Hopin | Product Obsession

I used to hate virtual events. Until I used Hopin.

What is Hopin?

Hopin’s Home Page

Hopin classifies itself as an online event technology platform for online or hybrid event management. However, I believe it offers users and attendees so much more than that.

Hopin creates an exclusive online community, for a short time only.

They try their best to emulate the experience of an in-person event, and as such optimize their platform for networking and engagement.

To use Hopin, you must be invited to an event, such as a hackathon, career fair, seminar, conference, or more. Alternatively, you could browse through public events on Hopin’s site and sign up to attend. Most events are usually free, though there are a plethora of paid events as well.

Once registered, Hopin creates a unique account for you and a portal to the Hopin page for that specific event. This is where Hopin begins to shine and shows its strengths as the online alternative for events. Once you sign in, you’ll be taken to the “Main Stage” where key speakers for the event might be performing. Want to see what else is going on? You can browse other rooms in the “Stages” tab and explore other active performances or discussions.

Perhaps my favorite feature of Hopin is its networking capabilities. Before even entering the event, you can get an overview of other attendees, their socials (ex: LinkedIn), and see who the speakers are for various stages during the overall event timeline. I’ve used the latter to even reach out and share my excitement on social channels before attending a speaker’s event.

More importantly, when it comes to networking, you can set up a profile, give yourself a short bio perhaps explaining what you’re hoping to get out of the event, and then browse through other attendees. If you see someone you find interesting, you can shoot them a message and set up a video call to meet up, with just a few clicks right within the Hopin eco-system. Hopin also has a spontaneous networking option on their “Networking” tab where it will set you up with a short “coffee chat” with random attendees, speakers or organizers, to get to know people better and network.

All of these core features are completely modular and customizable by event organizers, who can configure details for their Hopin event, from setting up attendee profiles, sponsor profiles, and booths, networking controls, and more.

Hopin Sponsor Management & User Flow

Why I love Hopin So Much

Before the pandemic hit, I used to be a huge advocate and attendee of professional development events. I’d been to 12 hackathons, tech fairs, and conferences like Out in Tech, and other in-person events. I treated these as a way to connect with like-minded individuals and expand my social network. Not to mention, connect with sponsors and tech companies in the industry who were working on interesting or new technology.

However, once the pandemic hit, numerous events were canceled, and shortly afterward they began to move online. I attended some Zoom or Teams-based events and was immediately fatigued.

The Post-COVID World

Online events are bound to become the norm. As an executive organizer, and a part of the Canadian hackathon organizers group, I’ve felt that firsthand. However, it also just makes sense. Remote work is slowly becoming a given; it’s just way more convenient for individuals. Such is the case with online learning alternatives. When we can cut event costs and travel expenses, this is the case for events too. Sure, I would much rather attend an Ariana Grande concert in person, but if I can attend a conference from home instead of traveling down to Florida, you can bet that I will.

Events held over Zoom or other video calling platforms suffer because they’re not specialized for the event format. You can’t dissociate the space from any other call for school or work, and there is no networking mechanism built-in. And this makes sense! These platforms are generic video calling tools for anyone. This is where Hopin exceeds. My first few events were so disheartening and fatiguing, given my only interaction with other attendees through a constantly growing chatbox, that I was ready to throw in the towel on online events until I attended a Hopin event.

Engagement When Desired

One of the key things I hated most about events held on other platforms or video calling tools, was the forced engagement and universal application of the experience of the event. When we attend an event in person, all of us have separate experiences given our interests. With the platforms I mentioned above, it takes away the novelty of event attending because we’re all thrown into the same video call and given the same experience. It feels like I might as well have just watched a video!

Hopin instead emulates a “choose your own adventure” style to their online options that try to give this event-based feeling. It doesn’t exactly match in-person abilities, but it comes pretty damn close. If I don’t want to watch what’s happening on the main stage, I can easily just navigate to another stage or call and still engage with the event. If I want to engage with someone, at a time that works for me, I can set up so through the networking options, instead of scrambling with nerves on a universal call because of features like “break out rooms”.

