🚀 The Event Playbook: Proven strategies to level up your next event!

🚀 The Event Playbook:
Proven strategies to level up your next event!

online events software

Choosing Your Online Events Software Solution for 2024

The right online event software will revolutionize your virtual events. With so many choices, it can be overwhelming! Here’s how to choose the best event software that aligns with your events and budget.

Choosing the right virtual event software is critical for creating engaging, immersive online experiences that deliver value for attendees, sponsors, and stakeholders.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll share insider tips and best practices for evaluating and selecting the optimal virtual event platform for your specific needs and goals.

We’ll go in-depth on the key features to look for, potential pitfalls to avoid, and the thorough vetting process we recommend based on our experts’ years of experience in the trenches.

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The Virtual Event Landscape in 2024

With so many virtual event platforms to choose from, take the time to carefully evaluate each option against your specific needs and goals to discover the perfect software solution.

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically accelerated the adoption of virtual events, compressing a decade of digital transformation into a matter of months.

Even as in-person events have rebounded, online conferences and trade shows are here to stay.

Attendees have come to expect the convenience, affordability, and expanded reach virtual events provide.

Organizers appreciate the wealth of behavioral data and analytics for personalization and proving ROI to stakeholders.

Exhibitors and sponsors value the branding opportunities and qualified leads generated.

Each year, established virtual event software providers roll out exciting new features while innovative startups emerge to fill unmet needs.

Top Platforms to Consider in 2024

In 2024, you have an expanding array of platform options to choose from, including the following:

Hubilo

Hubilo is an all-in-one virtual and hybrid event platform that offers interactive features like live polls, Q&As, breakout rooms, and networking tables.

It provides robust analytics, customizable branding options, and integrates with popular marketing and CRM tools.

Hubilo offers 24/7 customer support and flexible pricing plans based on event size and requirements.

Hopin

Hopin is a virtual venue with multiple interactive areas that are optimized for connecting and engaging.

Attendees can move in and out of rooms just like an in-person event and enjoy features such as stage, sessions, networking, and expo areas.

Hopin provides analytics, customization options, and integrates with 50+ tools.

vFairs

vFairs offers immersive 3D virtual environments for tradeshows, conferences, and more.

It provides interactive features like exhibit halls, auditoriums, and networking lounges.

vFairs supports live and on-demand sessions, 1:1 chats, and AI-based matchmaking.

It offers robust reporting and integrates with popular CRMs and marketing tools.

Airmeet

Airmeet is an all-in-one virtual and hybrid events platform for fully branded and immersive experiences.

It offers features like a virtual “social lounge” for networking, speed networking, virtual tables, sponsor expo booths, and more.

Airmeet provides analytics, customization options, and integrates with 2000+ apps via Zapier.

Bizzabo

Bizzabo powers immersive in-person, virtual and hybrid events.

It offers features like interactive live video, networking, breakout sessions, and more.

Bizzabo provides robust analytics, flexibility to customize event experiences, and seamless integration with existing tools.

It offers packages for events of different sizes.

Cvent

Cvent provides technology solutions to event planners for online event registration, venue selection, event management, virtual and hybrid events, and attendee engagement.

Its virtual attendee hub, powered by Cvent Attendee Hub, offers live sessions, prerecorded content, video networking, live Q&A and polling, and a virtual marketplace.

Zoom Events

Zoom Events enables businesses to host virtual experiences, including multi-session events and multi-track conferences.

It offers features like ticketing, registration, networking through a chat-enabled virtual event lobby, recording, reporting, and more.

Zoom Events is included with paid Zoom Meetings and Zoom Webinar licenses.

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How to Properly Evaluate the Wide Range of Online Event Platform Options

But not all virtual event software is created equal.

And the “most popular” solution isn’t necessarily the right one for your specific event strategy, audience, and goals.

Investing time upfront to carefully evaluate your options against your needs pays dividends.

Defining Your Virtual Event Goals and Vision

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Before diving into comparing virtual event platforms, get crystal clear on what you aim to achieve.

💭 What’s the purpose and theme of your event?

💭 What’s the size and composition of your target audience?

