FOCUS Best Practices Report: Exhibiting at Virtual Trade Shows

December 28, 2010

Introduction

FOCUS.com has published a Best Practices Report, “9 Best Practices for Exhibiting at a Virtual Trade Show“.

The report features insights and tips from Roger Courville (1080 Group), Dave Lutz (Velvet Chainsaw Consulting), Shannon Ryan (FOCUS), Cece Salomon-Lee (PR Meets Marketing), Tom Wieser (CGS VirtualEvents365) and myself. We’re all FOCUS Experts and contribute to virtual events (and other) topics on FOCUS.com.

Download The Report

You can download the report here:

http://www.focus.com/research/research-briefings/sales/best-practices-exhibiting-virtual-trade-show/

A Related Webinar

I did a related webinar with FOCUS titled “From Fad to ROI: How Smart Marketers Succeed with Virtual Trade Shows”.  You can view the on-demand webinar (or the associated slides) by following the links here:

http://allvirtual.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/live-webcast-how-smart-marketers-succeed-with-virtual-trade-shows/

Join the Discussion

The report was generated from a question posted to FOCUS.com – feel free to join the discussion by adding your own thoughts about exhibiting at virtual trade shows:

http://www.focus.com/questions/marketing/virtual-trade-show-best-practices-best-practices-exhibiting/

About these ads

Gamification Predictions for 2011

December 22, 2010

Introduction

At Mashable, Gabe Zichermann (@gzicherm) provided his 5 Predictions for Game Mechanics in 2011.  Gabe’s article inspired me to provide my own predictions.

A New Name in 2011

In the second half of 2010, the term “gamification” became bi-polar: you either loved it or hated it.  People on the “love” side see it as the future of engagement and marketing.  People on the “hate” side see it as a gimmick.

Gabe provides his thoughts in an article at Huffington Post.  While the term is effective in capturing the essence, it’s not perfect.  As a result, “gamification” will be used less and less in 2011.  In its place will be a set of new terms, based on its specific applications (e.g. game-based marketing, game-based social initiatives, etc.).

A Sub-Industry Develops


This is more an observation, rather than a prediction (since it’s already happening): an industry has developed around “gamification”.  When folks convene for a conference or summit, that’s my measuring stick to tell me that an industry is emerging.  In the virtual events space, that happened in 2009 with the Virtual Edge Summit (which, by the way, has its third annual conference, also in January 2011).

If you look at the sponsor and speaker lists for this event, you’ll see a number of start-ups who built their business around gamification.  In 2011, we’ll see some “bubble like” behavior (perhaps we’re already seeing it now), where entrepreneurs look to build the next great gamification companies.  In the second half of 2011, however, the bubble settles and the early winners emerge.

Related: Gamification gets its own conference (VentureBeat)

Game Mechanics for The Greater Good

Jane McGonigal of Palo Alto-based Institute for the Future once said, “Any time I consider a new project, I ask myself, is this pushing the state of gaming toward Nobel Prizes? If it’s not, then it’s not doing anything important enough to spend my time.” (source: Salon.com article from 2007).

In 2011, we’ll see game mechanics applied increasingly to the “greater good” – initiatives that can change the world.

Armchair Revolutionary is a great example – consider one of their slogans, “shape the future by playing a game”.  In 2011, lots of “revolutionaries” emerge to rally those who can, to provide help to those in need.

Game Mechanics Go Mainstream – But Consumers Don’t Know It

Game mechanics are going mainstream, but the typical user won’t know that they’re participating in them.  They simply know that they’re engaging in enjoyable activities (side note: there will be similar growth in Foursquare, Gowalla, etc., but users, of course, won’t know that they’re using “location based services”).

For example, Universal Studios announced successful sales of their “Despicable Me” DVD – their press release attributes some of the success to a “Minions Madness” promotion, “a points-based reward and social media program spotlighting the film’s beloved mischief-makers, the Minions.” This promotion was powered by Bunchball, a game mechanics start-up.

