The answer, based on my unscientific survey of a dozen association leaders, is a resounding no. Planners are wading through recommendations from colleagues, trusted vendors and online forums to find the best platform for their needs. And it’s a murky and often frustrating experience. While there are many excellent solutions out there, none are “perfect” and many are adding features and improvements on a regular basis. Since most solutions were created post-pandemic, conducting due diligence on how secure the platform is paramount. All the variables and potential add-on costs, makes it difficult to select the right partner.
Platform Research & Decisions
Numerous association professionals have conducted demos with well over 20 providers! One leading planner I spoke with likened platform sourcing and demonstrations as similar to how some planners sourced hotels for their events. There should be no need for any organization to look at more than five providers in a compressed time period. Instead, investing the time to create an A list of providers allows more time to fully vet your alternatives.
Several association leaders talked about the internal due diligence required in clarifying needs, wish lists and priorities before soliciting demos or proposals. In our former reality, with facilities and vendors that we understood, the options were visible, we knew what questions to ask and had rubrics used to facilitate decision making. In the current environment platform selection can be more challenging; particularly if your team isn’t aligned on options, desired features or internal strategy.
Virtual Platform Sales Professionals Should…
The most interesting answers in my survey were in response to the question “If you could send a message to virtual event platform providers what would it be? What should they focus on going forward”? Here are some of the comments:
- “Make sure you know what is important to your client and share how other customers are leveraging your platform”
- “Be clear and specific about integrations and capabilities”
- “Be honest and transparent. Share your challenges because we are going to hear about them from others”
- “Don’t waste our time on features we haven’t asked for”
- “Recognize that for many planners, this is a learning experience and that we may not know exactly how our event will be structured at the outset”
- “Hidden charges are a huge problem. We need to fully understand what extra charges are most common. ”
- “Sales people should partner with developers and project managers to ensure client questions are answered accurately by the team members who will be responsible for delivery.”
Production and Experience Design Over Platform
Conference professionals are often looking for that magic set of features that solve the networking and expo engagement challenges. From our experience, success in these areas is more dependent on designing for networking and embedding exhibitors/sponsors into the program design.
Many people told me that they ended up going with providers that they knew and trusted or that had been recommended by colleagues. With well over 100 solutions in the market it is difficult to accurately assess competence, viability and customer service. Working with an existing trusted partner on production aspects of the virtual event experience seems to be common for many of the folks I heard from.
Planners are continuing to work at warp speed to develop and deliver meaningful, just in time content and experience and many platform providers are rising to the occasion. We are platform agnostic at VCC but we believe strongly that associations must have a clear vision around their intention and strategy before plunging into platform sourcing.
How would you answer the question posed above? What do you want platform providers to think about and address in the future?