The COVID-19 global pandemic taught many companies that traditional in-person conferences can easily be virtual and still be successful. Even though we expect traditional conferences to continue to be popular, we expect virtual conferences to stick around for the long haul and continue to gain market share.
This article reveals the top 5 virtual conference platforms that will serve you well as a brand or event organizer. We break down the pros and cons as well as the pricing of each platform.
What is a Virtual Conference?
A virtual conference is simply what the name entails: a conference held online. It has become an increasingly used term nowadays, with events and conferences turning virtual for various reasons.
These events allow a similar level of networking and opportunities as a regular event or trade show, but through the simplicity of the computer screen.
In a virtual conference you have full access to the content of the event without having to spend more on expensive travel and hotels to attend the conferences. You get to do virtual networking, attend live panellists/speakers, as well as participate in Q&As, and then return to your usual life right when it ends.
They’re easy, less expensive, and more accessible.
What Does a Virtual Conference Platform Do?
A virtual conference platform comes as the perfect solution for events turning virtual.
The best virtual conference platforms provide the platform and tools to make events simple and interactive by allowing live streaming of the speakers, functionality for Q&As, video replay, virtual booths, ticketing, attendance tracking, and more.
These platforms are absolutely necessary for any virtual conference, trade show, expo, or career fair because of the technical challenges involved.
If your company doesn’t have the resources to build its own proprietary virtual conference platform, then you need to rely on a solid 3rd party platform.
Here are some features to look for when evaluating virtual conference platforms:
Online Ticket Sales & Attendance Tracking
At the base level, a great virtual conference platform handles ticketing, dynamic ticket prices, payment processing, and attendance tracking. Making it easy for people to sign up for a virtual event, pay (if it’s a premium event), and report on who has attended and who hasn’t, is a must.
Customized Event Landing Pages
All virtual events need a sign-up and information page of some sort. These are called event landing pages. Not all virtual conference platforms give you the option to create a custom event landing page natively, so this is definitely something you should look for when considering which virtual event platform to go with.
This one is essential to any good virtual event platform, allowing you to host stream your event live. Depending on the size of the event, you may want a virtual event platform that has a native (built in) streaming platform versus an integration with a 3rd party streaming platform (like Zoom). Of course, some platforms, like EventSprout, offer both.
One of the best ways to get attendees to participate and learn more from any webinar or event are Q&A sessions. A proper virtual conference platform will integrate a Q&A system for better audience engagement. This is a key element of any event or conference to provide some sort of interactivity that’s otherwise not available in a virtual format.
Interactive workshops, or breakout sessions, are small training opportunities for attendees to get more in-depth knowledge on a specific topic by asking questions and actively participating in the event. Make sure to choose a virtual platform that will allow these workshops.
Audience live chat
Audience live chats allow attendees to network with each other, one of the main reasons people attend such conferences, webinars or events. For any event planner, it's essential to pick a convenient chat feature that will further allow more attendee engagement.
Any complete virtual event platform will allow questionnaires to be distributed to participants before, during or after the virtual event, one of the most important attendee engagement tools that you will surely make it a more fun experience for everyone. Ask them what session they are looking for the most and get an answer in real time!
Simply hosting a virtual event doesn't really cut it, does it? For it to succeed, you have to be able to market it correctly with various tools, hence why you should choose a virtual event platform with marketing features that will give you the ability to create an email database and send messages to remind people of your virtual event or conference.
At the minimum, you’ll want a platform that integrates with 3rd party email marketing tools if you’re planning on using email marketing to grow your event.
The 5 Best Virtual Conference Platforms
Ready to see the five best virtual conference platforms available? Let’s take a look!
#1: EventSprout (Best Overall Virtual Conference Platform)
EventSprout is an event management platform that originally served as the platform for the famous Warrior Dash obstacle racing company and many other large event organizations.
In recent years, the platform has expanded into live streaming with support for virtual conferences, summits, and even hybrid events.