We used Hopin for my event- Hack the Valley

Why Hopin Matters

Hopin plays such a significant role as a product in our current climate. While I believe I may have touched on why above, I’d like to go more in-depth and provide a structured argument below using the “Commandments of Good Product”. I normally apply these when investigating my product work for PM roles or entrepreneurial efforts.

For ease of reading, I will focus on the following “Commandments” that I deem most important for the problem space of event experiences, but the others are an excellent topic of outside discussion:

Focused Value

Great products don’t try to do everything. Rather they try to do a few (or one) thing, very well.

As mentioned above, the core issue with using video platforms or group calls to hold conferences or events has been the limited specialization for the emulation of the event or conference experience. This has been where Hopin has succeeded, both in its value proposition to users as well as its marketing.

More importantly, though, Hopin specifically targets event organizers for conferences, student events, or other discussion-based panels. In my experiences with the platform, I have seldom seen a concert or “online party”. Hopin has clearly understood its userbase and demands, particularly in the space of networking event tools, and used this to its advantage to grow. They offer a specific benefit to a specific type of event attendee/organizer and have become a vital asset for this user group. By focussing its value proposition, Hopin has proven its importance to this audience.

To provide more insight and background, although Hopin focuses on this group alone, their specialization (since inception) has proven successful. Registered users have grown from 5k to over 10m in just the past 2 years, with 80k organizations hosting events on the ecosystem. The significant part here is that the majority of these organizations are NPO’s, companies, or groups like Unilever, ClickUp, or the World Climate Foundation.

The vast majority of Hopin events are conferences and summits

Efficiency

Great products work quickly, quietly and are simple to use.

The fundamental purpose of a product is to provide a benefit to the end-user that makes their life easier or enhanced in some way, shape, or form. An excellent product can do this in a manner that is both fast and appealing to the user while keeping anything they don’t need to worry about in a “black box”. Speed and design are especially important when we talk about tools on the internet, where we expect blazing fast interaction and clean user interfaces.

I strongly believe that Hopin’s quality is one of the main reasons it has now become one of the largest players in the online events market, despite a few alternative options existing.

Hopin’s event setup is very modular and has multiple options for organizers, but for attendees, the experience is usually streamlined into the following options: Reception, Stage, Sessions, Networking, and Expo. In the tech space, design and user interface can make or break a company at times. Following this structured layout has never been an issue for me as a user, from my first time with it until now. The company has even gone public about its design principles.

In terms of conference quality, the platform supports resolution up to 1080p and bitrate can be up to 8.5 Mbps (8500Kbps). Hopin recently acquired another startup to improve video quality and stability on the system, as the company emphasizes a high level of quality that users can expect from it.

User Expression

Great products allow users to express themselves, and simply use the tool/service to project. This is especially true and vital for social media or networking-based services.

A good platform acts simply as a vessel or a canvas for its users to paint on, and Hopin has done this for conference attendees and users. The tool matters to this audience, who have come to expect it to work as their vessel for conferences, fairs, or networking events.

Moreover, with any app or website that realms into social networking, I believe it’s important not only to enable users to connect and express themselves but to create an environment where they feel comfortable to do so. Connecting through events on Hopin has certainly made this easier, both with stage events, but also more privy messages and direct networking conversations with an individual in a one-to-one discussion within the ecosystem. This ability to stay within Hopin creates this mental space of staying within “the event” and adds a layer of safety and comfort when doing what we’re really doing at a high level: talking to total strangers on the internet.

In summary, Hopin (quite literally) sets the stage and then lets organizers and attendees express themselves through facilitated discussions or events.

Net Positive Value

A great product should aim to help its users and the environment they live in.

I believe this is the fundamental test of the usefulness and importance of a product, as well as why it should exist in the first place. What impact is this product making? Does it benefit the world of its user or harm it instead?

