Meeting and event software provider Aventri on Tuesday announced enhanced and upgraded virtual features, including an expansion of maximum attendee capacity from 5,000 to 30,000 and a new networking feature, Aventri chief technology officer Shane Edmonds told BTN. Most functionality in what Aventri has dubbed Virtual Events 2.0 will be available April 15, and planners will continue to be able to produce virtual, hybrid and in-person events on a single platform.

The “new networking feature is interest-based matchmaking and allows not only individuals to connect based on interests but also groups of people,” Edmonds said. When attendees add their interests to their profile, which will be visible as bullet points, the system will provide AI-driven matchmaking and smart recommendations for networking, letting people “find” each other, he said. The profile match also allows an attendee to see why someone is requesting a connection, plus, “it gives you a conversation starter when you connect.”

Further, at any point during a text-based chat, users can launch a meeting or video chat between each other or with a group. “If someone is requesting a video chat and you want to accept, you get launched into a smaller version of our virtual meeting room,” Edmonds said. “All the attendees have the capabilities—mute, share content, share videos, share screens, whiteboard—to do all the collaborative things as if they are present in a session. It’s like launching a personal meeting space.”

With privacy an ongoing concern for many, the tool will require attendees to opt in to allow availability for networking purposes and for video requests, Edmonds said. 

Additional enhancements include a redesign of the company’s mobile app to further integrate and support hybrid features. “From a product perspective, we view all features as having a hybrid use case,” Edmonds said, noting that in a recent survey of more than 150 customers, close to 90 percent said that there will be some type of online, virtual experience for all of their future events. “We no longer look at virtual versus in-person.”

The company also added closed captioning to all video and virtual sessions, including the video chats. Virtual exhibitor and sponsor booths with product demos and sales materials previously were available as an add-on product; they now are integrated into the platform, Edmonds said. Aventri also made it easier to launch a virtual event that “requires very little configuration and still is fully customizable.”

Another new feature, the ability to schedule meetings ahead of time, won’t be available until mid-May at the earliest, Edmonds said.