If you’ve been following the news, you’re well aware that Covid-19 continues to be a growing health concern in the United States. As more Covid-19 cases are being identified across the company, companies are taking measures to mitigate the risk of sick employees and customers by limiting large gatherings.
As a result, a vast number of conferences have been cancelled or have begun transitioning to online-only events. With this rapid change, many people are wondering what tools to use to host digital conferences, and the best tools for hosting a virtual conference.
As companies begin to embrace remote work and virtual conferences to ensure attendees can participate in events without the risk of spreading Covid-19, it’s essential to provide the same value online as an in-person event.
If you’ve been following our virtual conference series, How to Host a Successful Virtual Conference (Part One) and How to Plan a Successful Virtual Conference (Part Two), you’ve got the basics needed to create a successful digital conference, how to find and select speakers, and how to plan events. In today’s article, we’ll discuss the best platforms for hosting a virtual conference, what tools to use to host digital conferences, and tools to use to attend virtual conferences.
There are several benefits of virtual conferences, but in order to provide the most value or get the most value out of a virtual conference, it’s essential that we’re utilizing and implementing the best tools.
Best platforms for hosting a virtual conference
Whether you’re hosting a virtual conference to mitigate the risk of spreading sickness, or as a way to reach a wider audience, it’s essential that the interactions and engagement that make conferences so valuable aren’t being lost or compromised. Stringing together a bunch of Webinars is not an effective way to organize or host a successful virtual conference. The same goes for relying on a bunch of talking heads to keep audiences engaged.
In the first article series, How to Host a Successful Virtual Conference (Part One), we recommended asking yourself what you are trying to achieve, such as:
- Grow awareness for your business. There are most likely competitors and other companies targeting the same target audience as you. Consider partnering with those other companies, or clearly defining your x-factor.
- Generate leads and acquire new customers
- Create a revenue stream from sponsorships.
- Cultivate relationships with influencers, and current customers.
- Spread your message
- Establish yourself as an authority and thought leader in your industry
Answering these questions will not only help you narrow down your end-goal, but also help you narrow down the best platforms for hosting a virtual conference. Covid-19 aside, virtual meeting platforms have become a standard practice among businesses and virtual conferences. As a result, there are tons of options and so choosing the best platforms for hosting a virtual conference, depends on your specific needs.
1. Zight (formerly CloudApp)
Break through the noise with Zight (formerly CloudApp). Zight (formerly CloudApp) is a great tool to help you promote your virtual conference with its free screenshot tool for mac and pc, screen recorder, and GIFmaker designed to seamlessly streamline your workflow, making it the perfect tool to help organize your virtual conference.
Record your screen, create engaging material, communicate more efficiently and effectively with your team, send small GIFs or videos directly in tools like Outreach or Gmail, or integration apps including Slack, Trello, Google Docs, Intercom and more to stay connected.
2. ezTalks Meetings
ezTalks is renowned for being one of the most popular and innovative virtual meeting platforms out there because of its vast number of user-friendly features. Host virtual meetings comfortably and stand out as one of the top virtual meeting platforms on the market.
A top key feature ezTalks offers is the ability to support an event of up to 100 attendees free of charge. Another reason ezTalks is considered one of the best platforms for hosting a virtual conference is due to its reliable and high-quality video and audio. Plus, it includes an interactive whiteboard, instant messaging services, and a simple screen sharing option. These and other great features make this free virtual event platform a perfect choice for any business or institution out there.
Host virtual meetings, conferences, trainings, webinars, online courses, and more. Share messages and files with other attendees with its chat feature or collaborate with apps, including Outlook, Slack, and Egnyte. Zoom offers flawless HD video quality and crystal-clear audio, dual screen-sharing and voice detection functionality.
If you’re looking to easily save and share clips for future reference, with Zoom you can record meetings in MP4 or M4A video format on mobile devices. If you’re planning a larger event, Zoom offers top-rated customer service, and support and can support up to 1,000 live video conference participants and 10,000 attendees at a time.
This all-in-one communication platform for businesses makes our list of one of the best platforms for hosting a virtual conference due to its collaborative team messaging, video transcriptions, customizable team settings and the ability to host up to 100 participants. but you can also launch or join a meeting from your smartphone with the GoToMeeting app.
As one of the most trusted video conference tools with millions of users per month and year, GoToMeeting is known for its drawing tools and virtual whiteboard, transcription feature, and reliable customer support. It also offers the option to launch meetings directly from integrated apps, email, and instant-messaging tools. Plus, it’s simple to schedule a conference with GoToMeeting’s user-friendly interface.
