Today, more people than ever are working from home on a permanent basis. Virtual conferences and online events are a great way for companies and brands to get everyone together without the need for a large live events budget. Virtual conferencing software allows groups of all sizes to meet face-to-face, share information, and brainstorm new ideas outside of the office, and there are several options to choose from.
If you’re hosting an online event, it’s important to consider a few best practices. Here are some tips to ensure your event is a success:
- Create a Registration Website: Just like live events, virtual conferences can have lengthy agendas and a lot of moving parts. Consider creating a special website for your event where attendees can register and view logistical and contact information.
- Provide Freebies: Although your attendees are likely joining from home, direct mailing them some event swag keeps the meeting memorable. You could also give away virtual gift cards and discount codes.
- Engage Attendees: Keeping attendees engaged in a virtual conference setting has its own unique challenges. Capture their attention with interactive chats, Q&A sessions, and games. Hire dynamic guest speakers to add more value.
- Offer Networking Opportunities: Live events often have several networking opportunities where attendees can meet the speakers and get to know each other. Consider building in virtual happy hours and breakout sessions.
- Measure Data: At the end of your event, it’s important to assess how things went so you can improve future conferences. Keep track of attendance, time spent in sessions, and engagement. Consider sending out a survey to collect direct feedback from attendees.
Another piece of the online event planning process is deciding which virtual conference software program to use. Let’s look at today’s most popular choices.
Best Virtual Conference Software Programs
Zoom is one of the most well-known virtual conferencing platforms and allows attendees to meet face-to-face from any device. Zoom’s built-in collaboration tools enable participants to share their screens and co-annotate throughout the meeting. To boost your event’s engagement, use Zoom’s connection features to create interactive polls and quizzes. The platform syncs with Outlook, Gmail, and iCalendar so your attendees can keep up with your meeting schedule.
The free version of Zoom includes meetings up to 40 minutes long and space for 100 attendees. Paid plans start at $149 per month.
Skype is a free video conferencing platform that can host up to 99 attendees per meeting. Skype meetings are easy to join and don’t require any special downloads. Simply share your unique meeting link to your event participants who can join through their web browser. Powered by Microsoft, the latest version of Skype integrates with their search engine, Bing. Choose from several high quality images to set a custom background while on camera. Use the interactive chat feature to stay connected to attendees during sessions.
Google Meet is free to get started, but upgrading to the Premium version for $9.99 per month gives you access to more features. With Google Meet Premium, you can live stream your meetings on YouTube and record video. It also has a background noise cancellation feature and handles group video calls of up to 100 people for 24 hours. Take advantage of the breakout rooms to foster collaboration among attendees and use the translated captions to accommodate French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish event guests.
Toasty is a virtual conference software platform built for interaction. Use the program’s Activity Blocks to build out your meeting agenda and keep your attendees on track. Event hosts can also plan activities like timed activities and polls. Use Toasty’s integration with Miro, a virtual whiteboard program, to brainstorm with your team and collaborate on projects. Toasty also has an integration with Google Docs so you can walk through a document while in a video conferencing session.
Toasty’s free plan hosts meetings of up to 20 people for 50 minutes. Upgraded plans start at $20 per month, per license.
BlueJeans is a comprehensive virtual meeting platform, designed for everything from webinars to telehealth. BlueJeans offers free video conferencing for meetings of unlimited length with 25 participants. Get your meeting organized with the built-in pre-meeting planner and alert your attendees of meeting start times with calendar invites integrated with Outlook and Google Calendar. The free version of BlueJeans also includes HD video, screen sharing capabilities, and virtual breakout rooms.
Upgraded BlueJeans plans start at $9.99 per month.
Cisco Webex is a well-known player in the corporate virtual conferencing space. Webex basic is free and supports meetings of up to 100 attendees up to 40 minutes. Webex also includes an interactive whiteboard and advanced background noise removal. The secure meeting lobby prevents uninvited users from joining. You can also attend a Webex meeting on the go on your mobile device. Paid Webex plans include captions, live polling, and more.
Get access to additional features with Webex paid plans, starting at $14.50 per license, per month.
Lifesize offers several virtual software solutions, including an omnichannel contact center and a video conferencing platform. Lifesize uses unified cloud software and room system to provide a seamless HD video meeting experience. With the Standard plan, you can host unlimited meetings with up to 100 participants each. You also get access to your own personal meeting room and can upgrade to unlimited meeting recordings. If you’re interested in real time meeting analytics, that upgrade is available as well.
Pricing for Lifesize starts at $12.50 per month.