Hosting a virtual conference is a great way to boost your brand and generate leads. But with so many virtual conference platforms available, how can you know which one to choose?
At Livestorm, we specialize in helping people host more engaging events. We checked out some of the best virtual conference platforms, and what users say about them, and put together a shortlist of 9 to help you decide.
In this piece, we’ll cover:
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Choosing the right virtual event software for hosting a virtual conference depends on your program, audience, and goals.
Essentially, the choice boils down to platforms that can do it all vs dedicated virtual conference platforms. The latter offers more specialized conferencing functionality but may mean you need to bolt other, specialized tools to your tech stack. By contrast, a virtual events platform that can do it all is more versatile, so you don’t need to sign up for as many tools.
The essential features you need in a virtual conference platform will depend on your business, KPIs, audience, and event program. However, most top virtual conference platforms should offer the following.
Here’s our pick of the 9 best virtual event platforms:
Livestorm is an all-in-one video engagement platform that lets you host engaging HD webinars and events on all major browsers and devices.
Livestorm features are specifically designed to boost engagement and interaction: live chat, Q&A, polls & surveys, emoji reactions, virtual whiteboards, virtual backgrounds, downloadable resources, and huddle rooms.
Customizable branded landing pages, booths, and forms let you and your sponsors and exhibitors put your personal stamp on your event. And time-saving automations, CRM integrations, and cadences make it easy to generate and nurture leads. You can also repurpose the recording as an on-demand event to boost ROI.
It’s intuitive and easy for admins and attendees to use, and browser-based so there’s no need for anyone to download and install software, which boosts attendance rates. As well as event analytics, participant records, and referral source tracking, Livestorm’s proprietary Video Engagement Score (VES) calculator reveals how participants engaged with your content, and how your event stacks up against the competition.
Run trouble-free and secure online meetings
Meet the first video conferencing platform that makes hybrid and remote work simple.
Livestorm’s free plan has some restrictions in terms of the number of attendees permitted to join an event and how long live events can be.
Livestorm is priced by active users, so you only pay for what you need.
This well-known platform has a dedicated events package for meetings and virtual conferences. Run branded, multi-day-and-session events, ticket by track or audience, and configure the event lobby, expo booths, backgrounds, etc. to your branding goals. It also includes features to run an engaging virtual conference and options to promote attendees to panelists.
Most people are familiar with Zoom, so it’s relatively easy for them to get to grips with the UI, options, and navigation.
The need to download and install software is a barrier to attendance and can cause issues for speakers. It also lacks certain branding and customization options, and the integrations, screen sharing, and image quality leave something to be desired. There’s also no option to share resources in-platform, which limits lead-gen opportunities.
Zoom Events comes in three packages – Small Business, Mid-Market, and Enterprise – all custom priced on request.
ON24 is a Zoom alternative that’s designed for sales and marketing teams to drive engagement and deliver insights for revenue growth.
This hybrid event platform offers a customizable auditorium, expo halls, networking lounges, product centers, and resource libraries. As well as engagement features, gamification and translations boost interaction and make it accessible to a wider audience.
It’s relatively easy to use and self-serve with a large choice of widgets that you can arrange as you want them. It’s also easy to record and share webinars.
ON24 lacks some of the options you need to fully engage audiences and drive interaction. Speakers can’t see attendees, and the audience is limited to interacting over chat/Q&A rather than audio. Customization options are also more limited than with other tools, and there are no virtual or blurred backgrounds.
It requires a lot of bandwidth and has performance issues like video glitches, as well as issues when connected on VPN.
It also comes in a bewildering range of packages, which makes it hard to work out which package or combo (features vary by package) you need. And customer support is poorly rated.
Custom priced on request.
BigMarker is a webinar marketing and automation platform that’s designed to host live and on-demand events.
As well as customization options and collaboration features like whiteboards, it offers a lot of ways to monetize webinars and drive lead generation. Like CTAs, lead capture, CRM and martech integrations, email cadences, offer triggering during webinars, or paywalls for premium content.
Engagement-wise, it offers everything you’d expect, plus private chat and the option to invite audience members on stage during sessions or panel discussions.
BigMarker has a lot of features that take the guesswork out of creating a webinar. Plus, it’s specifically designed to maximize conversions and ROI with on-demand and “evergreen” events. Customer support is also well rated.
With so many features, there’s a bit of a learning curve, it can be overwhelming for beginners, and takes time to set up. Also, as a webinar platform, it’s less focused on engagement, networking, and recreating the conference experience and lacks breakout rooms or customizable booths. It’s also expensive for large events.
vFairs is designed for hosting virtual and hybrid webinars, trade shows, conferences, and other events. It offers a 3D venue complete with an auditorium, poster hall, and customizable booths for a real-life trade show experience that boosts interaction and ROI for you and your sponsors.
vFairs also offers gamification and marketing features like virtual swag and “wish lists” that help understand attendee preferences, email cadences, and visualization of customer journeys.
vFairs live up to its name with lots of options to create an impressive, visually stunning virtual event that maximizes engagement, networking, and lead generation opportunities. You also get a dedicated project manager and highly responsive customer support.