GoToWebinar is an online meeting platform made by the same company as GoToMeeting. Plan, present, and follow up with webinar attendees. Millions of webinars are hosted on GoToWebinar because of its endless features including polling, automatic webinar invitations, follow-up emails, attendee data, webinar performance, and a sharable video library.
One of the key components of a successful virtual conference is promoting meaningful conversations, and connections. With GoToWebinar, attendees can join the discussion, ask live questions and answer polls during the presentation. Stream live talks and send recordings to attendees once it’s finished for those who either missed the conference or wish to review the material.
With the Starter plan, you can have up to 100 participants. For more attendees, you’ll need to upgrade. With upgraded plans, you can run Broadcast conferences that run in your browsers without needing to install anything.
ClickMeet is considered one of the best platforms for hosting a virtual conference because it is simple and versatile. The well-integrated, intuitive platform provides options for automated webinars and customized invites. Arrange and schedule online meetings, customize meeting spaces, share your screen, get reports and analytics on attendance rates and other metrics, and record your speakers with the option to download and share them with anyone. Keep your attendees engaged with dynamic presentations, the interactive whiteboard, and live chat.
Overall, ClickMeeting is an affordable option with unique features, and an impressive and user-friendly interface. Depending on what you’re looking for, their unique features might be exactly what your virtual conference needs. Utilize the polls and surveys for feedback, promote interactive sessions with chat features or connect to Facebook and YouTube.
7. Adobe Connect
This feature-rich platform goes beyond just video chatting, screen-sharing, and instant messaging. Create microsites, manage emails, measure engagement, create persistent virtual rooms that you can customize to fit your brand. Adobe Connect is arguably one of the best platforms for hosting a virtual conference because it comes well-equipped with tons of features, and crystal-clear audio.
It offers a variety of templates so you can customize your environment, allows you to design unique registration pages for attendees, influence and connect with your target audience with videos, blogs, surveys, and polls, and get better insights with Adobe Connect’s robust analytics for. Plus, the ramp-up time is longer than that of most of its competitors, which allows it to easily integrate smoothly with all Adobe products, or with CRM software, including Eloqua and Salesforce.
What tools to use to host digital conference
If you’ve ever attended or hosted a conference, you’re well aware that events and networking are vital. Check out what tools to use to host digital conferences and tools to use to attend virtual conferences in order to provide the most value.
1. Online chat features
Virtual conferences run the risk of lacking the same opportunity for networking and interaction as face-to-face events, so it’s important to know what tools to use to host digital conferences and tools to use to attend virtual conferences.
As discussed above, a majority of platforms offer a chat feature. It’s important to use the chat feature to encourage conversation with well-thought relevant and provocative questions during sessions and remind attendees that participation is encouraged. Periodically responding to the chat will help keep the conversation going, ensure it is relevant, and show attendees that the hosts are present and interested in providing a valuable experience.
Including a Q&A portion of the talk, and letting attendees know that there will be a Q&A portion, is an exceptional way to get the conversation flowing. As mentioned above, most platforms offer a chat feature simply because it is so vital! While some attendees may find it nerve-wracking to speak up, most are comfortable using chat as a tool.
Take it a step further by providing a place for attendees to discuss and interact between sessions. This can be achieved in several ways, including a private FB or Linked-In group that is only open to attendees. This can also be integrated into your website with a discussion board plugin. A great way to direct attendees to discussions and forums is with a newsletter that highlights active discussions on the forum and links directly to them.
2. Live videos and recordings
Attendees expect virtual conferences to provide them with the same value and expect the tools to use to attend virtual conferences will enhance their experience. The last thing attendees want is a string of pre-recorded webinars and limited opportunities to engage or to interact with the speaker and material.
As mentioned above, there are tons of platforms that you can use for your virtual conference. If you’ve chosen a platform with tons of features and you’re wondering what tools to use to host a digital conference, a mix of pre-recorded videos and live videos is key. Live videos are vital as they provide value and most platforms make it easy to incorporate pre-recorded videos with live videos as part of your virtual conference. Even the smallest portion of live videos will help make your virtual conference feel personal and intimate, and will increase the likelihood of attendee engagement.
Consider streaming a live video at the beginning of all sessions to introduce speakers. Once you’ve introduced the speakers, interacted with attendees and encouraged the conversation, transition to the speaker’s actual presentation. This reminds attendees that the event is being hosted by real people, but more importantly, people who value and want to provide value with real teaching, discussion, and learning.
In today’s world, we have access to so many platforms and tools that’ll help streamline and improve the success of our virtual conferences, including Zight (formerly CloudApp), Asana, and Slack. Transform the way you participate or host virtual conferences, and stay connected as we take extra precautions to mitigate the Covid-19 outbreak.