Archive for June, 2009

PDN Photographers’ Virtual Trade Show features eCommerce application

On May 21, Nielsen Business Media’s PDN (Photo District News) magazine launched a virtual trade show called the “PDN Photographers’ Virtual Trade Show”. PDN serves the professional photography market and is affiliated with Nielsen’s PhotoPlus Expo held at Javits Center in NYC each November.

The PDN Virtual Trade Show featured several innovations according to Eric Biener, Nielsen’s Vice President of Business Development. The event consisted of two separate days of educational programming leading into Father’s Day which is a major selling season for photographic equipment. PDN also established a relationship with B&H Photo, a major retailer of photographic equipment who was positioned as a sponsor and the event’s ecommerce partner. Each booth on the virtual tradeshow floor featured a “Buy it now” button that linked attendees to the B&H Photo ecommerce site where purchases of equipment viewed at a virtual booth could be made. The virtual event site will be live for 6 months.

Event Positioning: The PDN Photographers’ Virtual Trade Show is a FREE online trade show for professional and advanced amateur photographers. While on the site you will have the opportunity to visit virtual booths, receive personal attention, discover and buy the latest equipment and participate in webcast panel discussions and presentations online—all from the comfort of your home or office.

Conference Programming: On May 21 four conference sessions were held including  – The Rise of the Combo Camera, The Perfect Print, Creative Lighting, and Cutting Edge Portrait Photography. In June, a second series of conference sessions were held featuring information on specific products offered by exhibitors and sponsors.

The event featured thirty exhibitors and sponsors who each paid between five to ten thousand dollars (based on their sponsorship level) to participate in the event.

Registration for the virtual event was robust with over 13,000 attendees registering for the event.

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What’s the right length for virtual event conference sessions?

At the recent Virtual Edge conference and in a discussion on Linkedin’s Virtual Event Forum, the subject of virtual event conference session length has come up. Or, as Stu Schmidt from Unisfair asks “how long is too long?”

In my view, virtual event conference sessions are still imitating face to face event content models and they need to evolve. People just won’t stay seated for more than an hour in front of a computer and no one has figured out how to create a virtual event coffee break.

Here are some thoughts on where I think things are headed:
1) The construct of virtual events and the design of individual sessions will evolve to suit the medium. An hour is too darn long for a single topic in a virtual event. We’ll see more TED Conference type 18 minute sessions.
2) Events per se will become shorter and more focused. To use an itunes anology, event organizers are still “producing albums” when what the world really wants is hit singles. Full day events are an artifact of the need to justify a physical trip to a meeting. As that disappears with virtual events, event experiences will become shorter and much more targeted and focused.
3) The stickyness of social media is driven by our insatiable desire to see what others are saying, especially in response to us or about us. In order to take advantage of this engagement motivator virtual event sessions will need to become conversations and collaborative discussions rather than lectures. Think about it, the fundamental construct of a conference session as lecture is thousands of years old.
4) Cumulative insights and interaction of an audience during a conference session will add value in this interactive and collaborative conference session environment via the Tweet stream and Twitter becomes an essential component of “sessions”.

What do you think?

Succeed in your first virtual event

A mystique surrounds virtual events because of their foundation in technology and the very images conjured up by the word “virtual”.

In reality, many of the principles that apply to successfully launching physical events apply to launching virtual events. As Kenny Lauer of event management firm George P. Johnson recently put it, “an event, is an event, is an event”. With that said, there are nuances associated with virtual events that must be considered.

One of the first mistakes that many make with their first virtual event is to select a technology platform as the first step. This is like selecting a venue for a physical event before you know what kind of an event you’ll be doing. As you wouldn’t select a venue for a physical event until your requirements were defined, neither should you decide on a virtual event technology platform until clearly defining your requirements for the event.

The process of defining your requirements for your first virtual event should be anchored to assessing audience needs and developing a plan to leverage the unique capabilities of virtual events to effectively meet those needs.

