Between 22-24 September I had the pleasure of sharing a few days in Davos and Klosters, courtesy of Tourism Switzerland, with a cohort of 10 corporate event leaders.

This was not a ‘FAM’ trip – remember those? – but the Corporate Leaders Summit, which was centred around roundtable discussions on topics such as sustainability, the future of live experiences, diversity, and agencies. However, one discussion that I found particularly interesting was that of event technology – or virtual event platforms to be more precise.

The majority of the corporate group agreed that the pricing models adopted by many platforms are too confusing from one to another, and make the tender experience all the harder, even without a procurement department in the middle.

There is no industry standard when it comes to event technology (how could there be?). But for example, one provider may charge in the region of £6,000 for a set-up fee, and then the organiser may pay up to £20 per delegate who joins the event online, whereas another provider might charge a base rate of, say, £5,000 which covers somewhere in the region of 300 delegates, but you are then charged per additional delegate above that threshold.

A blue ribband brand might charge an organiser £20,000 for an all-inclusive service, or another might charge you somewhere in the region of £1,400 per month for an unlimited number of events, but without technical support. Many platform providers will even create bespoke packages based on an event’s needs, which is perfectly reasonable, but often different levels of support are required. However, not everyone is an expert, and this does make it harder to shop around.

There can be no standardisation of pricing structure between different platforms, that is not possible, but event technology providers are being asked by corporates to make their packages simpler to understand, or at least publish a starting price somewhere on their website or at first contact. All too often, corporates report that they are caught out by additional costs which were not clearly relayed at the first point of contact.

Consultative effort

It goes without saying that a corporate event manager’s first point of contact with a platform provider is with the sales team. All too often, however, they report the promises made cannot later be delivered by the technical staff. This creates more work and more problems for all stakeholders in the chain.

A salesperson is of course expected to have a grasp of the product and what it can do, but it is unfair to treat them as technical experts. Yet, it is common for an event organiser to have many questions which can only be answered by someone with such expertise – remember, the corporate is no tech expert either. There was consensus among the group that, save for initial contact with a salesperson, a tech expert should be on hand to answer critical questions before any commitment is made.

This should not be a ‘nice to have’, as one corporate organiser put it, but as standard. There were several tales of poor experiences, which more often than not centred around issues when connecting new platforms with existing databases and registration programmes. These problems are only usually discovered too late in the process with the client already tied in, and has resultantly caused some organisers distress.

Technology is seldom straightforward, and issues raised went on to include GDPR compliance, which is not fully understood in some markets, cybersecurity – especially in sensitive industries – and even some platforms not being supported on certain web browsers. And, of course, the small matter of who owns (or claims) the data…

The future is now

Event technology, as a discipline, has exploded tenfold since the Covid-19 pandemic began in early 2020, and it has since become a hyper-competitive environment, with Private Equity funds throwing some serious capital behind many firms. However, it is not just the so-called ‘traditional’ event technology companies leading the market, either. AV production and full-service creative agencies are also developing their own platforms and services, too. And while we all embrace the free market, too much choice with too many options can leave corporate event managers feeling overwhelmed and often railroaded into the wrong solutions.

Considering the importance of creating the best possible virtual event experiences in the modern age, it has never been more important for those delivering them to put the client first.

Transparency of the pricing structure would be a good place to start.

Via Martin Fullard at Conference News