Meeting professionals, just like everyone else, learn best by doing. On Tuesday, some 80 meeting experts learned first-hand that while virtual meetings may not be exactly the same as toasting signature cocktails in person, business, learning and fun can still get done. The second Smart Meetings Virtual Experience built on the innovation pioneered in partnership with Conference Solutions (CSS) to match planners and suppliers to source new properties and test drive simulated meeting room software.
While the group was going for a spin on the customized matching and meeting platform, Tara Thomas, founder of The Meeting Pool, popped in to share other options for bringing the meeting to attendees when it is not safe to travel—or just because it makes good business sense.
Tara Thomas is the woman with the answers. She shared a treasure trove of tips on what virtual platforms work for what #meetingprofs needs at @SmartMeetings Virtual Meeting today. Check her out @MeetingPool #MeetSmart pic.twitter.com/eIo2E5VXf8
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“Just go virtual” requires more thought than calendaring a Zoom meeting, Thomas explained. The event-tech landscape actually offers a whole range of choices beyond the ubiquitous Z, and choosing the right one depends on what you are trying to achieve. “There is a maze of virtual platforms,” she said before dropping some landmarks.
These simulate a virtual world. Avatars may walk around a convention center or hotel, providing immersive, virtual booth solutions. Virtual attendees can chat, share collateral, and drop in on networking areas, sessions and breakouts.
INXPO: One of the larger, more established platforms, it offers enterprise-level functionality for webcasts, online events and trainings.
6Connex: This cloud-based platform offers virtual environments, webinars and flexible, secure design elements.
Hexafair: Billed as a complete, virtual event management and conference solution, this platform offers registration, livestreaming and payment processing.
Social 27: This digital and virtual event platform features a recommendation engine to personalize agendas and make attendee matches. It includes curated content experiences, sales bots and live chat.
ProExhibits: As a legacy events industry company, this tool offers livestreaming, on-demand content, surveys and certification tools.
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Video Streaming or Casting
Video presentations have been used more frequently in recent years for financial events or overflow rooms for large events. Casting onto live social platforms has been a way to expand audiences. People have also found ways to have fun with these one-way presentations by placing a webcam in an event so people can make sure in real time that they don’t miss out.
Digitell: A wide range of virtual event and livestreaming services make this an easy solution.
Instagram Live: This popular social media feature is being used for DJ parties and business announcements.
Facebook Live: Turns mobile video into easily shared presentations.
LinkedIn Live: These livestreaming feeds can be used to launch new products or tell company stories.
To impart knowledge, webinar platforms incorporate more features than streaming, including screensharing with a presentation, registration and control over participant actions. They also include archiving and data analytics (who attended, for how long and whether they were paying attention).
GotoWebinar: A simple screen-sharing interface makes this a self-serve option for companies to track leads.
On 24: This growing company offers streaming, webinars, on-demand and engagement.
When it is time for more than a one-way presentation, these platforms help people feel like they are really connecting. Some allow users to drop by a table just as they would in a physical convention center. Others focus on profiles and connections after the event. Meeting requests or prescheduled meetings allow attendees to meet new people.
CSS: Conference Scheduling Solutions matches attendees and exhibitors using an algorithm for more effective scheduling.
Remo: This meeting platform shows a top-down, 2-D map view of an event venue and allows attendees to pop into rooms to talk to others on the platform and listen to presenters.
Swapcard: This mobile-focused choice offers request networking for virtual and live events based on artificial intelligence.
Alignable: Billed as “the small business referral network,” this platform connects people for long-term relationships.
Zenvoy: This “walled garden” is a network for communities that makes introductions using artificial intelligence and allows for larger group conversations that extend beyond the meeting.
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Although many are now fatigued from connecting all day through these platforms, they are easy ways to get business done even with the varied network speeds of individual users. They allow whiteboarding, note-taking, sharing files and, in some cases, taking control of screens.
Zoom: These simple online video conferencing, group messaging and screen-sharing platforms are easy to set up.
Microsoft Teams: For offices already using Microsoft software, these are integrated into the workflow with chat, video and file storage.
Whereby: This browser-based video meeting tool allows users to set up “meeting rooms” at economical cost anywhere in the world without downloads or logins.
Virtual Collaboration Tools
These offer a variety of communication tools predicated on real-time chat, using internet or mobile connection so users always feel in touch. Some are softphone-integrated to allow for calls through a virtual PBX system. Some have task management or integrate other project management tools. They help reduce email to what is really important.
Slack: This popular collaboration hub allows companies to create channels to share and communicate quickly in the organization, or it can bring in people from outside to a separate conversation thread.
Flock: The collaboration interface allows for 1:1 or group conversations, video calls and screen sharing.
Fuze: This cloud-based platform combines calling, meeting, chatting and sharing. It has a softphone built in.