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Virtual Platform Graphic

Virtual Platforms

All the talk in the virtual space right now is about platforms. What platform is the best? Do you have a platform that we can use? What platform do you suggest?

These are all good questions, but unfortunately, there are no easy to answers. No one size fits all. It requires a deeper dive into what you are looking to accomplish with your event, and that will dictate what platform will be best suited for you.

First, a little history on virtual event platforms.

Prior to Covid-19, there were a few major platforms available for virtual events. These platforms were generally licensed to your A/V company. The A/V company would utilize that platform and bundle it in with the rest of your production package. This made things simple and easy for you. After all, your attention was primarily focused on the in-person event and the people in the room. If the A/V company you went with had a good working knowledge of the platform, it was easy for the end user to just “go with that one”.

Over the last 6 months, things have changed a little. There are now hundreds of platforms to choose from, which is great for end users. And the biggest change we have seen is the way pricing models have shifted. Most of the leading platforms now offer a ‘per event’ pricing option. This is nice because you can select the best platform for the exact event you are doing, as well as one that fits within your budget. You may have one event that requires strong registration and data collection capabilities, but another event that requires abundant engagement and interactivity features.

Because of this, we’ve seen a big shift away from using the A/V company’s platform. Since planners and event professionals have had so much time to research the platforms available, they have become fairly educated on their capabilities and features. Once they start talking to the A/V company, the planners realize that their A/V company can’t possibly be licensed on all of these platforms.  And as the planners start asking about the capabilities of the A/V company’s platform, they realize that platform may not be the best for their purposes. So now, the end user has the opportunity to pick platforms that lend well to their goals for the event.

Not all platforms are the best at everything, and a good virtual A/V company should at least know the pros and cons of the available platforms, and be able to steer you in the right direction. Try not to let them push you into using their platform, by the way. The team at Synergetic has created a resource guide to help you easily compare some of the top platforms we’ve seen in the market. Each of the platforms have their strengths and weaknesses, and they have really been tailored to fit specific event needs. Send us an email and we will be sure to send you a copy of it – info@sslproductions.com.

The one word we hear a lot about platforms is engagement. And while we understand that engagement seems to be the hot topic right now, engagement does not come from the platform. The platform just executes the engagement for you. Engagement is generated by skilled producing and thoughtful content. This has been a really hard concept to talk to customers about because they want a platform that does it ALL. And unfortunately, that just doesn’t exist.

Before you even think about a platform, you need to consider the type of engagement you want to achieve. You hear a lot of people talking about wanting their viewers to be able to interact in real-time, give feedback, and have features that make the event seem more real – as if they were all together in person. But they haven’t thought about what engagement actually is or what they are going to do with that information once they have it.

Let me give you an example: Say you are hosting a virtual event over a period of 2 days. The event is linear (there is one presenter speaking at a time). The viewers can only see this presenter and no one else. If you are producing the event, what kind of engagement would you want the viewer to have? All of the available platforms are going to be able to tell you how many people logged in. They are all going feature chat rooms and Q&A sections. So that part is easy. But, if you’d like to know how much the viewer enjoyed that presenter, or for the viewer to be able to react immediately after the session, what you do with that information? Because to be able to get that information, it might cost you three times as much. And you very well could just send out a post-event e-mail survey for a few dollars.

But let’s say that you host the same 2 day meeting and you are having multiple sessions at one time throughout the 2 days. Say, for example you have 3 presenters all giving a lecture at 10 AM. Now you want viewers to be able to have the choice to select which presenter they want to watch. If the viewer is not too excited by the one they picked, you want them to be able to leave that session and go to another. As the producer, you want to see how long each of the viewers were watching each presenter, what rooms they went to, and then be able to rate the presenter on the spot. If you have that information real-time, you are able to make adjustments for later in the day or even tomorrow. You can direct particular messages to the viewer about other presenters he/she may like. You are able to see which presenters are doing a really good job and who is not. This could be critical information to your program, and isn’t information that would be effective to collect after the event has already ended.  So this sort of engagement would be worth the additional money.

A couple of good questions you can ask yourself when it comes to engagement:

What are you going to do with the engagement information?

  • Are you really going to put it to good use or is it just going to sit on a spreadsheet somewhere? Don’t get caught up in the big, fancy things that it CAN do. Be realistic about what YOU are going to do with it. Because otherwise, you are spending a lot of money for that data to collect dust in a buried folder.
  • Is this information critical to collect during the event? Will it be used to make changes to the subsequent programming? If not, the better choice is to just send an e-mail survey after the events.

 

Is this program going to be longer than 2 hours?

  • If not, it will be hard to get good data from the current platforms other than: did you like this or not? And we aren’t sure that is worth the additional cost.

 

Will there be multiple sessions occurring simultaneously?

  • If so, then having a more robust platform could give you valuable feedback.

 

What kind of content do you want the viewer to engage with?

  • The platform is a blank slate. Someone needs to think about the type of information you want to collect. It needs to be creative and something the viewer will find interesting. Someone needs to enter this information into the platform. All of these things take time. And that may be something you don’t have a lot of now, especially if the broadcast is scheduled in the next few weeks.

 

Can you create engagement through production value?

  • If you are looking to “engage” customers by just keeping them tuned in, that can all be done through production value. We’ve come up with a lot of ways to help you do just that, and they don’t require spending a ton of money – especially if your program is less than an hour. Here are just a few:
  1. Custom, on-brand graphics
  2. Picture in picture
  3. Creative script writing
  4. Effective storyboarding
  5. Commercials, cutaway shots, and custom videos, and more!

 

You need to focus on creating an experience for your viewers through the quality of content and how it is delivered, then you can feel confident about choosing a platform. Please, don’t skip over the storyboard and how the show is produced. This, above all other aspects of a virtual broadcast, is the most important! Your viewers don’t lack engagement because there aren’t buttons to hit or things to click. They lack engagement because:

  • The content was boring, uninteresting, or presented in a dull manner
  • The script did not make sense or flow naturally
  • The audio was hard to hear
  • The video quality was pixelated and lagged
  • The transitions looked cheesy or awkward
  • The flow of the show was not well thought out

 

Once you have the broadcast produced and feel comfortable with how the viewers are going to feel about it, then it is time to pick a platform.

 

There are three types of achievable virtual events to host:

  • Meeting
  • Social Event
  • Conference

 

Each of these types of events have solid platforms to choose from. Side note:

  • The majority of customers that need to consider multiple types of platforms are the ones hosting virtual conferences. If you are hosting a virtual meeting or social event and it is under one hour, there are plenty of low-cost platforms that will work just fine for you.

Email us, jason@sslproductions.com or call us at (215) 633-1200 and let us share our recommendations with you.