With the discussion and resources we’ve mentioned before, I believe it’s safe to see that Hopin has a net positive impact in the conference and event space and offers users a unique experience with no real downsides when compared to event hosting on traditional video calling apps. There are no ethical issues at hand either, with the way in which Hopin presents itself or makes money, which is often an issue or concern with social networking-related software.

On the same note, I thought it might be beneficial to also mention the experience, as someone who’s used Hopin both as an organizer and as an attendee. As an attendee, you pay virtually nothing. If there is a fee, it is collected by the event organizer, but attendees can potentially use Hopin completely free. And when I say completely free, this is exactly true. There are no ads on Hopin. It does not mine your data. There is no bloatware or other such things. It purely provides a way for you to connect at an event. This is why I’ve loved Hopin so much, because of its great value proposition for attendees with no real “but” at the end of the line. Similarly, their pricing and revenue strategy are very transparent for organizers, with tiered subscriptions from 0$-799$ a month, based on the type of event hosting. I do think the pricing structure could be changed, but the value proposition is huge and the pricing is very competitive given the market space.

In general, as we move away from the pandemic and move more and more to online alternatives, Hopin has become a real solution to an important problem, especially as we grow as a community and “global village”.

Recommendations for Hopin

While Hopin has been a huge improvement to the online event attending culture and has proven itself to last in the marketplace as a reliable option, there are certainly further improvements to be made and some issues with the current ecosystem.

I’ve identified potential improvements mostly through 3 different avenues: my frustrations as a frequent user and customer, user feedback and general online sentiment as well as market competition and analysis.

Below are the three suggestions I prioritized most in-depth:

  1. Personalized Networking

What?

As users join the Hopin event space, they are first given a (customizable) questionnaire to fill out related to their personality, personal preferences, or experience in the topic of the conference/event. Throughout the event, they are then given recommended individuals to connect or network with, that match those criteria with a compatibility score (0–100%).

Why?

At the present moment, Hopin matches random participants during networking, or users are required to filter and search themselves for individuals that they would like to network with. Having a more personalized approach to attendee-matching could make networking seem more valuable and personable as well as save valuable networking time to kick off a conversation.

Furthermore, this could be a valuable asset in helping people of color, female-identifying participants, or other underrepresented groups. These groups are less inclined to openly participate or engage during networking with a conversation with someone who might not understand their personal circumstances or inequalities. This could help foster a stronger sense of belonging and community while furthering engagement for these users on Hopin as a whole.

How?

A pop-up window or panel after login which prompts the user for a few short multiple-choice questions. Afterward, at the top of the Networking page, a carousel of recommended participants is shown. When clicking one’s profile, the user can see their specific mutual interests, experiences, or preferences.

Example UX for Carousel:

Concerns?

What kind of questions should be on this questionnaire? We don’t want to ask so many or make it complicated to the point where it becomes a task or negative experience for attendees. Organizers should still be able to customize these questions while having some preset.

Are there sensitivity issues to the questions? Especially if we will be showing these responses to other recommended attendees on a user profile, we need to be careful if this is information someone would even want to share.

2. Social Card

What?

When attendees register for a Hopin event, they fill out their social information (Instagram, LinkedIn, etc), give a short biography for themselves, and provide any other links or self titles. From there, Hopin generates a networking “Social Card”, similar to a virtual business card, that is sent to attendees who they have networked with and is attached to their profile. Other attendees can then use this quick and easy view to reach out to the individual post-event or add them on their social channels.

Why?

At the moment, Hopin has limited options to share external credentials like LinkedIn, etc. The majority of Hopin attendees have been identified to be Gen-Z or Millenial users. While LinkedIn is a strong option, it would be helpful to give more diverse options that cater to these demographics. For reference, Instagram, TikTok, or Snapchat are the most popular platforms for these groups, with over 1 billion users, and have taken on a more professional image in recent years. From personal experience, I have seen numerous fellow attendees reach out to share Instagram links and ask to “follow for follow”.

