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Let’s Get Digital: Choosing the Right Digital Platform for Your Event

by Briana Billingham on Apr 30, 2020

Events and conferences today are persevering, despite the lack of ability to meet in person, and marketers are embracing digital to keep us all connected. In our first blog post for Let’s Get Digital, we explored why the industry is shifting to digital events, and how your company can take measures to adapt to canceling in-person events. Now that this new era of digital-first events has arrived, you’ll need to find the right platform for what you’re looking to accomplish. Each option presents different perks and challenges — depending on the type of event you’re looking to host.

With so many different digital platforms to choose from, how do you pick? Start by understanding what type of content you want to share and what the goals of this digital event are. Next, consider the region you’re focusing on and how you want attendees to participate. This will help you determine which platform will ultimately drive the most engagement and produce the highest ROI. For digital events, there are two main formats you can explore — here’s how we break them down: 

Webinars 

Webinars are online events where a main speaker or a small group of speakers deliver a presentation to a large audience. Typically, there is minimal participation from the audience on audio or video in a webinar. These are a good substitute for e keynote speeches or small panels that are usually held at in-person events. Webinars allow companies or individuals on camera to present on a specific topic and keep attendees focused through the use of visuals. These are usually shown in a keynote format and supported by a detailed presentation to hold an attendee’s attention while sharing dense data.

Webinar platforms have robust functionality for reporting features — making it easier to determine if your digital event was successful, and where you can focus on improving. 

Reporting features can include: number of accepted requests to register, reporting on how many attendees leave or rejoin the webinar and at the exact times they do so, how long an attendee watches a webinar for, who views the recordings, hosts participant polling, live Q&A, and more (check with your platform to confirm prior). 

To assist with streamlining your data, many webinar platforms offer optional integrated automation software including Marketo and Zapier. These integrations pull data from the webinar platforms into easy-to-manage full digital marketing dashboards. These integrations can be extremely useful for a small marketing team or a team at the  beginning of creating a digital marketing strategy. Another main feature that webinars offer are camera controls. Webinars can also offer camera controls and  opportunities for company-specific branding — including personalized registration links, emails, confirmations, and  digital event platform. Most of these features and information can be easily managed on the webinar platform or as part of your webinar package.

Virtual Meetings

Virtual meetings, as opposed to webinars, go hand-in-hand with content that requires multiple speakers and attendee participation. Meaningful connections are often criticized as being lost with digital events, but virtual meetings provide an opportunity for attendees to make a new connection and share information. Virtual meetings allow multiple hosts or a panel of speakers to share their thoughts on a specific topic in a discussion-based format with greater attendee participation. Content can be presented and managed in many different ways on virtual meeting platforms. These can include: a fireside chat as an informal conversation between a moderator and their guest, or a panel discussion with a moderated conversation between a host and multiple panelists offering differing viewpoints on a specific topic that is question-driven. In both of these the focus is to discuss solutions in a digestible way for attendees. For virtual meetings, attendee takeaways tend to be markers of success. 

The main features for virtual meetings center around enabling multiple host and attendee participation. On a virtual meeting platform, the host can enable many different functions for attendees, such as utilizing video cameras, microphones and chats. Attendee registration is easy to use and can be accessed by registration or by a simple meeting ID link. 

Virtual meeting platforms may offer a break out sessions function which can be helpful with a high number of  attendees for a question-based format. Working this into your virtual meeting and other features can be easily tracked and managed on the digital platform dashboard. Keep in mind that even though setting up a virtual meeting can be user friendly for hosts and the attendees, familiarity with all aspects of the platform is essential to creating a successful virtual meeting. Some of these features and functions might be hidden in the settings under another category, so tutorial videos are extremely helpful here and widely available. 

The Platforms 

Today, there are over 30 different digital platforms on the market. Some of these platforms focus strictly on webinars or virtual meetings and some offer both solutions. Here’s our deeper dive into the three most popular platforms: ON24, GotoWebinar, and Zoom. 

ON24

ON24 powers live, personalized webinar experiences that businesses leverage to deliver data, find demand, and drive revenue. Through the ON24 Platform, marketers can build data-rich, interactive webinars supporting up to 4,000 attendees on a single digital event and is available for attendees to access it on mobile devices.. ON24 provides a user-friendly dashboard with robust reporting data — from when a large amount of attendees leave during a webinar to new leads acquired. The platform partners with many  integrated marketing solutions and revenue reporting solutions along with  a support team to fit your needs. ON24 is popular in the United States and in EMEA with many of their offices located in these regions, as well as their servers. 

Gotowebinar 

Gotowebinar is an easy-to-use solution webinar platform that offers speedy event management, data and performance. Gotowebinar is prevalent in APAC and in North America  and allows hosts to run different webinars at once — which is essential if you plan to host or be a part of a digital conference. Gotowebinar offers an easy set up for company branding, custom branded registration, and recording features along with the opportunity to run polls surveys for feedback after a webinar ends. Recordings can be pre-recorded or take place in realtime to be shared later to your network. Gotowebinar also  offers pre-set templates that are useful for first time webinar hosts as well as integrations into a preferred CRM.  

Zoom

Zoom is one of the most popular digital event platforms globally. Zoom is a complete communications suite offering support for meetings, chat, data, and more — capable of supporting both a webinar platform and a virtual meeting platform. Attendees do not need to have a paid account to join a webinar or virtual meeting, they can simply sign up by creating a login on the Zoom website. Zoom’s features include data reporting, recordings, presentation visuals, video camera functions, chat, and audio. 

Zoom also offers  breakout rooms which can provide attendees extra facetime with speakers if a webinar or virtual meeting is structured to have many discussion topics. These breakout rooms can be predetermined with the number of attendees and preset time limits. Once the timer runs on the room, the attendee and speakers can be redirected back to the original format without needing to do a thing. The Zoom platform can host up to 1000 attendees hosted in the webinar or virtual meeting meeting. If attendees do not have a computer or video camera, Zoom has an integrated phone system and each personalized link can be accessed with a phone number.  Zoom has multiple opportunities to create customizable branding such as registration links and video backgrounds. Many of the features are also hidden and underutilized on Zoom and the website offers a great FAQ’s link to help with tips and tricks.  

Whether you’re hosting a webinar or virtual meeting (or even both!) — remember, to ask questions to shape your strategy, and educate yourself on what’s available to achieve the best possible results for your digital event regionally and globally. Dive deeper into the data and the platform features. Leverage your original goals for hosting the webinar, and find the data points that map back to proving digital events are viable for your company. And from here, understand where you came up short and come up with ideas to address these in future digital events. 

Stay tuned for the next installment of the “Let’s Get Digital” series featuring digital event best practices with insights on tips and tricks. 

Briana Billingham is AppLovin’s global events manager.