Posts Tagged 'virtual events'

Fueling the fire – News about H1N1, Telepresence, and 3D Virtual Environements

First thing this morning we heard about the Government’s warning that 50% of the population may contract H1N1 Flu this flu season. Some of their recommendations are that schools should utilize web based learning platforms to reach students who are out with the flu. Can similar recommendations for the meetings industry be far behind?

The Chicago Tribune reports that advanced Videoconferencing systems (Telepresence) are having a material impact on the business travel market as companies like AMD, HP, Cisco and Nokia are using these systems to replace meetings and routine travel.

The  WSJ reports that companies such as IBM and Northrop Grumman are utilizing 3d Virtual Environments as rich training and simulation platforms.

Three separate sources regarding three different stories that converge to illuminate one reality. The economy is driving massive adoption of virtual event platforms along the entire spectrum of alternative virtual event options.

Whether traditional travel for meetings and training will return when the market rebounds remains to be seen. One thing for sure is that the meetings and events market is undergoing unprecedented change. Those event organizers that embrace the potential of these new platforms to complement the physical event experience will surely prevail over those that wait for the return of the good ole days.

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Drinking from a fire hose…..making decisions on social networking and virtual events

Over the past 30 days it seems that more and more senior business media executives are absolutely overwhelmed by the flood of information, media attention, and hype around social media and virtual events. They are being barraged by requests to fund new projects to create communities or launch virtual events when very often the business model or commercial prospects from such activities are unclear. They’re being told they just “have to do it”.  Sound a little like 1999?

At the same time they are being approached by a stream of technology suppliers who all promise that their solution is “the” answer. At the ASAE annual meeting this week, there were a dozen exhibitors marketing social networking platforms alone and another dozen marketing virtual event solutions.

At the recent SISO meeting in NYC, an excellent half day intensive workshop on social networking focused on a vision of communities enabled by social networking technology as the answer to show organizers dream of influence and engagement of their markets 52 weeks a year.

What’s making things even more challenging for these executives is a general unfamiliarity with the torrent of tools and technology that are at the eye of the storm. All this while their core event revenues are off 20-30% and their print businesses are off 40-50%.

To help bring some order to the madness, here are three steps I think can help:
1. Commit 30 minutes a day to becoming familiar with the new media tools that are impacting b2b media. Attend a webinar or a virtual tradeshow, use twitter, set up a linkedin profile, read a book on social networking. If you’re really brave, find a bright twenty something employee in your organization who can mentor you (that’s right mentor you) on social media.
2. Assess the “technographics” of your respective markets and prioritize them based on those you think are most likely to be served effectively with these new tools.
3. Identify unmet audience needs in selected segments of these markets and start small with a couple of modest projects.

A disciplined and methodical approach to making several small bets will prevent paralysis and pay big dividends long term.

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?