With so many customization options, it can take a lot of time and work to set up and the interface isn’t the most intuitive. You’re also quite reliant on your product manager and the UI team to achieve the look you want, so it’s not ideal to use independently.
vFairs is custom priced on request for a single-event, two-event, or annual license.
Airmeet is a great solution for small and medium-sized organizations wanting to run hybrid meetups, virtual fairs, summits, conferences, and more. It offers a customizable branded reception area and event layout, live booths and tables, sponsor areas, social lounge, and “backstage” area to connect with speakers. It also allows you to build detailed profiles of speakers and participants and allows for 1:1 DMs and meetings, which helps networking and lead generation.
Airmeet has good customization options and features to mimic a live event that stands out from the crowd. In-app reminders and the option to bring guests “on stage” also boost engagement. It’s also attractive to sponsors as they can sell tickets directly through the platform and gather post-event feedback and surveys.
All that functionality comes at a price. Airmeet isn’t the most cost-effective tool on the market, and it can be tricky to configure and navigate. Functionality is also limited in the app, which can harm engagement. The lengthy login process can also be off-putting. It also needs high bandwidth to work well and the analytics are fuzzy as speakers and rejoins are counted as new participants.
Free - up to 100 attendees
Standard - from $200/month
Pro - from $7,500/year
Hubilo is designed to facilitate the organization of conferences, trade shows, seminars, networking events, product launches, fundraisers, and more. As well as engagement features, it offers gamification, 1:1 chat and meetings, and breakout rooms for group discussions.
Hubilo is pretty user friendly for admins and attendees, and offers support from a dedicated client experience manager and team in the green room. It’s also strong on ways to attract sponsors, like tiered packages, automatic lead retrieval and scoring, interactive booths, and a personal analytics dashboard for sponsors.
You have to stream through the Zoom integration, which can mean extra setup steps. Several users have also experienced a lag when streaming. It’s also not possible for speakers to see attendees or communicate with support backstage except via chat, and it counts speakers as attendees.
Hopin allows you to create a virtual venue for virtual and hybrid events with customizable content areas and media. Run unlimited breakout sessions in parallel and let attendees create custom event schedules. On top of the engagement features, it also has GIFs and a photo booth to entertain audiences.
Hopin goes the extra mile to help you find sponsors with its agency partner directory and is strong on 1:1 and group networking features. It’s also easy to navigate and provides a good simulation of the conference experience.
The registration and login process can be complex and either put some attendees off or create security issues. There’s also a learning curve, a lot of setup and customization steps, and performing certain tasks like modifying registrations is tricky. Some users also complain that the random networking pairings are hard for admins to manage and don’t make for a great attendee experience.
Whova is an all-in-one virtual event platform that helps you stream sessions, replay videos, engage attendees, create virtual booths, and more. It offers customizable booths, virtual brochures and recordings, online coupons and giveaways, and sponsored sessions and tables.
Tiered access and content control let you monetize exclusive sessions and content. You can also create virtual meetups by interest area, and use gamification to boost engagement.
Different engagement options throughout the event create a more dynamic and interactive experience. Plus, it’s easy for attendees to schedule and view sessions based on their availability and interests. Multi-channel updates also help boost attendance.
Whova is reportedly buggy, customer support is very poorly rated, and the interface and options can be overwhelming. It also requires duplicate setup for sponsors and exhibitors and doesn’t provide automatic lead capture for sponsors. You also need to stream through Zoom, which means signing up for that as well.
Whova is custom priced by factors like event type and duration and number of attendees and events per year.
Choosing the best virtual event platform is a matter of knowing your audience, program, and goals. If you’re looking for a dedicated virtual conference platform, vFairs is the best choice.
If, however, you want a virtual event platform that can do it all, choose Livestorm. It’s packed with features to facilitate event organization and follow-up and engage audiences with a truly memorable virtual conference experience. It has everything you need to follow virtual conference best practices and leverage detailed analytics for lead generation and continuous improvement.
Livestorm is the best choice if you’re looking for an easy-to-use, cost-effective, versatile platform to host a wide range of virtual event ideas.
The best virtual conference platforms with breakout rooms are Livestorm and Hopin.
The best free virtual conference platform in 2023 is Livestorm as you can try out all the premium platform features for an unlimited time, for sessions with limited participants and duration.
To budget for a virtual conference, first, think about your costs. For example, costs for promotion, ads, speaker fees, swag (if applicable), and the investment in a virtual event platform. Then, work out how much you can pull in from sponsors and registrations and whether this income will allow you to achieve ROI.