Bunchball (and related companies) has built a nice client list of broadcast networks, cable networks and film studios.  In 2011, additional media outlets come on board.  Game mechanics  go more and more mainstream, even though the typical mainstream user doesn’t know it.  Watch out in 2012, however, as consumer-based game mechanics suffer some fatigue (as consumers then see “much too much” of it).

Established Web Players Incorporate Game Mechanics

2011 sees established players incorporate game mechanics to increase engagement (e.g. “time on site”, clicks, e-commerce sales, etc.).

Google adopts game mechanics as a means for bridging their search business and social services (e.g. adding game mechanics to Google Me). Others who add game mechanics include Netflix, eBay and Groupon.  Of course, it’s natural to expect that more and more virtual event experiences will add game mechanics, too.

Conclusion

2010 has been an interesting year for gamification. 2011 will kick off with an industry event and where we go from there will be exciting to watch.  I’ll check back mid-year with a report card on these predictions. Here’s hoping I attain the “crystal ball badge”.


What Virtual Events Can Learn From Groupon, Quora and FarmVille

December 18, 2010

Introduction

Successful web sites provide a great opportunity: the chance to study what makes them successful and apply those learnings to your own websites or applications.  In 2010, three of the “most talked about” web sites were Groupon, Quora and FarmVille (though FarmVille is more a discrete app, rather than a web site).  Let’s consider how some of their concepts can be applied to virtual event experiences.

Groupon


Groupon is said to be in the local advertising space, but they’re really much more than that.  They’ve hit the mark with a group buying phenomenon (using bulk purchasing to drive down prices) combined with creative and entertaining email copy that keeps subscribers eager to receive the next day’s email.

Groupon, which serves local businesses, segments their offering by geography.  So I might subscribe via San Jose, CA and receive offers from merchants who are near me.  But the Groupon model could certainly apply to national or even global brands.

Group Viewing at Virtual Trade Shows

Now, let’s consider a common dynamic at virtual trade shows.  Exhibitors (sponsors) would like to get their message across to attendees, while attendees are resistant to hearing unsolicited product pitches.

How can you “arbitrate” this situation?  Consider Groupon, where the “daily deal” only registers when a certain number of users agree to purchase the item(s).  Here’s how it might work with sponsor presentations (webinars) at a virtual trade show:

  1. Five sponsors list their webinar title in the trade show Auditorium
  2. Each sponsor is “on alert”, ready to begin broadcasting their live presentation
  3. No presentation begins until it receives 50 (or more) viewers
  4. The presentation continues, only if it can continually sustain 35 simultaneous viewers – if it drops below 35 viewers for more than 5 minutes, the presentation closes

Benefits

  1. Puts portions of the presentation agenda in the hands of attendees
  2. Forces sponsors to present on relevant topics
  3. Forces sponsors to “deliver what they sold” with regard to the presentation
  4. Ups the overall quality of sponsor presentations, as sponsors need to both “sell” the topic and sustain the audience

Quora

Quora is “a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it.”  Question and Answer (Q&A) services have been around for some time. Quora has picked up steam in 2010 due to the quality of the members participating (e.g. some of the leading thinkers on the web – and in Silicon Valley).

In virtual events, experts and leading thinkers in a particular industry have gathered online.  They can listen to featured experts (e.g. the presenters), but the event doesn’t fully extract and share the collective knowledge of those assembled. If done right, a Q&A service layered on top of a virtual event can be quite useful.

In fact, let’s consider a related Q&A service, Aardvark, which is now part of Google.  With Aardvark, “you email or instant-message your question to Aardvark, it figures out around half a dozen people you know who might have a good answer, then emails or IMs them for a response and sends what they say back to you.” (source: VentureBeat article).

A virtual event platform could implement a “Quora meets Aardvark” model, whereby questions are distributed to online attendees – and answers are fed back in semi-real-time.  Questions (and their answers) could be shared not only with the requester – but, all attendees, based on their selection of particular topics.

