Virtual Event Platform Buyer's Guide

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Virtual events certainly had a presence before the pandemic. But in the last two years, they’ve proven to be key to successful marketing, communication, and community-building programs. In fact, 63% of event organizers say they expect their events to be hybrid going forward –– which suggests most shared experiences will have a virtual component, even if they don’t take place entirely online. From graduation ceremonies to large-scale product launches and everything in between, expect to see virtual gatherings continue to solidify their place in 2022 event strategies and beyond.

Choosing the right virtual event platform isn’t easy, though. And event professionals are shopping around. Software marketplace G2 reported in April 2021 that their Virtual Event Platforms category had seen a 2,777% increase in reviews since March 2020 as demand for said platforms spiked. People were trying out different platforms, searching for the one that could meet their needs.

Virtual event platforms fall into a category of software that helps create engaging digital experiences, from conferences to all-hands meetings to sports and entertainment events.

A good virtual event platform can:

  • Create an immersive, digital experience that’s emotionally engaging and energizing
  • Connect event attendees who can’t (or don’t need to) be together physically and facilitate networking and community-building
  • Enable organizers to scale an event into the thousands, tens of thousands, or even up to 100,000 attendees, with seamless technology and a high-quality attendee experience
  • Empower event managers and marketers with robust analytics that demonstrate event return on investment (ROI) and help them make data-driven decisions 

So, which virtual event platform should you choose? We’re here to help you figure that out.

In this guide

How virtual event platforms are different from video conferencing tools

What to look for in your virtual event platform

Compare virtual event platforms

Power immersive shared experiences with Hopin

How virtual event platforms are different from video conferencing tools

Both virtual event platforms and video conferencing tools enable virtual interaction among people who are geographically dispersed.

But how they do that –– and the type of experiences they power –– is different.

In one sentence, video conferencing tools are ideal for short gatherings of small groups of participants who are going to interact as one group, while virtual event platforms are ideal for large virtual events of any length featuring multiple speakers or presenters and different options for audience interaction, from chat to small-group sessions to paired networking.

Platforms like Hopin go beyond webinar software to offer opportunities for attendees to meaningfully connect with one another and with event content.

The core differences come down to audience size, enhanced tech features, and the platforms’ ability to support immersive virtual experiences. Let’s do a deeper dive on each of those differentiating factors:

Audience size

Video conferencing tools are often built to facilitate person-to-person interaction. You may know from experience that even a 10-person Zoom or Google Meet video call can get unwieldy, especially if you’re trying to get people to participate but not interrupt presenters. What happens if you want to reach hundreds or thousands of people?

Virtual event platforms are designed for large audiences. Top platforms can accommodate up to 100,000 participants, offering the scale and reach to support these experiences.

Enhanced features

Virtual event platforms also include more robust features than video conferencing tools in order to support scaled-up, high-engagement experiences. These features include things like:

  • Audience analytics
  • Video networking functionality
  • Branding templates and customization
  • Enhanced chat capabilities (like Q&A session support)
  • More attendee controls (like who can speak or comment)
  • Multi-session support
  • Event registration and ticketing
  • Sponsor expo showcase
  • Event marketing suites

Immersive experiences

Virtual event platforms also create a more immersive digital experience than video conference tools. Event attendees can explore different areas of a virtual event venue, just like they would in a physical gathering. They can pop into presentations, join small-group sessions, collaborate with others in workshop settings, or connect one-on-one with fellow attendees.

And almost everything they see, from the event landing page to the frame around the video they’re watching, can be fully branded and customized by the event organizer.

What to look for in your virtual event platform

No two fingerprints are the same. No two events are, either. Even if you’re running a virtual event series, like a monthly internal all-hands meeting or a quarterly product trade show, you’ll want to be able to customize every element of the experience each time to align with your goals and feed in optimizations based on data insights.

Look for virtual event platforms that offer the following benefits and features:

Attendee engagement

You want your virtual event to be as immersive and engaging as an in-person experience –– if not more. But online, it’s not as simple as attendees raising their hands. You need to give attendees easy and enticing ways to connect with one another and with your content. Look for audience engagement features like:

  • Live polls
  • Q&A functionality
  • An event-wide chat box
  • Direct messaging capabilities
  • One-on-one video networking
  • A suite of integrations that can power high-engagement experiences

Branding and customization

Your event should look and feel like your event. Look for platforms that let you:

  • Build custom event websites and landing pages –– no coding required
  • Modify logos, colors, and text to fit your brand
  • Add custom CSS to existing products
  • Customize all types of content, from hyperlinks to embedded videos, before and during your event

Multifaceted content delivery

You’re looking for a virtual event platform instead of a video conferencing tool because you want to provide your audience with an immersive experience where they can easily connect with one another and with your content in different ways.

