Planners know the care and effort it takes to find the right vendors to support the design and execution of their face-to-face events and meetings. The process is no less critical when it comes to virtual events and meetings. But planners may feel they’re navigating new waters as there are often different platforms and tools to incorporate. As any event or meeting pro knows, the right vendors and platforms play a pivotal role in the success of any meeting or event – especially those that are virtual or online.
We’ve developed a list of five tips to help you choose the best vendors and platforms for your upcoming events and meetings
1. Set Your Goals and Objectives
Start by identifying the “why” — what is the purpose of the virtual event or meeting?Once the “why” is established, set specific, measurable goals and objectives. Determining this information upfront helps keep future decision-making on track, and it is likely to be the first question a potential vendor asks to understand what’s important and what you hope to achieve.
2. Develop Your Wishlist
Just as many planners create a brief with an overview and key details for a face-to-face event or meeting, you’ll want to develop a similar framework. Provide the wishlist to possible vendors to understand if their capabilities line up with your needs.
Here are a few key areas to include:
- Expected number of attendees
- Duration (i.e., how many users per day)
- Breakdown of what content is live versus pre-recorded
- Thoughts about how long the event or meeting will stay live
- Levels of interactivity needed: chat, Q&A, polling, etc
- Registration needs
- Payment process (if applicable)
3. Research and Narrow Vendors
Many planners prefer to build long-term relationships with vendors, as there’s less ramp up and knowledge transfer required from event to event. Identify if existing vendors – like registration partners – offer services needed for your virtual event. If you require additional services beyond what your vendor team currently offers, it’s time to start researching. Search online listings, pose questions in industry social groups or ask colleagues for referrals. And if you can, observe and participate in other virtual events to see firsthand how various platforms and providers’ solutions work.
If you discover vendors who provide services that you might not need currently, keep those in a separate document. It’s easier to go back to that “back pocket” list than to start the research process all over again.
4. Write and Issue the RFP
If required by procurement, prepare a concise RFP and share it with your shortlist of vendors. Provide a clear deadline for responses – understanding many vendors are responding to a large number of inquiries – and other instructions your organization may need (references, financials, etc.)
As part of the RFP, consider asking these questions:
- What types of training and onboarding services do you provide?
- How are customer service and support handled – pre-event and in case of an urgent situation during the “live” event?
- Are there any hidden costs or charges, such as ongoing licensing fees, transcoding costs, or additional fees for exceeding projected attendance?
- How are integrations handled with other platforms/providers?
5. Elevate and Make a Decision
Once you receive the RFP responses (or have gathered estimates and scopes of work), as best as you can, create a system to compare vendors’ capabilities, and platform features apples-to-apples. For example, using a checklist or spreadsheet to summarize details and features helps sort out who provides what – and the pros and cons of working with each vendor.
Brandt Krueger, who teaches ELI’s Virtual Event & Meeting Management Certificate Course, suggests evaluating features first and price last. He says, “of course price is always a factor. But ask first who will best serve the event, and then worry about the price.” Once the decision is made, the journey to plan and execute your virtual event or meeting is underway. The overall process is similar in many ways to that used for a face-to-face event, but there are many other essential considerations to ensure success. For more strategies and insights to take your virtual meetings and events to the next level, sign-up for ELI’s Virtual Event & Meeting Management Certificate.
The next class starts June 15 and includes weekly course work to complete at your own pace, live scheduled online class meetings with the instructor, industry experts, and technical experts, plus a peer-based community forum to ask questions and exchange ideas.