💭 What do you want them to do, feel, and take away from the experience?

To paint a clearer picture, let’s say that we determined your primary goals as:

  • Increasing paid membership sign-ups
  • Generating qualified leads for vendors and sponsors
  • Positioning AMA as a cutting-edge resource
  • Enabling meaningful professional networking

Clarifying these objectives upfront provides the lens through which to evaluate platforms.

In this scenario, we know the virtual event software needs to excel at capturing detailed attendee data for segmentation and lead generation.

That it requires best-in-class tools for exhibitor showcases and 1-on-1 meetings.

Let’s use a different client as an example this time, an emerging video game studio. Their priorities are:

  • Generating excitement and pre-sales for an upcoming title
  • Providing hands-on access to early gameplay
  • Immersing fans in the game’s sci-fi universe
  • Surprising and delighting fans with creative virtual spaces

Here, we’ll recommend a virtual event platform with unmatched customization of 3D environments, avatar-based networking, and support for demos and beta access.

Don’t skip this foundational step of defining a clear vision and strategic priorities to guide your search.

Not every platform will be equipped to execute your specific event goals equally.

Identifying Must-Have Virtual Event Software Features

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With your event vision crystallized, turn to identifying your non-negotiable requirements for the virtual event platform.

These are the make-or-break capabilities essential for achieving your goals and wowing your target audience.

Our advice? Focus on the top 5-10 features - more than that and you risk succumbing to shiny object syndrome or inflating your budget unnecessarily.

Less than that and you may not be thinking ambitiously enough about crafting a standout attendee experience.

Some of the most common must-haves that come up with our clients include:

  1. Immersive Environment Design. Look for platforms that allow you to deeply customize the look, feel, and interactivity of your virtual spaces to match your event theme and brand.
  2. Robust Engagement Tools. Prioritize platforms with a wide variety of ways to engage attendees and empower their participation. These might include live polling, Q&A, chat, virtual hand-raising, real-time quizzes and trivia, gamification, AI-powered networking, and more.
  3. Seamless Hybrid Event Support. As more events adopt a hybrid format with both in-person and virtual components, it’s vital that your platform can handle the complexities. It needs to bridge the physical and digital divide so both audiences feel equally involved.
  4. Data-Driven Analytics and Insights. One of the most revolutionary benefits of virtual events is the sheer volume and depth of behavioral data collected. Choose platforms with robust capabilities for tracking, analyzing, and activating these golden insights.
  5. Frictionless Sponsor and Exhibitor Showcases. For many events, providing a worthwhile platform for sponsors and exhibitors is priority number one. Look for virtual event software that makes it simple for partners to generate leads, showcase their thought leadership, and maximize brand visibility.

Explore the full range of possible features with an open mind initially, then ruthlessly prioritize based on your specific event needs and audience preferences.

Resist the temptation to get distracted by irrelevant bells and whistles.

Considering Your Budget and Pricing Model

Like any business investment, you need to weigh the costs and benefits of various virtual event platforms to determine the best fit for your budget.

Luckily, today’s solutions come in a wide range of price points to accommodate diverse fiscal realities.

The first step is getting a detailed breakdown of the platform’s pricing model:

  • Per attendee fees. Many charge based on the number of registrations, typically decreasing as volume increases. Crunch the numbers based on your anticipated audience size.
  • Annual license fees. For ongoing event programs, an annual subscription may provide better value than à la carte pricing if you host multiple events per year.
  • Revenue share model. Some take a percentage of ticket sales (often 10-20%+), which can add up quickly for large paid events. Make sure you factor that into your ROI and profitability models.
  • Add-on costs. Be on the lookout for additional charges for things like onboarding and training, dedicated support, customized development work, or upgraded features. Get clarity on what’s included vs. extra.
  • Savings at scale. If you’re part of a multi-national organization or association with dozens of events, explore potential volume-based discounts for a global deal. We’ve seen savings of 30%+ for some clients.

Once you have the pricing details, compare the total cost of each platform against the value it will drive for your specific event goals and audience needs.

The most expensive option isn’t always the best if you won’t utilize all the features.

An affordable solution can be a false bargain if it lacks must-have capabilities.

