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4 Questions to Ask Before Planning a Virtual Event

In March of this year, many of us went from hosting our typical, day-to-day meetings, seminars, conferences and trade shows in person to hosting them online. Navigating this world of virtual events requires extensive research of platforms, countless demos, and having a crystal clear understanding of what you really want out of your event. Though staring at the hundreds of thousands of results that immediately populate when Googling “virtual event platforms” can feel a touch overwhelming, here are four questions to ask (and answer) to save yourself some serious time and headache before you start filling your calendar with demos.    


1. Why do I need to host a virtual event?


It’s a simple question, right? Asking yourself the why behind this idea to host an event online will help do two things: clarify the mission and identify your goals. Your mission for the event and goals you hope to achieve should greatly impact your decision-making process when vetting virtual platforms. Are you hoping to facilitate a space for virtual networking? Or is your goal connecting job seekers through a virtual career fair? Maybe you’re dreaming of a massive conference with panelists speaking simultaneously in different “rooms” with thousands of attendees. 

Whatever your goal is, you need to be able to define it and clearly articulate what you want out of this event. If you head into a demo or informational meeting with a platform with an unclear vision, the meeting will likely turn into an even stronger sales pitch from the sales rep pretty quickly. You don’t have to have all the answers right up front, but understanding the mission and goal are key. 


2. How can I make this event an experience?


Reading off slides while looking into your webcam is a thing of the past. Whether you’re in person or online, one truth remains the same: the more memorable of an experience you can create for your guests, the better. You’ll want to start thinking of what you might want to include for your guests before locking down a platform to ensure it has all the bells and whistles you need. 

For example, maybe you want to incorporate some sort of gamification where you reward your guests with points or prizes for attending a virtual conference session or visiting your booth. Or perhaps you envision your virtual event being more like a workshop where you want to be able to see and hear from your guests. With these examples, you would need platforms that could accommodate built-in gamification and give your attendees enough freedom to unmute themselves and turn their camera on, respectively. If you have even a slight idea of what type of experience you would like to curate, that will help inform the best platform choice for you. 


3. What is my budget?


You probably knew this question was coming, but it’s not always as straightforward as you might think. Some platforms give one quote that is all inclusive, so you know exactly how much it will cost you out the door. Others might give you a starting price, but if your attendees exceed a certain headcount, or you need to add a last-minute booth, you’re going to be charged for surpassing your limit. Many platforms will also offer bundles or discounts if you host more than one event, so if you spend more now, you’ll save more later. There’s nothing wrong with this model and it’s an attractive incentive if you plan to host a series of events, so don’t be afraid to ask outright if they can offer something similar if you’re interested. 

*Pro tip: The reps who give you demos of virtual platforms are mainly in sales, so don’t hesitate to push back a little bit on the first quote. You never know–it might be set in stone so there’s nothing they can do, but more often than you might think, they’ll come back with some sort of extra incentive or discount. Not always, but it’s worth a shot! 


4. Am I considering my attendees when platform shopping?


At the end of the day, there is an audience for whom you are hosting this event. If it’s a virtual career fair, it’s the job seeker. If you’re hosting a virtual conference or webinar, your goal might be to provide information. If you’re planning a trade show, you’re facilitating important connections. 

You’ll quickly find from your online searches that there are arguably too many platforms to choose from that seem to offer the same thing, but vary dramatically in price. We’re by no means saying you have to go with the most expensive option (far from it, actually), but really pay attention to which platform is going to provide the best experience for your guests. After all, they are why you’re doing this in the first place! So no, most expensive does not equal “best.” But sometimes if there is a platform that is priced a little too good to be true, oftentimes it is. You’re asking for guests’ attention, their time, their effort, in some cases their money… so it’s up to us as the hosts to give them the best, most mutually beneficial event as possible.

If you have further questions about hosting virtual events or how DCI can help execute yours, please feel free to contact  Dariel Curren, Executive Vice President at [email protected]. DCI has a Virtual Task Force that is well versed in the various virtual platforms and best practices.

Written By

Heather Gantz

Heather Gantz is a Senior Account Executive specializing in talent marketing at DCI. With a background in journalism, Heather is passionate about quality and compelling storytelling. Since joining DCI in 2020, she has enjoyed working with clients including Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, Greater New Orleans, Inc., and the Charleston Regional Development Alliance.

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