FarmVille

On the surface, FarmVille is about planting your virtual crops and tending to your virtual farm.  But below the surface, its “power” is in the psychological reward of achieving success in something you take pride in.  It’s the same dynamic that fuels entrepreneurs (who take pride in their businesses) and Twitter power users (who take pride in their following).

As virtual events shift from “point in time” live events to “365 day communities”, the challenge becomes how to sustain an ongoing and active community – who will visit the environment on days where absolutely nothing is scheduled.  It’s the same challenge Zynga had – how do you incent farmers to tend to their virtual farm each day?

Virtual Farm Meets Virtual Community

For virtual communities, there needs to be a parallel to that virtual farm – an abstraction that allows members to feel psychological reward when they’ve done something meaningful.  Ideas include:

  1. Elevated  member profiles. Turn the “vanilla” user profile of today into the parallel of the virtual farm
  2. “Pimp my space”. Exhibitors get to build booths – now, allow attendees the freedom to create their own spaces and receive ratings on them
  3. Leverage “status badges” on the profiles – but ensure that demand consistently outstrips supply
  4. “Rate the ratings” – allow members to rate the worthiness of a rating (a la Amazon.com, and “Was this review helpful to you?”) – top rated members receive elevated status in the community
  5. Prominent Leaderboards related to particular activities, games, etc. – these can be a tremendous draw, as users continually return to check on their position on the board

Conclusion

Groupon, Quora and FarmVille have taught us some valuable lessons.  The rising demand for virtual events tells us something as well.  Aardvark may have hit upon the right model – in which they combined social collaboration with a real-time (or semi-real-time) component.  Perhaps Grouopon and the like have something to “learn” from virtual as well.


Just In Time For The Holidays: Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events

December 16, 2010

Introduction

Virtual events can be a dream for marketers.  In 2011, you can leverage virtual events to generate more leads to fuel your sales pipeline.  And, you can qualify those leads “on the spot”, in what I call “accelerated lead generation”.

With a virtual event, you have the opportunity to engage in real-time with your sales leads and review a rich engagement profile that uncovers their degree of interest in your products – and, their position in the sales cycle.

Got marketers on your holiday list?  The printed version of “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Event” is now available at a list price of $12.99 (UPDATE: the book is now listed for $11.69).

Amazon

Buy the Paperback: at Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

Buy the Paperback: at BarnesAndNoble.com

Additional Resources

  1. Find more information about the book, including where to buy it for assorted e-readers.
  2. Read the Introduction of the book online.

Happy Holidays and Happy Reading!


It’s All Virtual Turns Two

December 12, 2010

“Time flies when you’re having fun.”

It all started two years ago today.  The first blog post was made on December 12, 2008.  Since that time, I’ve covered virtual trade shows, hybrid events, virtual worlds, Second Life, social media and many other topics.  It’s been a fun ride to date, but I’m even more excited about what the next 2 or 5 years will bring.  For now, let’s take a look back at five selected posts from the past two years.

What Started It All


My first post, from December 2008, looked ahead to 2009.  It was titled “2009: The Year We Go Virtual“.  I was mostly on target with this post, except for that innocent comment where I noted that face-to-face event producers would struggle to survive.  I should have known that physical events would never go away – and, I hadn’t considered what would follow in 2009/2010, the hybrid event.  Whoops.

Lenovo’s 3D World, Powered by web.alive


This posting, from January 2009, remains today the top grossing piece on this blog.  Lenovo launched a 3D world to promote their Thinkpad notebooks.  It used the web.alive 3D platform from Nortel (and is now part of Avaya, via Avaya’s acquisition of Nortel).  While touring the environment, I met Nic Sauriol, the Venture Lead for the project and he took  me on a personal tour.  Read more: “Review: Lenovo’s eLounge Virtual World“.

