Searching for a way to host virtual events or conferences for your WordPress website?
In large part as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual events have never been more popular (or necessary). But if you want to host an engaging virtual event, you’ll want to do more than just embed a video live stream on your WordPress site.
WP Event Manager is a native WordPress plugin that lets you create detailed, engaging virtual events complete with reception areas, multiple sessions, lounge tables, backstage discussion, exhibitor halls, and more.
Essentially, it lets you create the full conference experience right from your WordPress site.
In our WP Event Manager review, we’re going to specifically focus on these virtual event features.
However, it’s worth pointing out that WP Event Manager is a full-service event plugin, so you can also use it for physical events, webinars, and more. We’re only looking at WP Event Manager’s new virtual event platform functionality, though, because it’s already quite detailed by itself.
WP Event Manager Review: A Look at the Features
At a high level, WP Event Manager’s virtual event features let you create your own white-labeled online event and conferencing platform.
The key detail to understand is that this functionality lets you do a lot more than just embed a video webinar.
You can actually create immersive events that mimic in-person conferences, including the following features:
- Multiple speakers/sessions, each with their own areas and breakout rooms.
- A virtual reception area where attendees can browse and join upcoming sessions.
- A virtual lounge where attendees can hang out and meet people. You can create as many “tables” as needed, including special tables based on topics or certain sponsors.
- Backstage areas where organizers and speakers can meet before the session.
- Expandable “tables” for private group discussions.
- One-on-one speed matchmaking to boost networking.
- Interactive and customizable virtual exhibitor “booths” where brands can promote themselves to attendees. Attendees can also easily join the brand’s table to chat.
- Sponsor pages, including the options to let organizations sponsor specific areas, such as a branded social lounge.
- Options to interact via video and/or live chat.
There’s also a mobile app so that you can roll in attendees on the go, which helps you promote your events from anywhere.
In terms of access, you can allow free registration or you can sell tickets and collect money via hundreds of different payment gateways (powered by WooCommerce).
You also get lots of useful smaller features to improve the video engagement including the following:
- Live Q&A sessions with speakers.
- Polls and surveys.
- Screen sharing during sessions.
- File sharing.
- The option to “raise hands” or add emoji reactions.
Other notable features include the following:
- Integrations with popular tools including Zapier, CRMs (HubSpot, Salesforce, and more), and email marketing services (Mailchimp, Active Campaign, and more).
- Detailed analytics. You can track high-level details like registrations and participants, along with more nitty-gritty details such as the number of people that visited a specific booth.
Basically, you’re getting functionality that you’d typically only get in a SaaS tool. But the advantages of going with WordPress and WP Event Manager are that:
- You can 100% white-label your platform to make it your own.
- There are no arbitrary limits on organizers, speakers, or attendees.
- You’ll save a lot of money vs popular SaaS virtual event tools (more on pricing later).
- You can use other WordPress plugins to extend your site as needed.
What a Virtual Event Looks Like on the Frontend
Let’s start things off with a look at the frontend event experience for your attendees, as that’s probably one of your biggest considerations when choosing a virtual event plugin.
First off, I think the best way to experience this for yourself is via the interactive demos:
Both demos let you log in as an organizer, host, speaker, or attendee.
There are a lot of different frontend features, so I can’t show you everything. I will try to hit the high points, but I really recommend going with the live demo for the full experience as it’s much more illustrative than just looking at screenshots.
Event Listing Page
To start, visitors can view the event listing page. Here, they can either join the free event or they can purchase a ticket, depending on how you’ve set things up:
When people first join an event, they’ll be in the reception room. This page lists upcoming sessions and lets you showcase some exhibitor booths and sponsors:
If people join a session, they’ll see the dedicated live stream for that session. They’ll also get other features to chat, ask questions via a Q&A or raising their hand, respond to polls, and more:
Attendees can also view a list of all upcoming sessions, along with speakers. They can easily join any sessions that they’re interested in. Speakers can also view and join sessions as needed:
The lounge gives attendees a chance to connect with one another. They can either join an existing table or they can participate in speed networking to get matched with people one-on-one.
If they join a table, it will open a video chat right on the page:
The exhibitor hall lets you list your sponsors/exhibitors. If visitors click on a sponsor, they can join tables to chat directly with the sponsor.
Here’s what an individual exhibitor page looks like:
Feed, Attendees, Messages, and Alerts
Another neat feature is that attendees can access four real-time notification tabs from any page in the event. They can see an activity feed, a list of other attendees, messages, and alerts.