We recommend doing a 3-year projection of your anticipated virtual event cadence, feature usage, and registrations.

Model out low, medium, and high scenarios.

See how the financials net out across your top platform contenders.

Evaluating User Experience and Ease of Use

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Choosing an immensely powerful virtual event platform is all well and good.

But if it’s a beast to configure and navigate for you and your attendees, it quickly becomes more burden than boon.

Prioritize solutions that balance robust functionality with intuitive, user-friendly design.

When assessing a potential platform, put yourself in your attendees’ shoes:

  • How simple is it to register and create a profile?
  • Can they quickly find the sessions and activities of interest?
  • Is the interface clean, modern, and easy on the eyes?
  • Do the navigation and menu options feel straightforward?
  • Is it obvious how to ask questions or participate in discussions?
  • How smoothly can attendees move between the agenda, exhibit hall, networking, etc.?

Have your team go through the motions of configuring key aspects like the event website, registration forms, session scheduler, and email templates.

Note any points of friction or confusion in the process.

If your staff are struggling, imagine the challenges less tech-savvy attendees might face.

Once you narrow your list down to 2-3 leading contenders, take advantage of free trial periods to poke and prod.

Recruit a group of colleagues or beta users to go through a mock event and provide feedback.

Look especially for any barriers for those with disabilities – closed captioning, image alt text, keyboard accessibility, etc.

💭 Does the platform offer an intuitive mobile app for smartphones and tablets?

A good degree of virtual event attendees join via mobile device, so a subpar app experience is a dealbreaker.

The app should provide core features like agenda setting, session viewing, audience engagement tools, and networking.

While you want to limit the number of clicks to perform essential actions, don’t necessarily default to an oversimplified platform.

One with robust capabilities and personalized journeys may be worth a slightly steeper initial learning curve.

Particularly for multi-day, multi-track conferences, a degree of guided complexity enables a richer experience.

The bottom line: Pick the platform that feels like an organic extension of your brand and event vision while being as effortless as possible for your audience.

Storyboard out the step-by-step journey and look for opportunities to remove friction at every touchpoint.

As a preferred production partner with top virtual event platforms, we get exclusive discounts and pass the savings along to our clients.

Rating Customization and Branding Options

Your event should feel like a seamless reflection of your organization’s unique brand and personality.

Cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all experiences are a turnoff for discerning attendees.

Lean heavily towards virtual event platforms that let you craft bespoke, memorable environments.

During the evaluation process, dig into the degree of customization and branding the platform allows, including:

  • Virtual venue. Can you design immersive 2D or 3D spaces that mirror your brand colors, logos, and imagery? Is the layout completely configurable or limited to rigid templates? How photorealistic and on-theme can you make the environment?
  • Event website. Do you have pixel-perfect control over the event homepage, registration forms, session catalog, and exhibitor directory? Can you add your own headers, footers, navigation, and CSS?
  • Email and notifications. Are system-generated attendee emails fully editable and brand-aligned? Do confirmations, reminders, and follow-ups represent your voice and visual style guide?
  • Event apps. Can sponsor logos and custom content be dynamically inserted? Does it feel like your brand’s app or the platform’s?
  • Attendee profiles. How much flexibility exists to add custom registration fields, attendee types, profile visibility settings, and permissions?
  • Sponsor and exhibitor tiers. Can you define multiple custom exhibitor categories with distinct entitlements and showcase options? Are sponsor banners, logos, and promo videos given prominent placement?

Even if your organization's brand guidelines aren't quite as defined, look for a platform that allows you to weave your visual identity, voice, and personality into as many touchpoints as possible.

You want your attendees to feel immersed from the first email or ad they encounter to the post-event survey.

The exception is if you’re running a series of events each with unique sub-brands or you’re a third-party planning multiple events for different clients.

In that case, you need an exceptionally versatile “white label” platform that can be fully reskinned without constraints.

Uncovering Meaningful Data and Analytics

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We’re living in the golden age of event intelligence thanks to the digitization of events.

The virtual and hybrid platforms available today generate an unprecedented wealth of data on attendee behavior, content preferences, and event performance.