Musings on Physical Events & Virtual Events

(Photo courtesy of “ExhibitPeople” on flickr)

Physical events have been around for a long time.  So I decided to write about what we like at physical events and consider how those “features” could work in a virtual event.  I didn’t expect it at the time, but this turned out to be one of the most popular postings this year.  For more: “Bringing The Physical Event Experience To Virtual Events“.

Whose Platform Do I Use?

Once you’ve decided to do a virtual event, one of the key steps is finding the right virtual event platform.  In my Virtual Events 101 series, the most popular posting was this one: “Virtual Events 101: Tips For Selecting A Virtual Event Platform“.  For me, it comes down to the 6 P”s – People, Platform, Production, Price, Process and Partners.

Branching Out A Bit

Branching out from virtual events, I shared some thoughts on the topics of social gaming, location-based services, “gamification” and loyalty programs.  In the coming 1-3 years, gamification, location services and virtual events will come together (via API’s and integration).  On the gamification front, it’s noteworthy that San Francisco will be home to the Gamification Summit in January 2011.  For the full post: “The Name Of The Game Is Engagement“.

Conclusion

It’s been a great two years.  It’s hard to imagine what the (virtual) “world” will look like in another two years.  There’s one thing for sure: I’ll be blogging about it.  Come along for the journey and subscribe to regularly receive my posts.  Until next time!


The Future Of Book Publishing

December 11, 2010

Introduction

I recently published a book, “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events“.  I wrote a prior blog posting that described the process of self-publishing the book.

Like other industries (e.g. newspapers, music, entertainment, etc.), the web will have a transformative impact on book publishing.  In fact, my belief is that the coming 2 years will see dramatic shifts – the book publishing industry will never be the same.

Production / Printing

Self-publishing has arrived and it’s here to stay.  Moving the book publishing process into the cloud significantly empowers the author.  Now, authors “prepare the print run” via the web, making tweaks and edits as they see fit.  The cloud has ushered in an era of on-demand printing – or, what I call “agile printing“.  With traditional book publishing, the Second Edition of a book may come out a year later.  With agile printing, it’s possible for the Second Edition to be published the next day.

This does not mean that traditional book publishers will face complete disintermediation.  Instead, I believe savvy publishers will incorporate “cloud technologies” into their publishing process, streamlining the process for editors and authors.  Publishers will rightly conclude that the publishing process could leverage a lot of the same convenience of blog publishing.

Crowd-based Editing

You can put the power of the crowd to work for you and sustain results as good as a single expert. That’s just what Facebook did to enable Facebook.com to be available in 64 languages.  You can add the Facebook Translations application and “join our community of translators and make Facebook available in your language”.

I see a similar opportunity for basic copy editing.  Authors can tap into crowdsourcing providers to have a network of hundreds (or thousands) of “workers” collectively provide copy editing of their manuscript.  To cut costs, traditional book publishers may look to crowdsource copy editing, with a smaller staff of editors in place to “quality check” the resulting work.

Collaborative Writing


What’s better than one author?  Two or more authors.  The beauty of “publishing from the cloud” is that your social graph can be invited directly into the manuscript.  I published my book via FastPencil and it gave me the option of inviting in project managers, co-authors, editors and reviewers to collaborate on my project.

I believe that authors will increasingly bring their social graph into the publishing process.  Survey the suitability of your book to a prior generation by inviting your aunt to review Chapter 2 and then invite past business partners in to write a few chapters.  With self-publishing, we’ll see more “chapter books”, where a collection of experts each write one chapter.

Migration to Digital Readers


While some will insist on sticking to the printed format, we’ll be reading more and more books via digital form.  The combination of digital plus “online” will dramatically change the reading experience in the coming years.  Already, the Amazon Kindle 3 allows readers to copy a selection from the book and share it on Twitter or Facebook.  With digital devices, the reading experience moves from solitary to social.