A solid platform will offer many ways for you to deliver content, including via:

  • Expos, with virtual booths of different sizes that can be discoverable via tags or explore pages
  • Livestreams, with build-in broadcast production features to make streaming simple and secure for both speakers and attendees
  • Multi-speaker sessions, with the ability to have multiple people on screen at the same time
  • Workshops, with options to split attendees into small groups and bring them back together for discussions or panels 

Event marketing and analytics

You want technology that will support your team as you do the legwork required to get people to show up to your event. And you want to be able to easily track event results so you can report back to key stakeholders.

Ideally, your platform of choice pitches in with features like:

  • Customizable landing pages with clear calls to action that drive registrations and ticket sales
  • Built-in customer relationship management functionality that helps you segment your audience and create personalized campaigns
  • Widgets to place on third-party sites to drive ticket sales across a portfolio of owned media
  • Automatic email reminders and flows
  • Integrations with tools like HubSpot, Salesforce, and Marketo to make use of post-event analytics for future marketing campaigns
  • Analytics reports that clearly show return on investment (ROI) for event sponsors and stakeholders

Monetization and scalability

If you’re organizing events that are external-facing, you may want options to monetize them (like bringing on tiered sponsors or offering event tickets). Look for:

  • Advertising space and expo booths that can be sold to sponsors
  • Customizable ticket tiers
  • Global currency options

Security

An in-person event would have venue safety guidelines and security guards to enforce them. Virtual events need safety guidelines and enforcement measures too, so you’ll want to make sure your chosen platform is privacy-minded and offers security features to protect attendees. Here are a few examples to look out for:

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance, for attendees in the European Union
  • Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance, for purchases made across the globe using AMEX, Discover, JCB, Mastercard, or Visa credit cards
  • Automatic encryption for audio and visual streams
  • Options to password protect events
  • Chat moderation

User-friendliness

You want a platform you can navigate without a doctorate in information sciences. When assessing ease of use, look for features like:

  • Simple, clear interfaces and instructions
  • Pre-populated FAQs or knowledge centers for self-service assistance on common issues
  • In-depth guides and video overviews for key features
  • Email, chat, and call support
  • Dedicated account managers or event consultants

Compare virtual event platforms

Now that you know what to look for in a virtual event platform, let’s explore your options. The following information was last updated on January 28, 2022. 

Hopin

Hopin is an all-in-one events management platform and mobile app that supports virtual, hybrid, and in-person events for both internal and external audiences. Hopin’s virtual event venue is a web-based platform. Attendees can easily register for events through a Hopin account or as a guest, and event managers just need their browser to create, customize, and host engaging events.

Whether you’re planning a 400-person virtual wedding across three continents or a 40,000-person four-day festival, your main goal is to bring people together for memorable shared experiences. Hopin’s virtual event platform helps you do that with built-in products and features.

Notable features:

  • Virtual Venue: A customizable space where you can welcome attendees, host keynote presentations and videos on different virtual stages, and offer unlimited smaller live interactive sessions
  • Hopin Studio: A broadcast studio powered by StreamYard’s production tools (like virtual greenrooms, 720p or 1080p high-definition visuals, and customizable graphics) for seamless, professional livestreams and recorded content
  • Hopin Canvas: A no-code website builder with integrated registration for custom landing pages and event marketing and promotion that automatically updates as your event details take shape

Key information:

  • Rating: 4.5 stars from 511 reviews on G2
  • Price: Free for unlimited events of up to 100 registrants, $99/month/user for events up to 100,000 attendees, $799/month for options that include customization, business and enterprise plans also available
  • Maximum attendees: 100,000 per stage

"People actually said to us that this is the model for tech conferences online," says Sabrina Short, founder and CEO of NOLAvate Black. "We're very proud to be able to have that as our legacy."

If you want to create engaging, virtual experiences that showcase your brand, retain loyal customers, and connect your attendees no matter where they are in the world, Hopin is ready to help.

Request a demo today.

Zoom Events

Zoom Events is the video conferencing software’s virtual event platform solution, combining their Zoom Meetings functionality with add-ons from Zoom Video Webinars. The platform offers different virtual event-led presentation options backed by Zoom’s trusted video platform.