Once you have an idea for your event based on an assessment of audience needs in your market, it’s essential to validate the idea. The process of validating your virtual event with prospective attendees and sponsors before committing resources to a launch is a critical risk management technique and the secret sauce in launching both physical and virtual events.

In launching events over the past 15 years, I have developed the following process for validating potential event ideas. This process should be used before going forward with your first virtual event launch:

1. Specifically define your target audience and sponsor categories.

2. Identify current needs of both targeted attendees and sponsors. The success of your virtual event launch will be determined by your ability to meet a current market need more effectively than existing physical events.

3. Create a detailed description of the new event concept. The first two steps produce a clear definition of the event including a focused look at who the event is serving, what market needs the event is meeting and a sense of how your event will meet these needs in a superior manner to existing alternatives.

4. Secure  support of indsutry “influentials.” Most markets are highly influenced by key associations, companies and individuals, this step provides a methodology for securing their support for your launch.

5. Prepare an event budget. In your first virtual event, expectations should be conservative. Modest revenue forecasts and thoughtful consideration of all expenses are important. One of the nuances in virtual events are unique costs like webinar production. Make sure they are contemplated and accounted for. Be sure to contemplate roles and responsibilities for launching your virtual event and build whatever temporary or contractor resources will be necessary into your budget.

6. Decide whether to pursue, modify or abandon the virtual event launch. With qualitative market feedback and a framework for the business opportunity, it’s decision time.

Whether your event is physical or virtual, there is no replacement for using solid risk management practices in event launches.

Note: This post was an excerpt from my June 2009 column in Folio Magazine.

inXpo’s CeCe Salomon-Lee interviews John

Click on image to view video

Click on image to view video

During the recent VirtualEdge event, inXpo’s CeCe Salmon-Lee talked with Tesoro Events CEO, John Failla about the current state of virtual events.

A Tale of Two Transitions – Which will the event industry follow?

Let’s kick off the blog by addressing a fairly straightforward question – What impact will virtual events have on the events industry.

In looking at two industries that have already dealt with a digital transition, there are two possible paths that the events industry will travel during this transition. One follows the path of the retail industry and the other follows the path of the print publishing industry.

Here’s a perspective based on my experience in each industry.

In the mid 90’s newspaper and magazines foretold the death of retail stores with headlines like “Malls are dead” and “Clicks will replace bricks”. Remember? As publisher of a trade magazine serving the retail industry, I produced the first conference on the subject of online retailing. Over the next four years I organized trade shows on “eRetailing” in NY, San Jose, London and Tokyo and witnessed the transition first hand.

In response to the perceived threat, retailers by and large embraced the challenge and figured out how to integrate digital tools and interactive media into their operations as a distinct channel to serve customers. Systems were developed to facilitate an effective coordination between a retailer’s physical and online retailing presence. In short, they figured out how to leverage the strengths of each channel to serve their customers more effectively.

Alternatively, during the last 6-7 years, the press has foretold the demise of print media in response to consumers preference for information delivered online. While some print publishers have figured out how to evolve their print product to serve a unique roll, most are still just taking the content generated for their print product and posting it to their “website”. As we sit here today, many publishers are still struggling with how to have their print and online products serve unique and complementary roles and pure play online publishers are growing their share of readers’ time and advertising budgets.

So what’s the point? In my opinion, retailers figured out how to make interactive media a friend, while publishers are for the most part still struggling to “get it” as the headlines of newspapers and magazines shutting down accelerate.

Widely available high speed internet access and the emergence of Web 2.0 applications have placed the events industry in the cross hairs of a digital transition. Event organizers are now being forced to select a path.

In considering the question at the top of this post, two questions come to mind:

What was the difference in how retailers and publishers addressed the emergence of digital media?
Which of these two paths will the event industry travel?

What do you think?

Mission

This blog is dedicated to the global advancement of knowledge on virtual events and virtual environments. I hope the postings stimulate thought and discussion. To those who encouraged me to start this blog including KG, DS, JG, DV, SDF and RF – THANKS.