In the early days of Facebook, I interacted with friends, but it was asynchronous.  I’d post, then an hour later, they’d respond. With Facebook Chat, I’m now noticing that certain friends want to interact in real-time, directly on Facebook.

Book reading will take on similar dynamics. I’ll carry my social graph onto my device (if I choose to) and see which friends are reading the same book as me – right now.  I can start a chat with my friend to discuss Chapter 3.  Or, I can perform a “scan” to see a list of other online users who are reading the same book right now.  The “book of the month club” becomes virtual and global.

Subcription (Rental) Model

On college campuses, Chegg is innovating with a textbook rental business.  With digital books, someone will come along soon (Netflix more likely than Amazon) to disrupt the market with a cloud-based subscription model.  I think the days of “purchasing to own” digital books are numbered.  I think of a digital book like a DVD – I consume it, I enjoy it, I move on.  I don’t need to own it.

With a subscription model, I may get up to 10 digital books per month.  The book content is served up from the cloud, which means I can read it from any device – and I can bookmark the page and move from my laptop to my smartphone.

When I’m done, I “return” the book and can access my next book.  Of course, the challenge will be in the licensing agreements with book publishers – something Netflix has been working through with movie studios for their streaming service.  And, we’ll need an “offline reading mode” for times when users are not connected to the net.

Conclusion

As a new author, I’m excited to see what lies ahead for book publishing.  Based on the web, the cloud and social media, it’s never been a better time to be an author.


How I Published A Virtual Events Book

December 4, 2010

Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events

For more info: New Book, Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events

Introduction

Publishing a book has never been easier. Today’s Web 2.0 tools (e.g. self publishing, wikis, crowdsourcing, etc.) completely empower the aspiring author.  If you’ve got the inspiration to create a manuscript, then the logistics of going from completed manuscript to Amazon.com has gotten a whole lot easier.  Here’s the approach I took to publish my book, “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events“.

Self Publishing

With self-publishing, you’re in complete control.  You dictate all the details of the book (e.g. title, cover image, etc.) and you define the schedule.  At the same time, you become your own editor, producer and PR agency.  Those are some key trade-offs.  In the end, I decided self-publishing was the way to go.  Its immediacy is a huge advantage – with a completed manuscript, you can self-publish a book in as little as a day, whereas a traditional book publisher requires several months.

First, I selected my self-publishing service, FastPencil. While there are a number of services available, I had used FastPencil for a family project and found it quite intuitive and easy.  It also helped that their support team (especially Dave) was helpful and always responded to my emails sooner than I anticipated.

As you can see above, self-publishing looks a lot like blogging. And it really is that simple. For me, publishing a book was like writing a series of blog posts in Microsoft Word – and then copy/pasting them into a blog editor, with a little bit of formatting afterwards.  I then purchased the “Wide Distribution” option from FastPencil and they took care of assigning the book an ISBN and listing it for sale at Amazon, BarnesAndNoble.com, Ingram and Apple’s iBooks Store.

Community Publishing

As I was working to complete the manuscript, I posted the book’s introductory chapter here on this blog and on a PBworks wiki.  My objectives were to get some early promotion of the book (and give potential readers a taste for what I’d cover) and see if the community would want a hand in editing it.  Anyone who created a PBworks account could edit the introduction.

Copy edits were welcome – and, I invited folks to make changes to the content.  If I liked the edits or contributions, I’d apply them to the manuscript and acknowledge the contributor(s) within the printed book.  While no one made edits to the wiki, I think we’ll see a trend towards community publishing of books.

Authors will leverage the web to source spelling and grammatical corrections from a global network of copy editors.  And industry peers will participate to become co-authors.  You see it today on sites like Quora or FOCUS.com – in the near future, the collaborative discussions sourced  there will be excerpted into printed books.