Notable features:

  • Different event types: Multi-track conferences (with sponsorship options), single-track but multi-session summits, and single-session meetings or webinars
  • Livestream sessions to lobby: Hosts can select a session to stream in the lobby and attendees can view live sessions at a glance before joining
  • Selection of registration and ticketing options: From public to private and free to paid events (with paid availability varying by country)

Key information:

  • Rating: 4.5 stars for Zoom Video Webinars from 156 reviews on G2, no current rating for Zoom Events
  • Price: Ranges from $99/month/license for up to 500 attendees to $8,440/month/license for up to 10,000 attendees, custom pricing available for more than 10,000 attendees
  • Maximum attendees: Up to 50,000 people for Zoom Events (includes hosts, co-hosts, panelists, and attendees)

Cvent

Cvent is a software solution for virtual, hybrid, and on-site events. It offers event professionals options for site selection, online event registration, live event management, event marketing, and attendee surveying. Cvent has been around since 1999, and in recent years, has acquired mobile event apps, venue booking companies, and event planning platforms. Cvent’s Attendee Hub combines their Attendee Website and Event App products, giving event guests the chance to interact with event content as well as exhibitors, sponsors, and one another.

Notable features:

  • Gamification: Choose between using a game template that can be customized or building a game from scratch, as a way of awarding points to attendees for completing tasks throughout the event
  • Cvent Studio: A set of production tools including built-in recording, one-click transitions, and a Director View for mixing video and audio streams
  • Cvent Event Management: Integrated with Cvent's robust event planning, registration, and promotional capabilities, and available to purchase with an Event Management license.

Key information:

  • Rating: 4.2 stars from 1,625 reviews on G2
  • Price: Available by request
  • Maximum attendees: 500 attendees in their video conferencing solution (which is powered by Zoom), and references no limit to the number of viewers accessing their video player (powered by Brightcove) during streamed sessions

Socio

Socio is an event platform belonging to Cisco’s Webex Portfolio that supports virtual, in-person, and hybrid events via event apps. Event planners can create apps quickly and customize them for their audience and goals.

Notable features:

  • Built-in gamification options: Attendees can win points for completing surveys, finding hidden content on the event platform, attending sessions, and more –– all while tracking their performance on a leaderboard
  • Socio Streaming: A combined broadcast studio and player that runs on Restream (available as an add-on)
  • Branded event apps: Customizable by event managers and publishable in the App Store as well as Google Play (comes with extra cost)
  • Support packages: Everything from a Content Builder package to a Staff and Speaker Event Support package (comes with extra cost)

Key information:

  • Rating: 4.8 stars from 198 reviews on G2
  • Price: Available by request
  • Maximum attendees: 100,000

Airmeet

Airmeet is an event platform where organizers can host a range of virtual events, including virtual summits, meetups, and workshops. Their social lounge is a virtual space with table functionality slated to support networking.

Notable features:

  • Reception: A customizable event landing page that displays sponsors, prerecorded or live video streams, as well as links to the event schedule, booths, and a lounge to connect with attendees
  • Social lounge: A series of virtual tables where attendees can connect with sponsors or peers, at events like virtual job fairs or trade shows
  • Raise hand: In addition to being able to react with emoji and shared chat during sessions, attendees can use the raise hand feature to join the speakers on stage one at a time and interact with them through audio and video

Key information:

  • Rating: 4.6 stars from 348 reviews on G2
  • Price: Free for webinars up to 100 participants, $99/month for Social Webinar and Conference Starter plans, customized quotes for Social Webinar Pro and Conference Premium plans
  • Maximum attendees: 100,000 attendees

Bizzabo

Bizzabo’s product started as an in-person event tool, but has since evolved into an Event Experience Operating System for in-person, virtual, and hybrid events. They focus on measuring and maximizing event ROI via their platform called Event Experience OS, which collects data from every stage of the event –– from registration to the final session –– and presents it for planners and stakeholders.

Notable features:

  • Event website: A website builder with drag-and-drop capabilities, in which users can customize the content of individual sections or pages, or use CSS to adapt website appearance
  • SEO tool: A built-in tool that lets organizers edit the page title and meta description of any page hosted on a Bizzabo website
  • Sponsor and exhibitor management: An interactive portal exhibitors can use to pre-load booth branding, presentations, videos, and more, as well as practice their presentation before interacting with attendees

Key information:

  • Rating: 4.6 stars from 166 reviews on G2
  • Price: Available by request
  • Maximum attendees: Information not available at this time 

Swapcard

Swapcard began as a scanning tool for conference attendees to exchange business cards –– as their name implies. Now, it’s a broader event and matchmaking platform for hosting in-person, virtual, and hybrid events. Its AI software focuses on connecting attendees with relevant sponsors or fellow attendees.

