Virtual Funerals Arrive – I’m not kidding

Dear Readers – it’s been 5 months since my last post (middle aged Catholics will recognize a ring to that opening). Anyway, it’s been so long since my last post that I had to reset my password. Media start ups are all consuming, but every once in a while something comes up that well….is dying for a post.

A local funeral home here in Westchester County, NY is advertising their new FUNERAL WEBASTING service, with the tag line “We found a way that no one has to be left out.”

The ad copy must have been written by a legit virtual event maven as it captures the essence of virtual events explaining “Yes, you can be there. With our webcasts you can share in the memories, pay respects and watch the service in real-time as it’s happening.” Note to Jay Leno – you can read this post if you like in your wacky newsclip segment.

Let there be no question that virtual events have become mainstream as webcasting now means “never having to say you’re sorry and can’t make the funeral” (another nugget for my middle aged readers).

Does anyone know if a virtual eulogy has been delivered yet? Come to think of it, if Marriott and Morton’s can have a chain of networked conference rooms for virtual meetings why can’t a group of funeral homes arrange a similar alliance. I wonder which industry channel Cisco manages funeral homes in?

Walmart Testing “Virtual Mirror”

“Mirror, mirror on the wall…..”

While not directly related to virtual events yet, the technology being used in Walmart’s Virtual Mirror test may be applicable to virtual events if it proves out.

According to Planet Retail, Walmart has implemented a cosmetics system called `the Walmart virtual mirror’ that uses a barcode reader and a digital camera for the virtual application of makeup. Technology is being provided by IBM, Sprint and EZface.

The customer looks into the camera and takes a picture creating a virtual image of her face which she can then add makeup to by scanning the barcodes of various makeup products. After the customer makes her selections, the image is saved and E-mailed to her.

Walmart’s trial is not limited to instore, web or mobile, theoretically allowing the trial to run across all three retail channels. When utilized during a visit to the website, the shopper clicks on a cosmetic item for the virtual application and will not need the barcode scanner that’s used for an instore test.

This technology has the potential to play a role in the inevitable convergence of virtual events and online retailing.

Virtual Events getting traction with traditional event organizers

During the last 30 days, I’ve witnessed the progress that traditional physical event organizers are making in integrating virtual events into their portfolios.

As Program Chair of the American Business Media (ABM) Event Summit last month, we heard first hand examples in specific terms from Northstar Travel Media, TechWeb, American Lawyer Media and New Bay Media illustrating how they are all creating incremental value for their companies with various virtual event models. It was interesting to see the wide array of models being deployed and how each company is making a point of ensuring that these virtual events compliment and extend their physical event businesses.

The ABM meeting was followed by this weeks’ Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) Annual Meeting where the merits of virtual events were debated and one organizer illustrated how they successfully launched a virtual event in 2009 that generated both sponsor and registration revenue.

In my view, things are moving along and the adoption of virtual events by physical event organizers is slowly gaining momentum.

With that said, the one event that’s really captured my interest is COMDEX. As noted in my earlier post, I’m betting UBM will be the first event organizer to use a virtual event to resurrect a defunct physical tradeshow by first creating a virtual event and then following up with a repositioned physical tradeshow. This one will be interesting to watch over the next 18 months.

Virtual High School Online Learning Programs

The trend in virtual education programs in the K-12 market continues.

Virtual High School Global Consortium (, the pioneer of K-12 online learning and course design for teachers, announced that, following a lengthy selection and pilot program process, they have deployed Desire2Learn ( online education software. The Virtual High School (VHS) online learning program experienced significant growth during the last two school years and sought a solution that would better serve as the platform for their growing numbers of students and teachers.

As more students use virtual tools to learn in the classroom, the greater the expectation will be for similar tools when they enter the workforce.

The full release is here

Comdex rises from the ashes….virtually

Yesterday’s announcement by UBM that they will leverage the comatose Comdex brand as a virtual event is a brilliant piece of strategy. The move provides further proof that UBM is on the cutting edge of understanding how to utilize virtual events to serve market segments that may no longer be viable for physical events.

Mark you 2012 calendar for the following prediction, yes you heard it here first. Tesoro Events predicts that UBM will utilize Comdex virtual as a vehicle to organize the core market originally served by the Comdex brand and by 2012 UBM will be producing both physical and virtual events under the Comdex brand.  

They will have successfully utilized virtual events as a tool for repositioning and relaunching Comdex. It gets event better, if it doesn’t work out, their downside exposure is a fraction of what it would have cost to relaunch the brand with a physical event from the start.

My only criticisms, they may want to use someone in the welcome video on their website ( that the target audience will relate to more closely and the twitter feed shouldn’t be up until it is feeding real comments.

Starwood Launches Telepresence Suites

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has gone live with its first two remote conferencing studios, with plans to bring two more studios online in the next few months, it announced yesterday.

Marriott opened their first two telepresence facilities in January. Will more hotels look at hosting virtual meetings as vehicle to offset a decline in business travel? In my view it’s a smart strategy as they can generate food and beverage revenue that they would otherwise see and it gives them a leg up when the inevitable need for a physical meeting emerges.

More details here

Virtual Events an $18B Market by 2015?

It was just a matter of time before someone fired up an atomic calcuator and prepared a forecast for the meteroric growth of the virtual event market. Enter …Market Research Media Ltd. and their recently published “Virtual Conference & Tradeshow Market Forecast 2010 – 2015”. I can’t say that I’m familiar with the company, but in any event, they are the only brave soul that has taken a shot at putting some dimension on this emerging market.

The report claims that the market doubled in size from 2008 to 2009 which is very believable. It then goes on to forecast a CAGR of 56% for the next 5 years through 2015. Now that’s growth! I wonder how they got at 56%? It sounds pretty official and precise doesn’t it? Not 55%, not 60%, but 56%.

Putting my Casio solar powered calculator in reverse, this means the Virtual Event market was roughly a $1B market in 2008 and a $2B market in 2009. I guess this begs the question of what is in the $2B? Is it fees paid to virtual event software platforms, is it sponsor / exhibit fees and paid registration fees paid to event organizers, is it the money invested by VC’s, or is it all of the above? If you decide to pay the $3,950 for the report will you let me know?

I know one group of people who will purchase and swear by the report, that’s the software platforms who will take this report to the bank and another round of VC money.

For more information on this interesting study visit

Affordable Online “Private School” for K-12

As education is the “killer app” for virtual events, a convergence of conferences, elearning and continuing education is taking place. Keeping pace of developments in all three sectors will give you an idea of what the future looks like for education in the events business.

While the University of Phoenix has proven the viability of “higher online learning” the “Connections Academy” has introduced an ambitious play to provide online education for the K-12 market on a national basis. The Connections Academy offers two formats in their model. State specific programs are positioned as “free public schools” while their National Connections Academy is positioned as an “Affordable Private School”. A visit to their site is worthwhile

NAB Virtual Event Kick Off Details Emerge

Following up my 12/13 post below, the new virtual event being launched by NAB as a kick off to their major annual tradeshow is called DigitalVision2010. The event is developed in partnership with B2B pubisher New Bay Media and is being developed on the On24 platform.

See the first promotion material for the event

State Department Promotes Virtual Worlds as Green Workplaces

The US State Department recently held a conference titled “Virtual Worlds as Green Workplaces”. The promotional video for the conference found at this link offers several insights into the growing list of successful use cases for virtual environments. The video goes so far as to ask the bold question “do we really need to keep building all these buildings to meet in physically when we can meet virtually?”.

The three minute video is worth watching.

While I remain skeptical of the mass market potential for virtual environments, their growing use in specific kinds of virtual event applications is clear.

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