Choosing one that aligns data capture and analysis with your goals is a game changer.

At minimum, your platform should track:

  • Registrations. Ticket types, promotional codes, attendee demographics, registration flow drop-offs.
  • Attendance. Overall event attendance, no-shows, session-level attendance, average view times.
  • Engagement. Session ratings, poll responses, questions submitted, messages exchanged, booth visits, content downloads.
  • Sentiment. Post-session surveys, Net Promoter Scores, social media mentions and hashtags.
  • Conversion. Offers redeemed, purchases made, form submissions.

Some platforms offer extensive feature sets ideal for major enterprise-level events. While impressive, eliminate unnecessary bells and whistles if they inflate costs beyond your range. 

Stick to the absolute must-have features and capabilities.

  • Which sessions and speakers attracted the most interest and engagement?
  • What were attendees’ top pain points, goals, and product interests?
  • How many qualified leads did sponsors and exhibitors generate?
  • Which ticket types and discount codes drove the most registrations and revenue?
  • What was the total number of networking connections made?
  • How did this year’s Net Promoter Score compare to last?

The most sophisticated platforms go beyond data collection to proactive analysis and insight generation.

They identify high-level trends and segment audiences based on behavior and interests.

They enable you to drill down into an individual attendee’s journey through the event.

Look for a virtual event platform that empowers you to take meaningful action with your data.

You should be able to easily parse the numbers within the system and export raw data for further exploration.

The reporting interface should be intuitive for non-technical users to derive insights.

Integrations with your other sales and marketing systems are also key.

The virtual event data shouldn't live in isolation, but flow into your CRM, marketing automation, and business intelligence tools for a holistic view of your audience.

This is how you personalize follow-up, fine-tune your marketing and event strategy, and measure impact on pipeline and revenue.

Comparing Support and Reliability

Even the most feature-rich virtual event platform is only as good as the support and technical reliability backing it up.

Imagine crafting the perfect online conference only to have streams fail, screens freeze, or attendees unable to join.

That’s the stuff of event planner nightmares.

When vetting potential platforms, leave no stone unturned with regards to dependability:

  • Uptime guarantees. Look for platforms with 99.9%+ uptime SLAs for live audio/video and key interactive features. Ask to see historical performance metrics.
  • Redundancy and failover. Ensure the provider has robust redundancy built into their infrastructure to mitigate failures. Are there multiple cloud zones and fallback options?
  • Scalability. Can the platform comfortably handle your expected number of concurrent users? Is there elasticity to accommodate spikes or higher-than-anticipated attendance?
  • Disaster recovery. How quickly can the system recover in the unlikely event of a significant outage? What’s their average resolution time for critical incidents?
  • Cybersecurity. Does the platform deploy enterprise-grade security measures like encryption at rest and in transit, secure user authentication, and regular penetration testing?
  • Data privacy. Is the provider GDPR, CCPA, and HIPAA compliant as applicable? How do they handle data retention, portability, and the right to be forgotten?
  • DDoS mitigation. What safeguards exist against distributed denial of service attacks that could cripple your event?
  • Content delivery network. Is A/V content served via a global CDN like Akamai or Cloudflare for fast loading anywhere in the world?

Equally important is the platform’s commitment to timely, expert customer service.

One of our experts recalls one client’s massive 50,000+ attendee virtual conference, the original platform they selected crumbled under the strain 10 minutes into the keynote.

Lesson learned: never skimp on load testing and infrastructure due diligence.

On the support front, ask pointed questions like:

  • Is support available 24/7 including weekends for global events?
  • What’s the guaranteed response time for critical vs. non-critical requests?
  • How knowledgeable and tenured are the support reps?
  • What’s the average time to resolution for common issues?
  • Is basic support included or an add-on cost?
  • Do they offer dedicated account management and success teams?
  • What training resources and on-demand knowledge bases are available?
  • Can you talk to existing customers for honest feedback on support quality?

The more mission-critical your event, the more you should prioritize white-glove support with a single throat to choke.

Having a named customer success manager in your corner who knows your event inside and out is priceless when problems crop up.

