Since the pandemic lockdowns began, we’ve seen people adopt new technology faster than ever before. From conferences to meet-ups to live music shows, our events are now online. But many event planners are still trying to figure out how to create an unparalleled online experience for their attendees.
With so many tools out there, picking the best platform to host your event can be quite challenging. Every month, we at EllisX host community events for our customers and invite industry experts from whom our community can learn. After trying different online event platforms, we found the one that worked best for us.
Now, we’d like to share our learnings so you can pick the best platform for your events.
Airmeet offers a live stage that enables you to record events for free and allows attendees to request the mic and join the stage when they ask a question. By joining the stage, attendees are able turn on their video and appear next to the speakers or panelists during the event. It also offers reaction emojis that pop up on the screen, making events fun for the speakers and audience alike.
This platform has completely transformed our monthly events. While we were a bit skeptical at first because it was relatively new at the time and largely unproven, we decided to give it a chance and found it relatively easy to set up.
Airmeet has been great when it comes to engaging our attendees during events. It offers virtual tables, at which attendees can sit around and talk to one another. These tables also act like breakout rooms to facilitate discussions between attendees. In addition, attendees have the ability to move between tables on their own so they can engage in more conversations. This is ideal if you need to have attendees work together in groups when organizing workshops that require some teamwork.
A limitation of Airmeet, though, is that setting up a paid event can be quite cumbersome since the platform doesn’t allow an organizer to directly create a paid event on their own. So to set up a paid event, you’ll need to reach out to the support team.
Best for: community events and interactive sessions.
Hopin shines if you are hosting a large conference with thousands of attendees. It’s a full-fledged platform that tries to mimic in-person conference experiences like booths — virtual private rooms that allow sponsors to meet and interact with attendees who are interested in their offerings, sessions and stages. Because of that, there is a lot of setup involved before you are finally ready to host your event.
However, Hopin gets a lot easier once you get the hang of it. And its schedule feature helps the audience find out what sessions are live, so they can navigate the event seamlessly. The feature helps attendees move between booths, sessions and the stage in a continuous fashion throughout the entire event.
We found that Hopin offers a limited networking experience. For instance, the platform limits a speaker’s ability to easily move to the virtual backstage (a special room for the organizers and speakers to interact before going live, if they join an event as an attendee). Speakers can only do this by using a special link they receive in advance before the event. Moreover, during our annual FORWARD conference last November, many of our attendees had issues with audio and video while using the networking feature on Hopin to meet other attendees.
Best for: large conferences with sponsored booths.
Zoom quickly became the darling of online events after the lockdowns started. It easily scales to a large number of attendees without sacrificing video quality. The Zoom setup is a great place to host a webinar because it allows a speaker or organizer to distill information to large audiences quickly. The platform also offers a breakout rooms feature as part of its paid plan where organizers can split attendees into smaller groups to facilitate live discussions.
But Zoom has limited functionality when it comes to audience engagement. There can only be 49 people viewable on a screen at a particular time, for example. So for events with a larger audience size, attendees only have the option to type their questions in a chat section.
And while Zoom’s Q&A webinar feature allows attendees to upvote (add points) to questions they would like to be answered first so that they appear at the top of the list, attendees cannot easily participate over video. To allow an attendee to participate through video, organizers have to first make an attendee a panelist during an event and convert the panelist back to an attendee after a question is answered, which can be quite cumbersome.
Best for: webinars and events that require relatively low audience engagement.
Run the World
Run the World takes a community-first approach to online events. The platform aims to become the preferred tool for community builders to engage their audience as stated by Xiaoyin Qu, the company’s co-founder and CEO during a recent Forbes interview. And indeed, there are a number of interesting tools embedded to help engage your attendees like a streaming party feature, which allows attendees to watch a video together.
Our favorite is Groupfie, a feature that allows attendees to take individual selfies that are automatically stitched together to form a group selfie.
All in all, Run the World’s free plan is great if you are looking to build an engaged community. Run the World also allows the audience to turn on their video for a live engagement with the speakers by tapping a button during an event. It also recently included a roundtable feature for live group discussions.
One main limitation of Run the World was its organizer experience for paid events. It gave us no information about the people who signed up to attend our event. We got limited information around discounts that had been redeemed by attendees when they purchased their tickets for the event. However, after bringing these concerns up with the team, they moved swiftly to incorporate our feedback by pushing an update that let us see the event sign-up list.
Best for: intimate community events.
Making the Right Choice
The ideal platform depends on your needs and the types of events you organize. We decided to use Airmeet since its combination of features worked best for the type of experience we wanted to create for our community of founders, operators and creators. Depending on your goals, you may choose a different platform and, to make the right choice, it’s important to know what all virtual event platforms have to offer.