KEY TAKEWAYSIn this guide, we’ll cover the core features and benefits of building a virtual event platform to host your next virtual or hybrid event.
Virtual events and interactions have been on the rise for years. They offer a way for people to connect through online experiences that present the same lively and engaging feeling that an in-person event provides. Rather than a face-to-face, physical event, an online event provides a way for people to have a real-time virtual experience from the comfort of their own home. The popularity of live streaming and virtual events has grown tremendously during the pandemic, as we're sure you're familiar with.
With webinars, social events, and virtual conferences, to name just a few, these online events have led to shared experiences among global audiences. This expanded reach takes away geographic barriers, allowing the potential for your event to be viewed from anywhere in the world–which is one reason we are certain that virtual events are here to stay.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to build a virtual event platform that enables you to reach global audiences.
The benefits of customizing your event experience
A virtual event platform is used to host and manage a variety of online events like keynotes, concerts, and virtual trade shows. You are able to provide attendees, speakers, or event organizers with engagement tools—like real-time chat or polling—to help deliver an interactive event experience. Whether you’re hosting a small or large online event, building a virtual event platform provides several benefits. Let’s explore them below.
Increased audience engagement
A virtual event platform presents endless opportunities for you to customize your event app to fit the needs of your use case. In order to maximize attendee engagement, you can implement customizable user-friendly features on your platform. For instance, video chat and group chat features that enable virtual meetups between attendees. To build off of that, you can also provide activities like surveys, interactive networking sessions, or workshops for attendees to provide feedback. This gives your audience the flexibility to choose how they want to participate throughout your virtual event.
Creating a virtual space that mimics the feeling of in-person events allows your audience to network and build relationships with each other from anywhere in the world, without requiring travel. When you host your event online, this not only opens the door for global attendees to join your event, but as the event host, this also provides the flexibility to choose how you want to structure your event. Do you want to include virtual booths? Will you offer pre-recorded content? The choice is yours!
Collect valuable online event data
Another advantage of building a virtual event platform is being able to capture real-time event data. Because everything is virtual, it gives you the opportunity to gather detailed reports like revenue and insight from your audience, attendee behavior, and demographics. Event organizers can then use the data collected for marketing purposes and lead generation after the event.
Save on costs
Virtual events are typically less expensive than hosting an event in a physical location. By building a virtual event platform, event hosts are able to save money on staff, venue, setup time, and travel. This allows you to put more time and resources into event marketing or entertainment for your virtual event.
The core capabilities of a virtual event platform
Some of the best virtual event platforms include customizable functionalities. From focusing on audience engagement to event management tools, building a platform for your use case that has the features you need from the start is essential.
Below, we’ll dive into the core features that your virtual event platform should have in order to help you seamlessly host an online experience.
1. Customizable and interactive features
Audience engagement is one of the most important aspects to consider when hosting a virtual event. Engaging features that replicate the feeling of in-person interaction allow attendees to have an authentic virtual experience. Can your audience start a group chat? Are they able to hop on video conferencing with others? Does your platform support push notifications so you can communicate directly with your attendees?
You can build engaging experiences with our pre-built Chat Components that let you fully customize your in-app chat the way you want for your virtual event. Creating a virtual event platform where you can completely customize the event experience is key in providing a memorable experience for your attendees.
2. Event registration
Attendees who are interested in your online event need a way to learn about your event and register. An event website or landing page with registration information allows you to showcase your event agenda and why you think this event would be beneficial to attend. The event registration page is also a great place to include custom branding.
3. Automation tools
In order to better streamline event marketing tasks, as well as functionality on the backend, automation is a central feature. Automation tools can be used throughout each stage of the event planning process. From your CRM, to email marketing, to real-time updates built into your virtual events platform, automating helps make planning an event easier. Plus, on the backend it helps save on developer time and costs since these features are built in from the start.
4. Live event support
Having access to a support team during your virtual event gives you the ability to monitor attendee activity and requests as they occur, which is essential when hosting a live event. Platforms—like PubNub—offer a dedicated Event Support Team alongside operational dashboards so your app can operate reliably and in real time, guaranteeing that your event runs smoothly. And if you’re looking to add an extra layer of support, enabling a profanity filter in your chat gives you full control over the event experience, allowing you to focus on building engaging experiences instead of worrying about the backend infrastructure.