It's a rock solid, feature-rich, easy-to-use platform that features a native live streaming platform for larger virtual events as well as a seamless Zoom integration for smaller virtual events.
With EventSprout, you can create a custom event landing page for event registration, market your event, sell tickets online, track event attendees, and access detailed event analytics at no cost to you as the event organizer ... all in one place.
These powerful features, combined with a decade-long track record of success, make EventSprout one of the best all-around virtual conference platforms available.
EventSprout Virtual Event Pricing: $2 + 2.5% of the ticket price (has the option to pass fees to the ticket buyer, making the platform free for event organizers).
#2: BigMarker Virtual Conference Platform
Founded in 2010, BigMarker has become a staple in virtual events. This event platform allows for organizing single or multi-day conferences and summits that makes it easy for attendees to enjoy and for event planners to host incredible event experiences.
BigMarker integrates several CRM platforms such as MailChimp, Salesforce, HubSpot and Active Campaign that make it easy to extract data and build relations with the attendees.
You can easily host Q&A sessions, chat sessions and interactive workshops, but it doesn't have the ability to create virtual booths for exhibitors or vendors, which can be a problem if you're hosting a trade show.
BigMarker Virtual Event Pricing: This virtual event platform offers plans ranging from $79/month to $279/month, as well as a White Labeled version that offers the chance to create completely branded webinars, videos and training sessions for your company (requires you to request a quote).
#3: Accelevents Virtual Event Platform
Accelevents, an all-in-one event platform, is complete but affordable, making it an excellent and easy to use option. With 24/7 customer support, you will never feel lost with this web platform. It offers amazing features such as ticket sales, live streaming, live chat and polls, virtual exhibitor booths, breakout sessions and others.
You even have access to A.I. based networking so participants can actively be a part of the virtual event and build lasting professional relationships. There are also plenty of analytics tools to help you understand what's working and what needs to be changed. Exhibitors will be able to host live demos, chat with attendees, schedule video meetings, add marketing material, and more.
Accelevents Virtual Event Platform Pricing: The price of this virtual conference platform is $3/attendee for free registration, and 20% of total ticket sales for paid events.
#4 Brella Virtual Conference Platform
Brella is a new virtual conference platform, having only been founded in 2016, but already setting a high level of quality amongst other options. They offer a centralized virtual event platform where attendees can access live video streaming, agendas and event updates, as well as a better way to network at online conference events.
It offers a clean web and mobile app to keep attendees happy and satisfied throughout all online events, as well as matchmaking for better networking, and 1:1 video conference rooms. Sponsors can use this to their advantage to find leads from the attendees list.
Brella Virtual Event Platform Pricing: Brella doesn’t publish their pricing, so you’ll have to contact them for a quote.
#5 Whova Virtual Conference Platform
Whova is primarily aimed at large corporate events with a big budget.
The platform allows event organizers to make online events more interactive for attendees. It integrates real time live streaming, live polling, virtual meet-ups, virtual exhibitor hall, attendee networking, as well as live Q&A for a better event experience.
Whova is recognized as one of the best virtual conference platforms, having received both the Best Event App award and the People’s Choice Award from the Event Technology Awards. There is no going wrong with this events management software, but it’s best for larger events with a higher budget.
Whova Virtual Conference Platform Pricing: Whova doesn’t publish their pricing so you’ll need to contact them for a quote.
Wrap Up: Choosing the Best Virtual Conference Platform for Your Event
Finding the right virtual conference platform for your needs is honestly going to depend on a lot of factors (the size of the event, the design of your event, etc.). No platform will work perfectly for everyone, so it’s important to try some out and see what you think.
While we’re obviously biased toward EventSprout, we’ve worked hard to build a robust, easy-to-use, and capable virtual conference platform and there’s a good chance that it’ll provide exactly what you need.
The best part is that EventSprout is one of the easiest virtual conference platforms to try out and set up. You can quickly evaluate it with no risk to you (and we’re willing to customize your experience if necessary).
If it doesn’t work for your needs, you can try another option from this list, but we encourage you to sign up today and give it a test drive.