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How to Select the Right Virtual Conference Solutions for Your Association

How to Select the Right Virtual Conference Solutions for Your Association

Finding a virtual conference solution can be difficult because there are many options, and not every solution is best for your unique event. Because there are so many options, you need to narrow down your search before you begin.

To narrow down your search, it’s helpful evaluate your needs by asking yourself questions about your virtual event.

  1. How big is my virtual conference?
  2. Should I Host a Virtual Conference or a Hybrid Event?
  3. What kind of content does my conference have?
  4. What’s the best virtual conference solution?

In this post, we’ll cover why it’s important to ask yourself these questions. Also, we’ll gloss over some virtual conference platforms and show why they’re effective for certain events.

How big is my virtual conference?

Here’s a great place to start before you go looking for solutions. To figure out how big your virtual conference might be, take a look at your previous conferences.

With attention to the amount of attendees, note that since virtual conferences are more accessible than in-person. Therefore, your attendee list for a virtual conference is going to be bigger.

Does size matter?

The size of your conference matters because it will inform future decisions such as the format and structure of your conference.

For example, if your conference is relatively small with, say, 50-100 attendees, a virtual conference platform might not be the best option.

On the other hand, if your conferences typically have thousands of attendees, you’re going to want to look into a scalable virtual conference platform or hybrid option that will suit your needs.

How many sessions?

Attendee size isn’t the only thing you should consider when determining the size of your conference. In face, the amount of sessions you plan to have is arguably more indicative of the overall size of your conference.

A content-rich conference with many sessions is ideal for your attendees. Additionally, it’s a great fit for a virtual conference platform like OpenWater. More on this later!

Should I Host a Virtual Conference or a Hybrid Event?

Here’s a question that seems to be on everyone’s mind now that more event spaces are opening up.

It’s unlikely you’re able to go 100% in-person with your conference, so let’s say you know you need a virtual solution. Now, the next decision you need to make is whether to go all-virtual or choose a hybrid event solution.

A hybrid solution to conferencing can take many forms. In general, though, we see them conducted in two ways:

  1. Sessions, speakers and presenters, and some audience members are in-person and stream a live broadcast to virtual participants.
  2. Speakers and presenters pre-record their session content in front of some audience members. Later, the content is made available to virtual audiences. When the content is made available, speakers join in for virtual Q&A sessions.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to go all-virtual as a solution for your conference, you’re going to need a virtual conference platform or some other kind of software to host your conference on.

There are benefits to both hybrid conferences and all-virtual conferences. Let’s take a look!

3 Benefits of Virtual Conference Solutions

  1. Accessibility is the greatest benefit of hosting a virtual conference. To elaborate, virtual conferences are accessible because all anyone needs to join is an internet connection. Because virtual conferences are so accessible, we’ve seen the amount of attendees increase over 3x for some organizations.
  2. Better Analytics is another great benefit of going virtual for your conference. Since attendees are using trackable data, you are able to see stats about how attendees engage with your conference. To specify, some key stats to take note of are (1) the amount of time your attendees stay in each session and (2) the amount of engagement your sponsors are receiving from participants. Also, creating surveys for your attendees during your conference is another great way to analyze your conference.
  3. Customization abilities are key for your organization’s branding at a virtual conference. Matching the look and feel of your organization’s website authenticates your organization and increases recognition. Also, customization allows you to get creative with your virtual conference. Since virtual conferencing is still a new playing field, you’re free to try new things to engage your attendees!

3 Benefits of a Hybrid Solution

  1. An In-Person Feel is what many people are after when choosing a hybrid event solution. As long as capacity limits are enforced nation-wide, a hybrid option is the closest you can get to an in-person event.
  2. Networking is something that is not easily replicable in a virtual setting. Moreover, about three-quarters of people surveyed have cited networking as a key factor in deciding to attend events similar to conferences. Therefore, choosing a hybrid option opens up the ability to network in-person for your attendees, which is a great benefit.
  3. Another advantage of going hybrid is that it shares many of the same benefits as going fully virtual, yet still has that in-person feel that a virtual event can’t replicate. To expand on this, going hybrid means you can collect and analyze data from your virtual attendees while also benefiting from the in-person advantages to in-person experiences such as networking.

What kind of content does my conference have?

This is an important question you should ask yourself because it will narrow down the type of platform you will be looking for.

While some platforms might be ideal for a higher education organization that hosts a research conference, others wouldn’t be so great.

To expand on this, let’s take a look at some features that a conference platform solution might have for events with different types of content.

Academic, Scientific, and Medical Conferences

 

These types of conferences are designed to engage audiences by providing high-value content. For conferences like these, a conference platform solution should have features that accentuate the valuable content.

For example, OpenWater’s virtual conference platform has a great poster gallery feature that attendees can access to view a presenter’s work.

Since session content is also an important aspect of these conferences, it’s important to have intuitive session pages that presenters can easily navigate and post their content on.

To illustrate, OpenWater has easy-to-use session pages that speakers and presenters can use to post videos, session recordings and livestreams, links to other materials, and more.

To learn more what features to look out for for higher ed conferences, be sure to check out our article on higher education event management software.

Business, Leadership, and Networking Conferences

These types of conferences aren’t typically centered around content like the previous conferences we discussed. Rather, these conferences tend to be centered around building attendee-to-attendee relationships. Also, these conferences tend to be larger in scale.

For this reason, a conference platform with networking features would be preferred. A typical example of a networking feature in a platform is a virtual chat-room.

Notably, OpenWater’s platform has a networking lounge capable of both text chat and video networking.

Furthermore, attendees are able to scroll through a directory of other attendees and browse through profiles of potential networking buddies.

It’s also worth noting that OpenWater is scalable, so it’s a great solution for organizations looking for virtual conference platforms for large groups.

What’s the best virtual conference solution?

Now that you’ve answered the questions outlined above, hopefully you can approach your search for the best virtual conference solution for your organization with more insight and knowledge of the type of conference you want to run.

To jumpstart your search, I thought it might be helpful to outline some virtual conference platform and software solutions below.

OpenWater’s Virtual Conference Platform

OpenWater’s virtual conference platform is one of our Event Cloud products. It’s a great platform or hybrid solution for any conference.

In addition to the platform features previously outlined in this article, OpenWater has the highest rated conference services. For this reason, we are among the few platforms that provide the features you need AND the assistance you need to make your conference as effective as possible.

Additionally, OpenWater provides hybrid options if you want part of your conference to be in person.

Zoom

Zoom’s standard platform is a great choice for smaller conferences that are more focused around a single topic. Additionally, Zoom is the best if you’re looking for virtual conference platforms with breakout rooms.

Zoom is a great option because it is scalable, accessible, and reliable. In fact, OpenWater partners with Zoom to provide you with the best video conferencing service you can find.

Check out Zoom’s feature page to learn more about the platform.