A common misconception is that an online event has to be a webinar, and too often the terms are used interchangeably. But when the world experienced a pivot away from onsite events essentially overnight, event organizers were tasked with either canceling their events entirely or figuring out how to make them happen virtually. Anyone planning an online event in 2020 learned (quickly) that successful virtual events are not limited to a webinar service.
Webinars may beat video conferencing platforms for a large-scale event, but even the best webinar platforms are missing the features and plugins needed for a truly engaging virtual experience. When selecting your platform of choice, there are a wide range of features to consider to set yourself up for success. Features like multiple modes of high-quality live video, face-to-face video interaction and networking, and customizable branding and booths that all go beyond your typical webinar software.
💪 What Hopin platform @hopinofficial does to the world of online events is really transforming. Having separate conference rooms for sessions, a main stage, networking and even a little Expo floor simply turned the webinar into an interactive playground. #sales #celebrateonline
— Yana Suharskaya 🍀 (@Asteriya13) April 8, 2020
Below we highlight what makes a top-notch virtual event platform different from a webinar software, and why online events don’t have to be webinars or hosted on webinar conferencing tools. If you're researching whether you should host a webinar versus a virtual event, you've come to the right place.
How Do You Know If Webinars Are Right for You?
A webinar is a virtual meeting designed for a large audience of attendees, and hosted via a webinar service. Attendees watch a presenter deliver a keynote via screen-sharing, lead a panel conversation, or moderate a fireside chat online. The host has 100% control over the event, and other than the potential for a Q&A session, the attendees and presenter don’t interact much.
But how do you know if you should use a webinar software or a video conferencing tool or a virtual event platform? When would it make sense to use a webinar tool versus other options available to you? Let’s take a look.
Webinars vs. Video Conferencing
Video conferencing, video calls, and hangouts are truly best suited for smaller groups to interact. Unlike a video conference platform, webinar software gives complete control over the event to the presenter, and the attendees simply observe. Live webinars will have an agenda that will likely include a simple format of presentation followed by a Q&A.
If you’re looking to attract a large virtual audience with hundreds or thousands of people, you’ll definitely need a bigger virtual venue than a simple web conferencing tool or meeting platform. Larger live gatherings hosted online will require a virtual event platform like Hopin that can host thousands of attendees.
Another differentiation is live webinars are well-suited for on-demand replay (often offered by automated webinars). The footage is evergreen since there is no synchronous audience interaction. You can offer an on-demand webinar for months or years, increasing its return on investment. However, keep in mind that on-demand recordings are not unique to webinar tools. Virtual event platforms like Hopin also have on-demand footage for all sessions available for immediate download after the event.
Webinars vs. Virtual Event Platforms
Virtual event platforms like Hopin have more features, modularity, and flexibility than video conferencing or webinar software. In addition to Hopin’s Stage for presenting to an audience up to 100,000, Hopin’s Moderated Sessions allow for easily managed interactive Q&A sessions. These sessions allow up to 20 on-camera attendees who can interact live, and the moderator can let participants on and off camera with one click.
— Hopin (@hopinofficial) November 13, 2020
Important Webinar Features that Virtual Event Platforms Also Have
When planning an online event, your first step might be searching for the right webinar solution. However, even the best webinar platform or a free webinar may not have the key engagement features or marketing features you need for your online event. Virtual event platforms go far beyond great webinar software, including but not limited to the following:
100% Web-Based Platform
When attendees sign up for your online event, the last thing they want to do is download webinar software onto their computer before attending. This is where a web-based solution is a must-have. With a web-based platform, the attendees simply log in and watch the webinar through a web browser, like Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or others. Many virtual event platforms like Hopin hit this mark by allowing people to attend your online event with no downloads (both for desktop and mobile), making it easy for all attendees to log into an event and join the conversation.
Whether you're a small business hosting a workshop or meeting, or a large company with a conference or sales kickoff, brand recognition is critical. You’ll want a digital platform that allows you to customize your event to fit your branding and will help build brand affinity and recognition. Having the ability to customize the registration forms, landing page, event venue, and livestreams to fit your brand make your live event look and feel more professional.
Hopin allows you to change the colors in the event to match your brand, giving it a leg up over traditional webinar marketing with that custom look and feel attendees want, versus unbranded webinar software.
Like any event management platform, you’ll have access to a certain level of analytics with webinar software. This typically includes how many attendees were at your event, any custom questions you collected when they registered, and any engagement during the event.
Virtual event platforms take it a step further, since there are so many additional opportunities to engage. This data is a powerful marketing tool that can generate lead pipline and boost the opportunity for sponsorship in the future. Hopin offers a deep look at useful event statistics and comprehensive data, including:
- Attendee data
- Expo booth data including expo visitors and leads
- Ticket sales
- Average time spent in the event
- Total comments and chat transcripts
- Stage visitors
- Session visitors
- Networking participants
- Number of connections made
- Average user rating (NPS) and feedback
- Poll data
HD Video Streaming
While there are potential limitations on the user end that may cause issues, such as an attendee having limited bandwidth, quality video streaming is critical to a satisfying online event. With reliable HD video and minimal lag, attendees feel more in touch with the presenter and avoid missing out on crucial details.
