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A Guide to Virtual Symposium Platforms

A Guide to Virtual Symposium Platforms

There are many virtual symposium platforms out there to choose from. How do you choose the right one? It helps to start with the basics by defining what a symposium is and what it means to you. From there, we can learn what features of a symposium can be transferred to a virtual conference platform.

At OpenWater we work to make the transition from in-person to virtual as painless as possible. If you have any questions that this article won’t answer, we are happy to help schedule a time for you to speak with us.

What is a virtual symposium platform?


Opinions on what a symposium is tend to vary widely. Some organizations consider terms like symposium, conference, and seminar interchangeable. Since there is no definitive answer, it is important to ask yourself what a symposium means to you.

It’s okay if you don’t know! We are here to help.

Often, we see symposiums hosted by organizations geared toward academia. The format consists of panel discussions, sessions with presenters with abstracts and materials, and breakout sessions for questions.

Unlike conferences, symposiums tend to be about a specific topic. To illustrate, a conference might be about several topics under an umbrella topic such as sustainable energy. However, a symposium might be about a specific topic such as solar panel technology.

Note that what really matters is what a symposium means to you. At OpenWater, we listen to how you define your event, and we help create a virtual symposium platform that fits your definition. Feel free to discuss with a representative if you’d like to learn more.

Must-have features for a virtual symposium platform

Does your symposium need breakout sessions? Are there panel discussions? How are the presentations formatted? Is there an abstract submission and review process? What do you offer your sponsors?

These are questions we typically ask organizations to determine what features they might need included in their virtual symposium platform.

Below are some features that you might want to consider when researching virtual conference platforms on which to host your symposium.

Speaker / Panelist Training, Using Zoom

At OpenWater we use Zoom as the virtual rooms that connects attendees for sessions.

Think of OpenWater as the venue hall, and Zoom as the conference rooms that host your sessions. OpenWater software automates Zoom configurations to make it easy to use for large virtual conferences.

One reason why people like OpenWater is because they already know how to use Zoom and that makes it easier for speakers, attendees, panelist, exhibitors, sponsors and conference administrators to work with OpenWater.

We provide free Zoom training for virtual events to speakers and room moderators and also provide premium Zoom training.

Breakout Rooms


A breakout room is a great feature to have for any virtual event. It is commonly used for networking and discussions to engage the audience.

Virtual breakout rooms are great for symposiums because they give your audience an opportunity to break out into small groups to discuss a presentation. They are commonly utilized in symposia we have helped run.

You can learn more about the value of breakout rooms in our previous post.

Poster Gallery


An easy-to-use Poster and/or Abstract Gallery is a great feature to have in a virtual symposium platform.

Presenters can use an abstract or poster gallery feature to display their work to their audience. Since symposia tend to be academic and source-focused, it offers a convenient point of reference for all participants.

OpenWater offers a gallery that features simple search tools that make it easy for attendees to sift through hundreds of posters and abstracts.

Check out our platform lookbook if you want to check it out for yourself. If you’d like someone to walk you through it, we’ll help schedule a meeting!

Abstract Submission and Review

As I said, there are many providers for virtual symposium platforms out there. However, not many platform providers offer an abstract submission and review software with their services.

OpenWater can provide you with an abstract management software that allows you to collect abstracts, assign and review submissions, organize and publish your sessions, and manage your speakers all in one easy to use platform.

Check out our abstract management page to learn more.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to virtual symposium platforms and software, It’s helpful to know what you’re looking for before you meet with providers. You have an idea of what your needs are and know who can and who can’t meet them.

If you need help figuring it out, you can always speak with us. We can help define your goals and figure out what you might need in order to put on a successful virtual symposium.