All of these info boxes pop up without interfering with the page, so attendees can access them without leaving a session or lounge chat:
How to Set Up Virtual Events on the Backend
Now that you know what the finished product looks like, let’s switch to the backend and I’ll show you what it’s like to create virtual events and otherwise work with the WP Event Manager plugin.
Setting Up the Virtual Expo Functionality
While you’ll be able to manage everything about your virtual events from your WordPress dashboard, there are some one-time setup tasks that you need to complete before you can start hosting events.
See, your WordPress site’s server is probably not equipped to be able to handle event live streaming, real-time messaging, and event recordings. WP Event Manager knows this, which is why it relies on some external services for that functionality.
More specifically, you’ll need to set up your WordPress site with three services:
- Agora – the plugin uses Agora’s live streaming API to handle live audio and video streaming, along with real-time engagement actions.
- Firebase – the plugin uses Firebase for real-time messaging, polling, and Q&As. Basically, Firebase makes it really easy for your attendees to engage and create real-time conversations.
- Amazon S3 – the plugin uses S3 for interactive recording. S3 unlocks key functionality including the ability to automatically export recordings, create screen recordings, and more.
Again, these are one-time setup processes. Once you finish, you’ll be able to work entirely from WordPress.
The developer has detailed, step-by-step documentation that shows you how to set up all three services.
WP Event Manager lets you add events from either the backend or the frontend, according to your preferences.
Here’s what it looks like to add an event:
If you want to require tickets, you can create unlimited tickets using three different types:
- Paid tickets
- Free tickets
- Donation tickets
To add speakers, you’ll also work in the backend. Adding speakers is simple – it’s just like adding a blog post.
You can also organize your speakers into categories if needed:
Adding Event Sessions
To manage specific details for your event such as sessions and lounge tables, you’ll work from the frontend.
When you add a session, you’ll be able to choose one of the speakers that you set up in the dashboard:
Adding Lounge Tables
When you add tables to your lounge, you can customize the name and add a logo. You can also specify a maximum number of seats. The minimum number of seats is two and the maximum is eight.
I think being able to customize the name and logo is very useful as it lets you create tables built around certain topics/concepts. Or, you could create sponsored tables, which opens up some monetization possibilities for your event:
To add exhibitors, you can work from the frontend or the backend. Here’s what it looks like to add one from the frontend:
WP Event Manager Pricing
The core WP Event Manager plugin is available for free at WordPress.org. Then, the developer sells a number of premium add-ons that extend the core plugin with new features.
You can either purchase individual add-ons or you can buy bundles that contain some/all of the add-ons for one price.
If you want to achieve the full virtual event functionality that we detailed above, you’ll probably want the Virtual Bundle Package, which costs $399 and includes all of the add-ons that you need to run virtual events.
The four main add-ons are as follows, but the bundle includes lots of other add-ons beyond that:
For a WordPress plugin, $399 does sound a bit expensive, but I actually think the price is quite cheap when you consider the types of SaaS tools that WP Event Manager is aiming to replace.
For example, I looked at one of the popular SaaS tools (Airmeet) and it costs $349 per month for events with up to 500 attendees. Another tool (Hopin) would cost $799+ per month for similar functionality to WP Event Manager.
Many other tools don’t even post public prices and just require you to reach out to sales, which usually means big bucks.
Basically, I think that if you need this full virtual event functionality, $399 is actually pretty cheap. Plus, we have an exclusive coupon that you can use to save some money:
Final Thoughts on WP Event Manager’s Virtual Events Platform
Overall, WP Event Manager definitely has the most more feature-rich, advanced virtual event platforms that I’ve seen in a WordPress plugin.
With a lot of plugins, hosting a virtual event just means embedding a live stream or Zoom meeting, but WP Event Manager actually lets you create a complete platform with multiple sessions, lounges, exhibitor halls/tables, backstage discussion, and more. WP Event Manager can also handle Zoom meetings if that’s more your speed.
Typically, this is functionality that you’d need to use a SaaS tool to access. But with WP Event Manager, you can do it all from your WordPress site (along with the help of some third-party services for the heavy-duty technical lifting).
At $399 for the virtual events bundle, WP Event Manager is on the pricier end of the WordPress space, but is quite affordable when compared to SaaS tools where you’d pay that amount or more per month. So if you need this functionality, the value is definitely there.
Then, if you’re ready to get started, you can click the buttons below:
Do you have any questions about WP Event Manager’s virtual events features or our WP Event Manager review? Let us know in the comments.