Notable features:

  • Exhibitor Center: A view for sponsors that includes options to add video banners, downloadable documents, and meeting booking options onto their virtual booths
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) recommendations: Uses AI to give attendees more personalized recommendations for the people, sessions, exhibitors, or products they might be interested in
  • Group discussions: Organizers can create chat-based group discussions on specific topics or a general forum that attendees can join and engage with –– both of which can be linked to a session or to the event home page

Key information:

  • Rating: 4.5 stars from 81 reviews on G2
  • Price: Free for events up to 50 attendees/month, $120/month for up to 100 attendees/month, $590/month for up to 500 attendees/year, with options to buy additional attendee credits (starting at $7/attendee). Annual pricing is also available.
  • Maximum attendees: Information not available at this time, but public pricing lists plans (GA and Beta) with up to 1,000 attendees

Whova

Whova is an event management solution focused on providing value to event organizers via an app that works across in-person, virtual, and hybrid events. Their app was initially developed to help participants “be more productive” at in-person events, through activities like scanning business cards, navigating between sessions, and accessing digital brochures. Now, they offer a web app for virtual events that has the same features.

Notable features:

  • Community Board: Where attendees can follow or create new discussion topics and organizers can answer common questions and collect feedback
  • Gamification options: Including rewarding attendee participation using incentives to encourage interaction with exhibitors, sessions, the Community Board, and opportunities to take part in photo, caption, or other contests
  • Integration with video services: Including Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams, and Bluejeans, since the tool has primarily been reliant on third-party video hosting

Key information:

  • Rating: 4.8 stars from 863 reviews on G2
  • Price: Available by request. Pricing depends on the size of the event and service options event organizers wish to include.
  • Maximum attendees: Information not available at this time

Bevy

Bevy is a virtual conference and community events platform geared toward enterprise users. It features Bevy Virtual Conference for large-scale virtual events and Bevy Virtual for smaller virtual community events. Bevy focuses on creating consumer-to-consumer (C2C) connections via community events hosted by company or brand ambassadors. That frees up event organizers to plan big conferences or expos while still ensuring regular events happen.

Notable features:

  • Permission system with delegation options: Event organizers can delegate control to chosen members of their community to become brand ambassadors and create, promote, and host their own events via Chapters
  • Analytics: View global analytics across all chapters, including aggregated data on events hosted, chapter activity, site members, newsletters and automated emails, and site analytics
  • Community site: A front-end, public site that members can use to engage in the community, find resources, and sign up for specific events

Key information:

  • Rating: 4.8 stars from 72 reviews on G2
  • Price: Available by request
  • Maximum attendees: 5,000 viewers for a session or booth

Hubilo

Hubilo started as an event engagement tool for in-person events that used machine learning to matchmake among attendees. During the pandemic, it pivoted to virtual event software built to maximize attendee engagement using tools that translate to a digital environment.

Notable features:

  • Gamification: Helps organizers motivate and engage attendees to complete certain default activities through contests and a points-based leaderboard system
  • White-labeling: With select plans, organizers can access branded mobile apps and custom URLs
  • Matchmaking: Improves networking functionality by giving organizers the ability to provide matchmaking fields for attendees to select their interests, industry, and services they’re looking for or offering

Key information:

  • Rating: 4.7 stars from 270 reviews on G2
  • Price: Available by request
  • Maximum attendees: Information not available at this time

On24

On24 is a digital experience platform that offers webinar, virtual event, and multimedia experiences. They specialize in webinars, offering a Live Webcast Elite product with traditional screen sharing. More recently, they've launched virtual events and virtual conference tools. They also have add-on features that introduce digital networking and small-group conversations to traditional seminars.

Notable features:

  • Localization: The event platform's navigation menus, backgrounds, videos, images, system messages, and real-time chat sessions can be localized in more than 20 languages
  • Breakouts: A two-way experience (or one-on-one meeting) for attendees to network and connect in breakout rooms outside the keynote
  • Conversion tools: From Q&As to downloadable resource lists that feed into engagement profiles for each attendee
  • Virtual Conference integration with Webcast Elite: To promote live, on-demand, and upcoming webinars

Key information:

  • Rating: 4.3 stars from 953 reviews on G2
  • Price: Available by request
  • Maximum attendees: Information not available at this time

Power immersive shared experiences with Hopin

So, which virtual event platform is right for you? 

If you're looking for a solution that offers all of the bells and whistles, Hopin is your best bet. Our platform supports: 

  • Fully immersive, high-engagement shared experiences both online and in-person
  • Simple networking and community building
  • TV production-like event experiences backed by a powerful broadcast studio
  • Event ROI evidence and data-driven decisions via robust analytics

Plus, our team is passionate about helping you create successful events. Get started with Hopin today!

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