This level of choice is both an opportunity and a burden. Which solution will suit your needs? What to look for?
So we created this guide to the best virtual conference platforms to help you.
How to use this best virtual conference platforms guide?
We have split the guide into 3 sections:
- What is a virtual conference? First of all, we explore how to define a virtual conference. Before we dig into the 6 best virtual conference platforms, we need to speak the same language.
- What are the key features? We outline the key features you will need in a Virtual Conference Platform. But do keep in mind the definition of Virtual Conference we are using here.
- How do you choose the right platform for Virtual Conferences? We review the 6 best virtual conference platform options to suit your needs. So whatever your conference plans, our guide will help.
We recommend reading this article in sequence. However, If you’re a seasoned Event Planner, feel free to jump to the platform reviews.
Do you want to understand virtual event platforms in general? Then check out our 2020 comparison guide.
What is a virtual conference?
Let’s explore the current definition of a virtual conference. We define them in the pre-2020 and post-2020 era.
Pre-2020: traditional conferences
Conferences have always been an event type aimed to network and discuss. The main differences between a conference and a regular event (or meeting) are one of scale. This is not just in the number of attendees. But also the number of occurrences per year is a typical difference as well.
Regular events, or meetings, can be informal. They involve just a selected group of people. Traditionally, in-house facilities were sufficient for this type. This made them easier and faster to organize. The occurrence of this type could thus be on a weekly to monthly basis.
Conferences were different. They could be held in-house, but organizers preferred external locations. This allowed larger numbers of attendees with wider-ranging topics. Conference centers and hotels made perfect hosts for this event type. They offered the facilities, equipment, and environment required.
Post-2020: virtual conferences
Skip forward to the new normal we live in today. What you see is traditional conferences pivoting to virtual conferences. Large groups of people are discussing topics from their home office. They have an agenda and a program of activities planned. These virtual conferences have a duration of multiple days. Break-out sessions run by specialists go deeper into specific topics.
Going virtual asks for a combination of both live and on-demand content. Do you want to take a peek at the next slide during a talk? Or go through a research paper to get more details? It’s all possible during the live part of your virtual conference. It makes for a more engaging experience.
After the event, additional content is available on-demand. Think of recordings and extended answers from the Q&A session. Content on-demand pulls participants back into the conference. This allows your conference to have a longer-lasting experience.
Key features of the best virtual conference platforms
The format and size of a conference can make plans complex. The virtual event planner has a lot to think about. Therefore having the right platform features can be a big help. They are 100% crucial to a successful conference. Put these features on top of your search list and you’ll get a long way:
Virtual Conference Management
The sheer size of a virtual conference means added complexity. So virtual event planners need features that support the event experience. Like features that make it easy to manage attendee lists. Or adding personalized agendas and speakers bios. These can make a huge difference.
The event journey your attendees take will influence their experience. By mixing general and breakout sessions you can give them the choice to create their own agenda. You might want to assign sessions prior to the event. It would be even better, to take them by the hand and provide suggestions based on their interests.
Breakout sessions and 2-way discussion
Networking & community tools
One of the main reasons people attend conferences is to network. The truth is, your audience will expect this from your virtual conference. Therefore, you will want to make sure to have supportive features. Think of feeds where users can post videos, make comments, or like posts. Similar to a Facebook Wall or Twitter Feed. Other clever features are network suggestions, one-on-one chats, and group chats.
Are you hosting a virtual event with sponsors or a virtual job fair? Then virtual booths might be high on your list. Some virtual event platforms offer 3D booth capabilities. Others can offer dedicated virtual spaces for sponsored content. This gives participants the chance to have one-on-one conversations.
App store containers
Fully branded conference apps can enhance the event journey. This goes much further than just a logo in the app header. Colors and design elements can trigger the right mindset. This psychological aspect has the potential to make it to the top of your list. The importance depends on the nature of your virtual conference. Make sure your virtual event vendor can support you with this.
Do you need Live, Simulive, and On-demand content?
Your virtual event or meeting might need a multitude of content types. Something that depends on your engagement strategy. The goal of this is to engage with your audience on their terms. If you do this, It makes it easier to get your message across. So, what are the three main types of content you could deliver?
This is a moment in time. It is content such as a Q&A session, live-streamed to the entire audience. The audience is present in the virtual meeting at the same time. “…and we’re live!”
