Three Challenges Online Conference Tools Must Overcome to Scale
There are a huge number of online event platforms and collaboration tools out there today, with more emerging by the day. Many of them excellent in their own ways but there is a very high bar for software to become the accepted standard that everyone uses. We’re sharing our thoughts on three challenges online conference tools must overcome to scale and our own approach to choosing online event tech.
We see three main areas where virtual event tools are struggling to get traction:
Only solving a small part of the puzzle. It’s not enough for a tool to solve a single part of the online experience. The more point solutions an event needs, the more tabs and windows a participant needs to have open in their browser to participate and this leads to confusion.
Unfamiliar Controls and UX
Too many tools require a degree of familiarity and expertise that means inexperienced users are confused or not able to concentrate on the important things as they’re too busy trying to work out what button to press, where they need to be, how to do something simple. When you got to an online event, you want to focus on the content and the people, not having to learn a new interface. At a time when everyone has so much to think about, the last thing people want is to learn how to use new tools. As online event and collaboration software tools evolve, there’s no doubt that a common language and interface will evolve for them but we’re not there yet.
Weak Versions of Existing Solutions
Others are simply not up to the basic jobs they are supposed to be doing. We’re pitched on a very regular basis by startups with end-to-end virtual event solutions that unfortunately don’t do some of the basic things, video streaming for example, as well as existing tools like Zoom. One basic hygiene factor for a video platform is that it should offer high quality video that is stable and does not require downloading software or training for speakers and viewers.
Our Approach to Designing Virtual Events
At Business of Software Conference and in designing our masterclass sessions, we’re focusing our efforts on designing engaging content and activities that work well with tools that people are already familiar with. We don’t want attendees to be overwhelmed by new tech.
Our approach means:
- There’s one single place where everyone can go at any time if they get ‘lost’ that points them back to the right place for them to be at any one time.
- We’re using well used, well understood tools that don’t have an additional cognitive load for attendees, for the most part this means Zoom, Slack and Google Docs. Where there’s an activity that requires a tool that offers something more, say group collaboration, we choose the simplest tool for the job. For example, Jamboard has much less functionality than Mural, but Jamboard’s simplicity means users focus on the task they’re doing, not learning, exploring and being intimidated by something that is too powerful for the job in hand.
Online Event Networking
This is also something we’re also thinking about when it comes to online networking tools. From our experience, the critical thing with any networking tool is the quality of inputs, not the ease of use of the tool or the simplicity of making random connections.
BoS is about making connections with smart and interesting people, not bumping into a high volume of people that want to pitch their product or service. Enabling conversations is one thing, but the most important thing is to make sure that the conversations you enable are valuable to all parties.
There’s a lot to be said for working with things that you are familiar with when you are learning new things. We think that by focusing on the content rather than the latest wizzy tech tools, the user experience is all the better as a result.
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