Select the Right Digital Tools
There are myriad digital tools to help you host online meetings and conferences, tools that are evolving rapidly, continuously being developed and honed for an effective, dynamic digital experience. The trick is to match the content and activities on your agenda with the technology that will be most effective in helping achieve your goals.
First you must decide upon your platform. A complete online conference system (such as Socio or HeySummit) will provide ample functions and capabilities, but it will be more difficult to use for both the host and likely for the attendees. Video conferencing platforms such as Zoom (meeting or webinar), WebEx (online collaboration), Crowdcast (webinar), may be more familiar to users and event producers can create excellent experiences using these less complex applications. Ultimately, the stage you set for human-to-human interactions to take place will depend more upon your intention and imagination, than your chosen video conferencing.
To that end, a primary consideration in platform and software selection is accessibility, in a very broad sense, for both hosts and attendees. This entails looking at elements such as familiarity with software, ease of software download and installation, bandwidth requirements for video upload, and the ability for the platform to support true participation of attendees, taking into consideration language and other potential barriers.
The more detailed work of matching your activities with the right technology will comprise exploring available functions of the software, such as activity buttons (raising hand, applause, etc.), opportunities for chat, file and screen sharing, polls and quizzes, break-out rooms, recording options and integration of other applications.
In selecting your technology, keep in mind the needs of your participants, doing everything you can to create an environment that fosters human-to-human interaction. However, also give some thought to meeting the needs of other stakeholders, such as sponsors, funders, and your community at large.
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A Comparison of Technology Options (September 2020)
|Platform Classification||Webinar or Meeting||eConference||Webinar||eConference||eConference|
|Anticipated Pricing (1,000 seats)||$1,860-4,520 Annual||$3,500-6,500||$500||$2,000||UNCLEAR|
|Entry Pricing||$20 / mo+||$3500+/event||$62/mo+||$116/mo+||$1,500/event|
|Work Across Devices||YES||YES||YES||YES||YES|
|Video Conferencing||NATIVE||VIA ZOOM||NATIVE||UNCLEAR||NATIVE|
|Customized Registration||LIMITED||YES||YES||YES||NO DATA|
|Multi-Stage or Multi-Session||NO||YES||YES||YES||YES|
|Waiting Room/ Green Room||YES||YES||YES||NO||YES|
|Built In Schedule||NO||YES||LIMITED||3RD PARTY||UNCLEAR|
|Chat||YES in Meeting; Q & A in Webinar||YES||YES||YES||YES|
|Support for Meetings||NO||NO||NO||NO||YES|
|1 to 1 Video Networking||NO||NO||NO||NO||YES|
|Installed or Cloud-Based||CLOUD||CLOUD||CLOUD||CLOUD||CLOUD|
|Digital Sponsorship Benefits||NO||YES||NO||YES||YES|
|APIs / Integrations||YES||YES||ZAPIER||YES||UNKNOWN|
|Email & Reminders||YES||YES||YES||YES||YES|
|INITIAL ASSESSMENT||Ratings (1 = poor to 5 = excellent)|
|Ease of Use: Producer||5||4||4||3||3|
|Ease of Use: Attendee||5||4||4||3||3|
|Mobile Accessibility||5||5||4||3||NO DATA|
|Overall User Interface||3||5||5||4||3|