5. Real-time metrics
Being able to identify data in real time is crucial for detecting unexpected issues during a virtual event, especially when dealing with concurrent users. Fortunately, our Datadog dashboards offer a solution to this by providing instant notifications and real-time visibility for you to actively monitor app usage. This gives you the necessary tools to respond immediately to any drawbacks during your online event.
Deploying these features are fundamental in delivering an engaging event to your audience. But, how do you determine what type of event is best for your use case? Below, we’ll walk you through some of the most popular virtual event experiences you can build.
Types of virtual experiences and their must have features
From webinars, to concert live streams, to hybrid events, there are various types of online events that enable you to create an exciting experience for your audience. So, how do you choose which event works best for your use case? Let’s evaluate some of the well-known types of virtual experiences.
A webinar is a popular live event that takes place online. Often hosted on Zoom or other video conferencing platforms, they can be in the form of a thought leadership presentation, live demo, or workshop. Webinars are generally interactive, including real-time features such as quizzes or breakout sessions that help foster a dialogue between participants and the host. Webinars provide a great way to share content and engage with your audience.
Social experiences bring remote audiences together through a live stream. These events tend to be a less formal occasion like a concert or sporting event. A fun way that you can encourage engagement in your event app is to use gamification to introduce interactive contests, polling, and leaderboards to create some friendly competition among attendees throughout the event.
When building, something you’ll also want to take into consideration is concurrency. With our solution, LiveLike, an engagement platform for interactive fan-driven experiences, is able to scale their platform in real time, with audience chats of any size. By making sure that your virtual events platform can handle audience spikes or fluctuations, without affecting latency, this helps ensure that your virtual event feels just as engaging as an in-person event.
Trade shows and conferences
A virtual trade show or expo uses video conferencing to bring together members and exhibitors from the same industry where they can showcase their latest products and services. Shifting away from a physical event, trade shows have been able to broaden their consumer reach, opening up an array of networking opportunities for exhibitors.
Virtual conferences are similar to webinars in that they can have a variety of different formats, some of which include seminars, workshops, roundtable discussions, or keynote presentations. They tend to be more formal than webinars, with an event agenda and interactive activities spread out over the course of a day or several days. The content included is often a mix of live streamed and pre-recorded content, giving your audience the option to choose what they feel is most beneficial to them.
With PubNub, vFairs, a virtual events platform, is able to capture the networking aspect of an in-person trade show or conference and transform it into a real time interactive remote experience. Reliability also plays a prominent role in virtual trade shows and conferences. Being able to easily scale takes the worry off of your backend services and allows you to focus on delivering your core product to your audience. So making sure that your platform is operating reliability and in real time is crucial.
Hybrid events are essentially a combination of a virtual event and an in-person event. They allow participants to attend the event face-to-face in a physical location or virtually from anywhere in the world. If you’re unable to travel or can only attend in-person for a select amount of time, a hybrid event allows you to customize your event experience. All in all, a hybrid event offers the flexibility to connect with your audience on multiple levels, maximizing your audience reach.
Thinking ahead, when it comes time to build your virtual event experience, a key factor to take into account is time to market. Are you planning to build from scratch, or do you want to deploy quickly with a customizable pre-built solution? In the long run, choosing a platform where you can build a fully-featured virtual or hybrid event that’s customized to your use case allows you to focus on your audience instead of backend infrastructure.
Create engaging, real-time virtual events with PubNub
When it comes to choosing the right platform where you can build your virtual event, PubNub can help keep your audience engaged by adding interactive features alongside your app that will keep your attendees invested in the virtual event experience.
With our platform, you can build in-app chat that easily scales, so you won’t have to worry about reaching an attendee limit for your event. Private, group, and broadcaster chats powered by PubNub allow audiences to choose how they want to interact with other attendees–with broadcasters having the ability to chat directly with the entire audience. Beyond that, real-time reactions and leaderboards capture the excitement of an audience, which help make conversations feel more authentic. And, if you’re looking for reliable support during your live event, you have access to our Event Support Team and real-time Datadog dashboards to help monitor and manage any requests.
To recap, a virtual events platform allows you to host engaging experiences that can be viewed from anywhere in the world. By building customizable features into your virtual or hybrid event app, it helps keep your audience truly engaged on your app by providing interactive features that replicate the feeling of an in-person event.
If you’re ready to create a fully-featured virtual event experience, get in touch with one of our experts. We’ll get you up and running with customizable features for your next virtual event.