As fear over COVID-19 escalates and in-person gatherings are discouraged, more than 200 large-scale conferences (part of a trillion-dollar global industry) have been canceled––including Mobile World Conference, Adobe Summit, Facebook F8, Google Cloud Next, SXSW, Microsoft’s MVP Summit, IBM Think, and a slew of others. Some organizations have decided to simply shut down or reschedule at a later date. But other companies are opting for a different route, offering their big events digitally, through live-streaming platforms.

The rise of large-scale video conferencing in response to the pandemic comes at a time when these platforms have been expected to become an increasingly popular alternative to in-person events. Gartner, for instance, estimated that by 2024, a mere quarter of enterprise meetings will be conducted live––as opposed to the 60% that took place this way in 2019.

SEE: IT pro’s roadmap to working remotely (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Conferences are increasingly going virtual due to COVID-19, according to Craig Roth, research vice president at Gartner. “It has become de rigueur for conferences to be canceled due to ‘an abundance of caution’ about COVID-19. Many of the announcements promise a conference will still proceed as a virtual conference just like the planned one,” he said, by streaming or taping them to be viewed later.

Roth stressed that companies should “go beyond typical” to make their conferences successful. “Just like simply digitizing existing processes leads to minimal benefits, just virtualizing the current conference format doesn’t exploit the possibilities opened up by eliminating the physical walls and seats of the conference center,” he said. He recommends that businesses think about a “virtual un-conference,” where participants get a say in the content, or using VR, to keep things fresh.

Here are six platforms your company can use to bring a large-scale event online.

  1. BlueJeans

This cloud-based video conferencing platform has been a favorite pick for large events, especially because of its high-quality streaming. Its “My Company” tier can be used for up to 150 participants.

When Penn decided to cancel lectures, an email to faculty suggested BlueJeans and Zoom as an alternative for seminars, for instance.

2. Zoom

Zoom Meetings is an HD audio and video conferencing platform for mobile and desktop. Zoom’s Enterprise version allows for meetings of up to 1,000 participants and 49 screens on view at once. Meetings on the platform can be recorded and saved to the cloud for later access. Participants can share screens, collaborate on notes, and share and search information as well. In terms of security, Zoom offers 256-bit TLS encryption for both meetings and shared files.

3. Cisco WebEx

With the outbreak of COVID-19, longstanding conferencing service Cisco WebEx is offering an unlimited usage special with no time restrictions, support for up to 100 participants, and toll-call dial-in, along with existing VoIP capabilities. The offer is for a free 90-day license to businesses that are not already WebEx customers.

4. MegaMeeting

Launched in 2004, MegaMeeting is a 100% web-based platform that allows for multi-party video conferencing for Windows, Mac, and Linux––as long as Adobe Flash is installed. It’s a key player in the online streaming landscape, popular for webinars. Because it has no limits for participants, it’s a great option for large-scale events.

5. Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is a popular tool for staff meetings and most digital workers are familiar with its features. Additionally, Google has responded to COVD-19 by offering all its G Suite and G Suite for Education customers free access to its advanced Hangouts Meet video conferencing. This service can bring 250 participants on a call, live-stream for up to 100,000 viewers within a domain, and use Google Drive to record and archive meetings.

6. Facebook Live

Companies can use Facebook Live to stream demos and videos to large groups. Its interactive features allow followers using Facebook to comment and participate in the chat. Videos can also be scheduled ahead of time, and you can strategize to stream to specific, custom audiences.

Image: Chainarong Prasertthai, Getty Images/iStockphoto

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