In today's virtual world, high-quality HD video is a key feature in any online experience.
Hopin takes it a step further by offering a range of video qualities to accommodate potential bandwidth issues, including multiple Stages, breakout rooms, and booths in case one has trouble. Hopin also provides a connection test preview mode before joining any live video room.
Using Hopin’s screen share and Miro integration (beta), the presenter can open a virtual whiteboard while livestreaming. An online whiteboard allows the presenter to highlight important pieces of the conversation, make calculations, or draw out examples while livestreaming. A whiteboard also helps create the in-person vibe that makes virtual events feel human. Check out how Miro leveraged whiteboards for their Distributed 2020 conference.
As a presenter in a virtual setting, it is often hard to gauge the reaction of an audience. Not so with @miroHQ Distributed 2020, where I was able to see the feedback in realtime! Awesome experience, and two more days remain: https://t.co/PvnYc1CW8C https://t.co/l65w7DGxDi pic.twitter.com/UFgXMdelza
— David O'Malley (@davidomalley) October 14, 2020
Why Virtual Events Deliver More Value Than Webinars
The most obvious difference between hosting webinars and creating an engaging virtual event is the attendee interactivity. Both webinar tools and video conferencing platforms have limitations, while a virtual event platform like Hopin has almost limitless flexibility. You have control over how you set up your virtual venue and allow attendees to engage. Below, we'll cover a few of the key advantages of a virtual event platform over webinars.
When virtual events incorporate a more interactive setting, attendees get to truly participate in the event, unlike the limitations with webinars or too many people on the screen with video conferencing. This significantly increases audience engagement, and attendees will get to feel involved with the event, versus feeling like the presenter is talking at them.
With its moderated sessions, Hopin offers attendees the ability to chime in on speaker sessions and ask questions. It also helps maintain order by giving a moderator the ability to control who comes up to speak.
We are almost at the end of the Beyond a Webinar Tour! Be sure to tune in to today's live session between 9:30am-10am EST where we'll be diving into Hopin, a platform that aims to create more engaging & connected virtual event experiences. pic.twitter.com/6xwwRnVZl8
— Georgie-Ann Getton-Mckoy (@gsdwithgeorgie) November 5, 2020
Ability to Hold Multiple Concurrent Sessions
A key feature of virtual event platforms like Hopin is the ability to hold multiple sessions within the greater event. In addition to a virtual exhibitor hall for sponsors to share information via their booths, smaller sessions allow users to break out into roundtable-like conversations.
Whether they’re in the form of a one-on-one online meeting, a workshop, or a full-scale presentation with hundreds of attendees, these sessions allow attendees to create their own conference schedule.
Hopin offers this with the aforementioned moderated sessions, but it goes a step further with its digital booths that allow attendees to have private one-on-one chats and small-group sessions with event vendors. This gives your online event the feeling of an in-person conference.
Networking is another benefit of leveraging a virtual event platform over a webinar tool. Whether discussing best practices for email marketing, conducting internal training sessions, or communicating while fully remote, attendees can mingle with one another and hold quick online meetings on a one-to-one basis. And at the end of an interaction, attendees will get each other’s contact information in a direct download (including social media details) to take their conversation offline.
ACTEM20/20 Vision a virtual conference adventure October 20 and 21, 2020. We are using @HopIn platform and we know you will love it. We chose the platform because of the networking capabilities all attendees will have available to them.
— ACTEM (@ACTEM) August 13, 2020
Hopin offers its unique Networking area that allows attendees to connect and meet in a FaceTime-like session. Hopin’s Networking feature is unique in that it creates the connection for you in a speed-networking style. Plus, attendees can exchange contact information if they decide to follow up after the event.
More Granular Data
Lead generation is a critical part of most online events, and while webinar software allows you to source leads via the registration page, that’s it. You get a much more specific and granular view into the data from an online events platform that shows you where attendees are engaging and with who. This behavioral data is critical for lead scoring and following up with smart context. Hopin integrates with leading CRMs to seamlessly enrich lead data with event usage data.
Interactive Reception Area
When attendees arrive slightly early for an event hosted on a webinar tool or video conferencing platform, they're often greeted by muted attendees with cameras off and a featureless waiting room. With a virtual event, you can build out a robust reception area that lays out the event schedule, highlighting sponsors. Attendees can jump into networking right away!
Hopin gives you the flexibility to offer your attendees direct access to the various parts of your online event and the opportunity to explore just like a virtual venue.
The Best Tool for You
When seeking the best platform to host your next online event, the major takeaway is you don’t have to use a webinar tool. Hopin not only has features matching those of the top webinar software, but it also offers additional top-notch features for online events.
A few key features to help with your choice:
- Flexibility to host a large number of attendees
- Private and public live streams
- One-on-one chat capability
- Custom branding for the webcast, registration page, and more
- An interactive reception area
- The ability for users to network
- Virtual booths in the expo
- An in-depth registration page
- Event and webinar recording for on-demand replaying
- Event analytics you can use as a marketing tool
Hopin has plenty of features that make it a strong contender in your consideration of hosting a webinar or online event. Planning for a project coming up? Create an event on Hopin for free today or speak to someone on our team.