarching marketing strategy. The right hybrid event platform will recognize this. Your selected software should provide the sophisticated reporting tools you need to harness your event to advance your marketing goals.
- Does it provide you with attendance and engagement stats of individual sessions? Is engagement data broken down into 5-minute or 10-minute segments?
- Does the platform integrate seamlessly with the MAS, CRM and email tools you’re already using? Those integrations should use open, standards-based APIs to connect with your chosen softwares, which makes the process much more simple and cost-effective
- Does it capture a multifaceted view of your attendees, their engagement touchpoints and their chat history? This provides a fuller picture of your attendees than one-dimensional attendance numbers, better preparing your company to reach out to each one with personalized offers.
- Does it offer you a real-time dashboard measuring revenue, registrations and ROI on a moment-to-moment basis?
- Does its analytics and reporting suite include presenter, sponsor and exhibitor performance metrics? This will help your event partners judge their ROI from their participation in your hybrid event, which goes a long way toward building trust and long-term relationships.
- Can video sessions be downloaded or repurposed in the form of on-demand webinars, social media posts, blog posts, media hubs, etc.? Repurposing your event content will help your company attract new audiences long after event day without much additional effort, so repurposability should be top of mind when selecting your event software.
User Support and Troubleshooting
A hybrid event platform is only as effective as the people putting it in action. Before committing to a platform, ensure that you’ll be supported by a dedicated team of experts—before, during and after the event.
- Does the platform provide documentation and training/onboarding for both hosts and presenters/sponsors? How much lead time do they require for onboarding?
- Can you receive customization or custom features from the support team?
- Can you get live event-day support enabling instant communication with customer support?
- How does the support team respond as quickly and efficiently as possible? What lines of communication are in place?
- Are presenters, sponsors and exhibitors onboarded to the platform before the event?
Social Media Integrations
As an event host, one of your biggest goals is sparking connections among your guests. One easy way of achieving this? Meet your audience where they’re already at: social media. Your hybrid event platform should integrate social media into the guest experience and encourage people to share.
- Can sessions be streamed to Facebook Live, Youtube and other broadcasting services?
- Can attendees, presenters and partners add social media widgets to their event profiles? These links enable guests to connect and follow up with each other and event partners.
Want to learn more about today’s winners are using online events to drive business results? BigMarker’s Account Executives are here to help! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how the world’s most customizable virtual event platform can help you build the virtual or hybrid event of your dreams