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Best virtual event platforms of 2021

Best virtual event platforms
(Image credit: Shutterstock)
PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

The best virtual event platforms make it easy to connect to and attend online events such as conferences and webinars.

The best virtual event platforms

Click the links below to go to the provider's website:

 

1. Zoom

2. Microsoft Teams

3. Google Meet

4. Join.me

5. Whereby

6. Orbits

It’s not always easy to get everyone who’d like to be there to attend an event in person, especially when participants are spread across the globe. This has especially been the case since the recent pandemic, causing a massive increase in the take-up of virtual event platforms.

Whether it’s a one-off event, a multi-day conference, or a business meeting, the most critical decision you can make is choosing which software you use to host it on.

The best virtual event platforms include advanced features that enable you to make your virtual gathering as multi-faceted, engaging, and memorable as a physical equivalent.

In this article, we review the best virtual event platforms available, providing you with the information you need to decide on the right provider for your next virtual meeting.

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(Image credit: Zoom)

1. Zoom

The best virtual event platform

Reasons to buy
+Free plan is feature heavy+24-hour meeting limit+Great mobile app+Intuitive interface+Simply priced

Since its launch in 2013, Zoom has grown into one of the most popular video event platforms around. Just as capable of handling business conferences as casual gatherings between friends, Zoom has widespread appeal.

Zoom’s desktop app is intuitive and easy to navigate, while the software is packed with features. You get HD video and voice, simultaneous screen sharing, MP4 or M4A recording, keyboard and mouse control, whiteboarding, and even breakout rooms. The Zoom mobile app is also very capable for meetings on the go. 

It’s incredibly secure too and uses secure socket layer (SSL) and AES 256 bits encryption. 

The platform’s free plan is generous, enabling users to host up to 100 participants on a video call, capped at 40 minutes, with all video conferencing, web conferencing, and group collaboration features included. After that, users will need to subscribe to a paid plan.

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(Image credit: Microsoft)

2. Microsoft Teams

Tried and tested with multiple app integrations

Reasons to buy
+Free option for Microsoft Outlook users+Meeting scheduler+Integration with major app repository 
Reasons to avoid
-Complicated interface

Formerly Skype for Business Online, Microsoft Teams is another well-established virtual meeting platform that’s benefited from a recent rebrand. 

Microsoft's answer to a virtual conferencing platform is formidable. Although at first glance it seems better aimed at remote teams, with Slack-like file sharing and instant chat facilities, the option to host up to 10,000 people on a single call puts Microsoft Teams up a notch. 

Participants can join a meeting via a link, while other features include HD video, screen sharing, recording, and third-party app integration. 

We found the web app very responsive, with all the platform’s features within easy reach. However, the interface was a little complicated and not as streamlined as those of some of the other platforms we tested.

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(Image credit: Google)

3. Google Meet

User-friendly and free to use

Reasons to buy
+Free to use with a Gmail account+Good for first-time users+Up to 250 participants+Integrates with other Google apps

Google Meet is Google’s answer to video conferencing. As you would expect from one of the world’s leading tech companies, Google Meet is packed with features that match or even exceed those of its rivals. 

Since last year this service became free of charge—the only caveat is that you need a Gmail account. Prior to this, Google Meet was part of Google's range of business-focused apps that users could access with a paid plan. 

So what’s on offer? Google Meet is accessible through a clean, easy-to-use desktop app or mobile application, includes HD video, one-click presenting functionality, advanced security measures like secure encryption and privacy features, and facilitates up to 250 participants. 

It’s incredibly easy to arrange a meeting, and participants just need a code to join. The service also integrates with Google Calendar, so you can schedule meetings and invite participants via this app too.

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(Image credit: Join.Me)

4. Join.me

Feature-rich with an advanced admin panel

Reasons to buy
+Reasonably priced+International calling included (Pro and Bussiness plans) 
Reasons to avoid
-All meetings capped at 250 participants-Lite plan only allows five participants

Unlike Google Meet, which went from a paid to free service, Join.me has gone the other way, and it’s now compulsory to pay to use it. The Lite plan is very basic and doesn’t offer a great deal in terms of features. 

Our advice would be to skip it and go straight for the Pro option, which includes up to 250 participants, recording options, 10 webcam streams, call scheduling, and 50 GB cloud storage. 

The interface is nicely presented with the key functions— start or join a meeting—unmissable. In addition, the admin panel is incredibly detailed, with easy access to call reports, recordings, user data, and more. 

The one downside is the meeting participant limit. Although 250 may be more than enough for most virtual meetings, it might not cut it at the conference level.

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(Image credit: Whereby)

5. Whereby

Straightforward with unique features

Reasons to buy
+Branded meeting spaces+Custom business domains
Reasons to avoid
-Meetings capped at 50 participants-Expensive Bussiness plan

What make Whereby stand out are its features. This well-designed virtual meeting platform combines quirky with clever, providing a unique service that stands out visually and technically. 

On Whereby, users create rooms for different purposes. For example, you could create a room for team talks, a personal space for one-on-one chats, or a larger room to host a more challenging virtual event. 

The platform enables meetings of up to 50 participants, which is very low, but the platform’s advanced branding features make up for it. You get the option to brand your room with custom designs and logos and can even create a custom domain name. We can see the benefits of this for users keen to showcase their business at a more intimate virtual event. 

The desktop app is clean and easy to navigate, with just a few tabs to the left of the screen. Rooms are presented in list form on the home screen, and it’s very straightforward to find the one you’re looking for. 

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(Image credit: Orbits)

6. Orbits

Unique spaces for virtual events

Reasons to buy
+Breakout room function+Freedom to roam+Private rooms+Unlimited attendees

Orbits is a little different from most of the other virtual event platforms listed, as its purpose is to create unique spaces for virtual events with a focus on aesthetics and user experience.

Each venue can be as large or small as required with multiple rooms and stages, including niche areas such as zen gardens or vineyards for client entertainment.

What really sets it apart is that attendees have the freedom to roam. That means they can move from room-to-room, interact with other guests and network like they would do a normal event. They can engage via video chat or through text, clients can host live sessions or upload prerecorded content and even sponsors can make the most of their spaces with video content.

It's suitable for all events from exhibitions to conferences, festivals and smaller more intimate events, too. 

Kieron Allen

Kieron is a freelance science and technology journalist with more than a decade of experience writing for magazines in print and online. Today, his focus is on cybersecurity, blockchain, and emerging tech.