Furthermore, customizing the experience of networking by enabling users to customize their own “business card” with custom links, socials, quotes/bio, and more would help make the networking experience more interactive and special. This is especially true, considering Hopin has a large emphasis on this piece of the experience and uses it to set it apart from competitors. In fact, other competitors like AirMeet also boast the existing networking links, but a “social card” could help further differentiate Hopin.

How?

On their profile, users click a button to generate their Social Card. They can fill in links for any known social platforms, other links, add a tagline/bio, or perhaps even change the color or style. Afterward, when visiting a profile, users can click to view this Social Card or download it as an image/pdf.

Example UX for Social Card Configuration:

Concerns?

What other options currently exist? Someone can create a LinkTree or business card elsewhere and just send that to someone, but is the benefit of creating a Social Card and having it on your profile worthwhile still?

To what extent should a Social Card be customizable, and is there a user interest issue when we consider that Hopin events have a short lifespan and the event space might be deleted later? Can we make Social Cards reusable across Hopin events?

3. Stage Interactions

What?

Updated user inputs and commands for reaction or interaction to Stage events. Replacing the current emoji reaction options (Heart, Clap, Thumbs Up, etc), with a full emoji board where users can select from their most used/favorite emoji reactions quickly, or browse for more complex emoticons. The updated panel also has the option for textual reactions for small phrases (character cutoff, 16 chars, for example), where users can send phrases like “Woohoo!”, “LMAO”, “I’m DED”, “That’s so sad!”.

Why?

The current mechanism for interaction during a live event on Stages works, but is very limited and disengaging. Hopin’s main focus as a company, as mentioned early on, has been to create an atmosphere that makes engagement, networking, and interaction more engaging. The current engagement for Stage events is similar if not the same to other video calls, and because of this, it creates a layer between the Stage events and the attendees.

In fact, as mentioned, Hopin makes a point about separating themselves from more general video-conferencing competitors like Teams or Zoom, by focusing on a specific conference/event-based user. However, the current interaction system for Stages is almost the same as Teams, and then by definition, it is generic. Emphasizing richer Stage interactions will help Hopin further dissociate itself from these more general platforms and create a specialized experience for its userbase.

How?

A small button during a Stage event pulls out a tiny option window. Users can see their favorite/most-used reactions front and center, or scroll through a carousel of emoji options. Within the same window is a small entry field for a short textual reaction and a “send” button.

Example UX for Interaction Window:

Concerns?

With textual reactions, the goal is to emulate the experience of cheering or speaking towards the stage during an event. However, at the moment you can still textually react in the chat, without any character limit. Is the perceived benefit of short textual reactions on the stage instead of on the side in the chatbox real, or is this a non-issue that most users don’t care for?

With an emoji board, would we need to manually create in-platform emojis or worry for cross-platform emoji support (ie, emojis are different across Windows, Apple, Android, etc)? What work would be involved for removing emoji options that might be suggestive, explicit, or even come off rude or unprofessional?

Additionally, there were some other potential areas of improvement that I thought of. I deemed these to be not as high in seriosity, unfeasible, or that they wouldn’t result in as much desirable positive impact as the ones above.

Post-Event Discussion Board

After the event has ended, a discussion board should be generated where users can post their final remarks, thoughts, farewells, and more. This has been a popular aspect of events on Discord or Slack and Hopin might benefit from this feature, but at the same time, users usually move elsewhere for this anyways or perform it over email or the event organizer’s site, etc.

Chatbox Filters & Search

During Stage events, users can filter the chat log to search for specific messages that may have been sent earlier or messages by a specific user or type of user. A tab for sent links and files would also help. These should be smaller fixes and improvements, compared to other mentioned features.

Event Highlights

After the event is completed, a highlight reel is generated of the most important or most interesting moments from all the events, all combined into one video that users watch after to reflect on their learning and experience. It might be difficult to gauge what makes it into the Highlights and what doesn’t, and numerous user engagement metrics would need to be leveraged. All events would need to be recorded as well.

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Moe Ali

Moe Ali

💡 Dreamer, Planner, Builder

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