When it comes to virtual and hybrid events, some people think, “Eh, let’s just host the event on Zoom and call it a day.” After all, platforms like Zoom are affordable and easy to use, and just about everyone has a Zoom account. The platform had 1.3 billion monthly active users in May of 2022, so it has a massive presence.
But if we’re being sincere, Zoom-based events aren’t the best. Zoom isn’t designed for large-scale events, so opting for Zoom instead of a proper event platform won’t do you any favors. Let’s look at why video conferencing platforms like Zoom aren’t a fit for virtual and hybrid events and why quality virtual events require a paid platform.
Why Can’t I Host a Virtual Event on Zoom?
We have nothing against Zoom or other video conferencing platforms. They were a godsend during the pandemic, after all. But Zoom isn’t and has never been an actual event platform. The Zoom Basic plan isn’t a fit for events for these three reasons.
Issue 1: Attendance and Time Limits
Most brands opt for Zoom because the Basic plan is free, but there are a lot of limits to this free plan. For one, Zoom limits how many people can attend. Zoom Basic accounts cap attendance at 100 people, so even a tiny event will break the limits of what Zoom allows.
Zoom Basic also limits your meeting to just 40 minutes, so unless you’re hosting a very short session, this won’t work. Even if you upgrade to the paid Zoom tier, it’s $150 a year per user. For large meetings with up to 1,000 participants, you’ll pay $600 a year. You’ll also need to buy add-ons to get features not usually included in the platform, which makes it more expensive. At that point, you’re better off buying actual event software, which doesn’t have these restrictions.
Issue 2: Fewer Audience Engagement Features
Zoom does have a Chat feature, but it’s pretty clunky, especially if you have a lot of attendees. You can try to offer networking by putting attendees into Zoom breakout groups, but these don’t allow for organic networking — attendees are stuck with whoever you put them with.
Zoom also doesn’t allow you to poll attendees or track their engagement. It’s a lost opportunity for engaging with attendees, so they feel like they’re actually at an event.
Issue 3: Security Issues
Zoom made strides in its security measures, but worries over Zoom bombing still linger. Just as you would worry about event crashers at an in-person event, plenty of nefarious folks crash Zoom calls to wreak havoc. Zoom bombing will cause problems — and even prevent attendees from attending your event — so Zoom isn’t the best way to host a secure virtual event.
Why Virtual Event Platforms Cost Money — And Why It’s Worth It
Brands usually go with Zoom because it’s free. But we won’t sugarcoat it: quality virtual events cost money. You can find an event solution that fits your needs. When you buy an event management platform, you get all of these benefits, which you wouldn’t get with Zoom.
If you’re hosting a hybrid event, you need more firepower than Zoom alone can offer. Hybrid event platforms connect to cameras, microphones, and your A/V setup more efficiently. Plus, this option allows you to invite local and international attendees to the same event. So many event platforms specialize in hybrid events, giving attendees an equitable experience whether in-person or online.
Can Zoom tell you how engaged all of your attendees were? Or how effective your sessions were? Virtual event platforms give you more robust attendee analytics than what you’ll get from a videoconferencing solution.
Analytics make it possible to track every stage of the attendee experience. You can get real-time insights into attendance figures, engagement, and demographics. Instead of making assumptions about your event, you can use your analytics to know the cold, hard truth.
You put a lot of work into creating the perfect event. But why interact with your audience just once a year? You can create a thriving community around your event to keep the excitement going year-round.
With a digital event platform, you can create a community where attendees engage with each other regularly. A digital event platform gives you another avenue to nurture leads and give your fans more value in exclusive community content.
You can often use the same software for both your events and your community. You’re already paying for virtual event software, so why not get more traction with an online community?
Zoom Basic comes with Zoom branding, and you’ll have to pay out the wazoo to remove Zoom’s branding from the software. A lack of branding isn’t the end of the world, but using Zoom for a virtual event will make attendees think that Zoom is an event sponsor.
With a virtual event platform, you can white-label the platform and keep attendees focused on your brand. Drop in your logo, colors, taglines, and other branded messaging to keep attendees’ attention where it should be.
You generate a lot of attendee information during an event. But if you’re hosting events on Zoom, you aren’t receiving nearly enough information to nurture your leads. A virtual event platform allows you to gather information on your leads and get in touch with them automatically after an event, thanks to intelligent integrations. If you want more data than an attendee’s name and email, go with a virtual event platform instead of Zoom.
Smoother Third-Party Integrations
Yes, Zoom integrates with other solutions, but it doesn’t integrate as cleanly as an event platform does. Event platforms work with your existing customer relationship management (CRM) platform, email service provider (ESP), social media, and much more.
Increased audience engagement
Zoom allows audience interaction, but it’s not nearly as robust as a virtual event platform. A platform is your best bet if you want to make attendees feel like they’re really at an event. Platforms allow you to:
- Gamify the experience with games, quizzes, and prizes
- Poll attendees
- Send automatic post-session surveys
- Create digital stages and conference rooms
- Incorporate VR and AR
Invest in Better Virtual Events
We love Zoom for small meetings, but it isn’t a fit for events. Nobody likes increasing their event budget, but there are some things you just can’t compromise on. You wouldn’t buy gas station food instead of a caterer, and you wouldn’t hold a conference in a public park. You need to create a quality experience by investing in your virtual events.
As long as you stick with a solid event management platform, you’ll be able to:
- Host hybrid events
- Access advanced analytics
- Build a community
- Brand your event
- Generate better leads
- Integrate with other solutions
- Increase audience engagement
When it’s time to digitize your next event, go with Endless. We offer end-to-end event management for brands across the United States. See how our tech-first approach helps you turn more heads: check out Endless’ work now.