As the name suggests, this is a word that comes from “simulation” and “live”. It is the viewing of prerecorded content that is made to look live. Take for example a prerecording of a presentation. This can be played back to the audience at a future date and time.
This content type is available to your audience whenever, wherever. It can be read, played, watched, or listened to at any point in time. You decide how long the content is available. An example of on-demand content is Netflix. Shows are accessible when it suits you.
Choosing the Best Virtual Conference Platforms
We used the above key features to review the virtual conference platforms. The 6 best virtual conference platforms are picked by our staff.
We recommend you read all the reviews below. This will help you get the full picture of each platform. However, If you have a certain format in mind this summary will help:
For something suited to all conference type, see SpotMe
- Planning a ticketed conference see Accelevents
- If 3D booths are your thing, see vFairs or INXPO/Intrado.
- If its internal conferences you are planning, see Microsoft tools.
- For anything small in the conference world (with no 2-way breakouts) see Swapcard.
See our side-by-side feature comparison.
Accelevents is a virtual event platform based in the United States. They are best known for their ticketed events. It offers all the main virtual event features you would expect. It also has some nice networking features for attendees.
However, the platform misses one key feature for conferences. When it comes to branding the event, you can’t create your own branded app in the App Store or Google Play. For conferences, this is often a must.
Best for: Virtual conferences with ticket sales.
G2 virtual event platform score: 5 stars (1 review)
SpotMe (founded in 2001) jumps out for both quality and flexibility. The platform is great for all virtual conference types. SpotMe comes with webcasting, 2-way breakouts, personalized agendas, full branding, and whiteboard features. It supports clients in launching their app in the App Store and on Google Play.
If 3D models are your thing, then you will need to look elsewhere. SpotMe offers virtual sponsorship features, but not 3D modeling of booths.
Best for: All types of virtual conferences.
G2 virtual event platform score: 4.6 (100 reviews)
vFairs (founded in 2008) is famous for its career fairs. The main features are virtual event management and the creation of 3D models. With vFairs you can make 3D models of your exhibit booth. The platform also allows for 2-way video sessions.
Looking for a robust virtual network solution? Then vFairs is not the right choice for you. It lacks the ability for attendees to search for other people. This makes it hard to connect. If you want to brand your app, keep in mind that isn’t a feature either.
Best for: Virtual conferences where 3D models are on top of your list. And networking is not such a big deal.
G2 virtual event platform score: no reviews
Inxpo (founded in 2004) is a webcasting solution. It is best for virtual conferences much like vFairs. The main feature is the ability to create a 3D model of the event. Inxpo also has event management features for virtual conferences.
Inxpo is not the platform for you if networking is what you are looking for. It has very few networking features and aims at 3D models.
Best for: Virtual conferences where networking is not important.
G2 webcasting software score: 3.8 (13 reviews)
#5 Microsoft Streams, Teams and Yammer
This combination of tools is all part of the Microsoft Office 365 suite. The power of these tools really comes to life during meetings. It is great when all users are part of a group on the Microsoft Teams platform. This often suits the needs of internal employees or established communities.
The combination falls apart when it comes to virtual event management. It relies on a separate calendar. To manage attendees and sessions it needs an email solution. This will be an issue where your audience has more formal expectations.
Best for: Internal and community virtual conferences and meetings.
G2 Internal comms software score: 4.2 (6,589 reviews)
Swapcard is a simple and easy-to-use tool. This helps users create an event app faster than most other tools. Top features include drag and drop app creation, networking, and basic engagement.
The simplicity comes at a price. With limited branding, targeting, streaming and no two-way breakout abilities. It is best used as a small virtual conference or companion app.
Best for: Small virtual conferences where 2-way breakouts are not needed OR as a companion app.
G2 mobile event app score: 4.3 (9 reviews)
See also: our in-depth review of Swapcard.
Wondering where to get started with the best virtual conference platforms?
To help you, we made documents and guides to help you get started. These can help you choose the best virtual conference platform:
Virtual conference platform side-by-side. Here we show each platform against the key virtual conference features.
Virtual event comparison guide. Need a platform that goes beyond your virtual conference? Our comparison guide can help.
RFP guide and free template. We prepared a guide to virtual event RFPs. Includes a free virtual event RFP template.