Conversely, if you’re running a smaller virtual event with a more tech-savvy audience, 24/5 email support with a comprehensive self-serve knowledge base may suffice.

Want expert guidance & exclusive deals on top online event software? Contact us today and save!

As a preferred production partner with top virtual event platforms, we get exclusive discounts and pass the savings along to our clients.

Assessing Social Responsibility and Values Alignment

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More and more organizations are weighing potential suppliers’ commitment to social responsibility, diversity and inclusion, and sustainability as part of their evaluation criteria.

Virtual event platforms should be no exception.

Particularly for mission-driven nonprofits, associations, and purpose-led corporations, it's critical that your technology partners reflect your values.

Spend time researching the platform’s track record and positioning on key issues:

  • Ethical and transparent data practices. How are they safeguarding attendee privacy and using data responsibly? Are there clear options for attendees to control their data?
  • Accessibility and digital inclusion. Does the platform follow Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for users with disabilities? Do they have tools for closed captioning, audio description, and keyboard navigation?
  • Diversity and representation. Does the platform’s leadership team, workforce, and marketing reflect diverse perspectives? Are there examples of them promoting DEI in the events industry?
  • Responsible supply chain. Have they audited their supply chain for fair labor practices and human rights impacts especially with offshore development and support?
  • Carbon footprint. Are they actively working to measure, reduce, and offset the carbon emissions of their operations and data centers? What’s their path to net zero?
  • Community impact. Does the company donate time, money, or product to worthy causes in the communities they operate in? How are they using their platform for good?
  • Value-aligned customers. Who are some of their lighthouse customers and case studies? Are they partnering with organizations making a positive dent in the world?

A strong signal is whether the platform has earned recognized certifications like B Corporation status, LEED green building designation, or inclusion in ESG investment indexes.

Third-party validation carries extra weight.

The most forward-thinking platforms are weaving ESG factors into the fabric of their operations and the events they power.

They’re making it easier for you to run inclusive, accessible, and sustainable events aligned with your organization’s values.

Especially for larger enterprise events with significant budgets, where you spend matters from an impact perspective.

Vote with your virtual event dollars for platforms doing business the right way.

Your attendees and stakeholders will notice and appreciate it.

Bringing It All Together: Making Your Virtual Event Platform Selection

Whew, we covered a lot of ground in this decision-making guide for virtual event software!

Here’s a quick recap of the key factors to weigh:

  • Define your event goals, must-haves, and audience needs
  • Compare features and functionality against your specific requirements
  • Consider your budget and pricing model options
  • Evaluate the user experience for both organizers and attendees
  • Dig into the degree of customization and branding control
  • Uncover the breadth and depth of data and analytics
  • Scrutinize support quality and platform reliability
  • Assess the company’s commitment to social responsibility and values alignment
  • Gauge the platform’s pace of innovation and readiness for the future

This may seem like a lot to process, but as someone who’s guided hundreds of organizations through this journey, we can assure you the effort is well worth it.

The virtual event platform you choose will play an outsized role in achieving your goals and serving your community.

Our parting advice: resist the temptation to just go with the market leader or the cheapest option.

Every event is unique and every audience has distinct needs and expectations.

Do your due diligence to find the best fit for your specific situation.

And remember, you don’t have to navigate this decision alone!

Get a Free Consultation on the Best Event Software for Your Needs

Selecting event software is challenging with so many options to evaluate. But We & Goliath can guide you to the ideal platform for your virtual event. 

We have direct hands-on experience working with many leading tools and providers in the space.

For over 20 years, we’ve partnered with clients to execute successful online campaigns using cutting edge technology. 

Let’s connect for a complimentary 30-minute virtual strategy session to discuss your goals, budget, and technical requirements. We’ll simplify software selection by applying our real-world know-how. 

Take advantage of our experts’ experience to make platform decisions stress-free!

We & Goliath

We & Goliath is an award-winning, top 100 worldwide event agency known for increasing conference attendance by 7X and profits by 3X through beautifully designed virtual, hybrid, and in-person events. Since 1999, their team of innovative strategists and creative designers has worked with global enterprises, SMBs, non-profits, and other organizations to engage audiences and exceed expectations.

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