Hosting Virtual Events with WordPress: Why & How

As the world continues to grapple with restrictions on in-person gatherings, event organizers have been forced to move their meetings, social gatherings, and classes online. The leading online meeting platforms from Google, Microsoft, and Zoom have responded with a surge of new features and price reductions to win these new customers, although they each have a different focus. However, there is also the option to use your own website, and WordPress event calendar plugins have begun to respond to this new landscape.

Moving events online presents a unique set of challenges. One of the biggest challenges is dealing with time zones. When scheduling an event at a physical venue, the time is always local. However, things get more complicated online. A Zoom meeting might be in New York, but attendees in London and Hong Kong need to know when to join. Even worse, the event organizer might be in New Zealand, scheduling events in Buenos Aires for attendees in Cape Town. Every online event calendar needs to deal with the Twilight Zone of time zones.

Another challenge is ensuring that attendees receive the link to join the event. All the online meeting platforms work by generating a link to be sent to attendees of the meeting. Invariably, not everyone gets it, the link needs to be changed last minute, or it is buried in email. Zoom’s security woes have taught organizers to be careful with links. They need to be delivered securely and reliably to only confirmed attendees.

Some events are purely online, while others are in-person. Some are hybrid events where people can attend a class in-person or connect online. Still, other events might be in-person but with a livestream online. An event calendar needs to seamlessly combine these scenarios so registration flows match the use case. For example, in-person attendees should not receive a join link, and online attendees should not receive scannable tickets.

To address these pain points, here are four event calendars that have targeted features:

1. Newly released and fully online-native, provides the best overall online experience among general calendars. While its distinctive feature is data-driven AI marketing for automated event promotion, it also packs several advanced online and hybrid event features. The calendar detects the visitor’s time zone and shifts online events to local time. These events are clearly marked in all views. In-person events are displayed in the time zone of the venue.

2. The Event Calendar: The most widely installed event plugin, The Event Calendar is backed by an impressive catalog of add-ons making it very flexible. The Event Calendar: Virtual Events is a newly released add-on to address online events. Virtual Events can connect to a Zoom account which allows it to create Zoom links from the event editor.

3. Modern Event Calendar: Modern Event Calendar is another leading freemium plugin. They have concentrated on making your online events easy to find by search engines. Google has released a new schema for online and events moved online that will direct visitors to an online link.

4. Bookly: Bookly is an event plugin tailored to the specific use case of individuals reserving appointments with service providers. All of the plugins that offer Zoom integration require connection to a Zoom app that is created from the Zoom Marketplace. Depending on the kind of integration the plugin requires, creation of the app will provide one or two keys that must be copied to the plugin’s settings.

If you are already invested in The Event Calendar ecosystem, the Virtual Events plugin is a worthy upgrade. Zoom integration automates creation of meeting URLs, and its flexible time zones make things much easier for remote attendees. If you primarily rely on search engines for event discovery, Modern Event Calendar has the best SEO integration to alert your attendees that events have moved online. Among the several plugins that target booking service appointments, Bookly is ahead of the pack with a seamless end-to-end workflow for online events in your local time zone. If you wish to give the best experience to online and hybrid event attendees, hosts, and registrars, is the way to go. Its built-in automated promotion tools are an added bonus.

In conclusion, as the world slowly opens back up to in-person gatherings, we may be in an extended period of online and hybrid events. Many organizations have won new online customers, expanding their reach beyond local communities. Losing these new customers as they transition back to in-person services is an option many want to avoid, which necessitates a long-term online strategy. The plugins in this review form a vital piece of that strategy.

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