Zoom just announced that it will be launching a new event platform, Zoom Events, over the summer in an already saturated event tech market. Will it be worth the wait? Here's our take.
Zoom quickly became the go-to video conferencing platform during Covid-imposed quarantines and work from home orders last year, but event professionals just as quickly realized its limitations and moved to more robust virtual event providers.
That hasn't stopped Zoom from trying to capitalize on the virtual events market, albeit a bit late. Last October, the company released OnZoom, a virtual event marketplace that was designed to help mainly small businesses and entrepreneurs pivot events like fitness classes and art lessons online and monetize them — à la Eventbrite.
Now, it's leveling up its offering to provide solutions for all of its customers, including enterprises. However, somewhat unsurprisingly, the new platform leaves a lot to be desired for those of us who have been steeping in business-dedicated virtual event platforms for the last year. With Zoom being a household name (and not always for good reasons -- think "Zoom fatigue"), are they resting on the laurels of their ubiquity to try to go beyond dominating the video conferencing market with a mediocre product?
Zoom Events — Is It Really Something For Everyone?
With Zoom Events, Zoom is hoping to further support all types of events, including larger, multi-day or multi-track conferences. According to Zoom, it "combines the reliability and scalability of Zoom Meetings, Chat, and Video Webinars in one comprehensive solution for event organizers, with the ability to produce ticketed, live events for internal or external audiences of any size."
The main benefits of Zoom Events seem to be that it will offer event organizers a hub where they can view and manage all of their events — a virtual event platform staple by now — and that it will add a chat function for attendees to be able to network in virtual event lobbies. While this is new for Zoom, it's the bare minimum that other virtual event platforms basically offer by default.
In addition, it will include registration and ticketing capabilities as well as event analytics, which, again, are available on most other platforms. OnZoom, the existing event platform, will be rebranded and incorporated into Zoom Events at launch, and will continue to serve as a directory of events.
All in all, it seems that Zoom is offering a watered-down version of what numerous other platforms have been doing for months. That said, given their market share, it will likely still help them drive additional revenue. And since it can be used with an existing paid Zoom Meetings or Video Webinar license, it will be most appealing to those already using Zoom for their events or internal communications.
5-Feature Breakdown by EventMB Editor in Chief Miguel Neves
1. The "hub."
Zoom Events provides businesses with the ability to create a “hub” where all of their events will be listed with corresponding information about each experience. This will make the discovery of virtual events simpler and the link between events easier to spot and exploit. It also means that organizations can now have a public home on Zoom that can be permanently linked from their homepage. A useful and welcome addition, but certainly not game-changing.
2. Multi-session events.
One very welcome addition is the ability to create multi-session events such as conferences where attendees can network with one another in a virtual lobby. This will enable the audience to navigate between different Zoom Meetings or Zoom Webinars without leaving a central hub, bringing Zoom Events closer to the fully-fledged virtual event platforms that have given a lot of thought to the user experience and journey -- in particular the discovery of sessions and the ability to network with other audience members. Will this allow users to start up instant Zoom meetings or group meetings with each other? I would expect so, but this may deter from the desired focus of the event organizers.
3. Ticketing and registration.
Lots to unpack here. The ticketing options available on Zoom, including on OnZoom, are very basic, so any opportunities to create different price points, discounts, and payment options are welcome. The tracking options could be really powerful, particularly if they link to CRM and marketing tools. Remarketing to people who view events (or sessions) but do not purchase would also be a powerful option.
4. Internal events.
Larger businesses can manage and host internal events like all-hands and sales summits, or external events like user conferences and consumer events. Zoom's biggest focus has always been large enterprises, so this feels natural but not revolutionary. This feature is presumably similar to the "hub," but with more options so as to facilitate the simple creation of seamless internal meetings and add external events in the same way.
5. Internal event grouping.
With Zoom Events, companies can group internal events together and make them easily discoverable for employees. It's not clear how this is different in practice from the hub applied to internal events other than to allow for more granular control for enterprise clients.
Zoom has enjoyed massive growth and popularity throughout the pandemic, and it is doing what it can to retain its user base once in-person gatherings resume. It remains confident, along with most of the events industry, that virtual and hybrid experiences will have a place in event programs moving forward.
Zoom Events, which builds on the previous OnZoom offering, is the company's latest attempt to capture more of the higher-end B2B events market. However, from what has been announced so far, it doesn't offer any features that can't be found elsewhere and likely won't be a real replacement for other virtual event platforms.