Cover Image via Crowdsourcing


It doesn’t get much better than this: you name your price for a cover design and have a global network of graphic designers bid on your project.  You then receive several submissions of the actual (proposed) book cover, which you then need to whittle down to a final few.  For submissions you like, you request some adjustments or alterations.  Those updates are made by the designers and you make a final selection on the eventual book cover.  This was all made possible by a great site called 99Designs.

I’ve worked with some design shops who limited the number of iterations they’d allow on a design (i.e. since each iteration increases their cost). With the crowdsourced model at 99Designs, I received messages from designers that I had not rated their design or provided enough feedback! Such is the dynamic when the incentive model is inverted: you get paid only when your design is selected.

99Designs has done cover design projects for other books, including “The Purpose Driven Life” and “Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Body”. “Crowdsourcing is a great way for book authors to see the many different ways in which artists interpret the title and subject matter of the book. They get ideas and concepts that they would have never gotten otherwise,” said Matt Mickiewicz, co-founder of 99Designs.

With a neat polling feature from 99Designs, I invited friends and family to review the submissions – they were able to rate each submission and leave comments.  The number of submissions received will correspond to the dollar value of your reward – I happened to set a moderately priced reward, but still received 67 submissions, which I thought was a fantastic amount.  The biggest challenge was in narrowing them down to a single selection.

Conclusion

Aspiring authors have more tools at their disposal than ever before.  If you’re a high frequency blogger who loves to write, then turning you expertise and passion into a printed book (or, e-book) may be the thing to do.  The power is in your hands (and fingers).


New Book: Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events

December 1, 2010

Book Cover: Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to sites on which the book is available for purchase.

“Virtual events can be a dream for marketers. They can generate leads cost effectively and they facilitate real-time interactions with sales prospects that can lead to quicker and more efficient marketing qualification.”

That’s the premise behind my new book, “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events”.

Previously, I posted the introduction of the book – you can find it here:

Introduction: Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events

And here’s what I cover in the other chapters:

Chapter Listing

  1. Get Started
  2. Assemble a Plan
  3. Build Your Virtual Booth
  4. Use Social Networks to Generate Interest and Awareness
  5. Engage with Virtual Event Attendees
  6. Score and Follow Up with Leads
  7. Conclude Your Virtual Event Campaign

The book also includes an eloquent Foreword, written by Craig Rosenberg (@Funnelholic), a lead generation expert.

Purchase for Kindle

Purchase for Kindle

“Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events” (Kindle version) ($9.99)

Purchase for iPad, iPhone & iPod Touch

“Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events” – via iBooks ($9.99)

Purchase for NOOK (BarnesAndNoble.com)

NOOK Reader

“Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events” – NOOK ($9.99)

Purchase the Paperback

Purchase from FastPencil, the publisher of the book:

http://www.fastpencil.com/publications/818-Generate-Sales-Leads-With-Virtual-Events ($12.99)

Buy the paperback on Amazon ($11.69)

Buy the paperback at BarnesAndNoble.com ($11.69)

Praise for “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events”

“This book should be required reading for any event producer or marketer that plans on using online events to engage with customers and prospects. Done properly, using virtual events for lead generation and lead nurturing as well as sales acceleration can yield impressive ROI and drive customer relationships. Dennis is one of the few experts with real-world experience from having produced lots of virtual events across many markets.”

– Michael Doyle, Executive Director, Virtual Edge Institute (@virtualedge)

“Interacting virtually is now a must-have marketing skill.  In Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events, Dennis Shiao shows you exactly how to run a successful virtual event from end-to-end. What’s amazing is that the opportunities to engage with leads virtually can be as productive, or more so, than attending events in person.”

– Ardath Albee, author of eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale (@Ardath421)

“Dennis is one of the pioneers when it comes to virtual events.  He certainly knows and understands the environment, and his information is right on target!”

– Susan Friedmann, CSP, The Tradeshow Coach (@Tradeshowcoach)

“As interactivity becomes an increasingly important element of marketing campaigns, virtual events offer marketers a cost-efficient solution to engage with prospective buyers. Dennis’ book offers real-world examples and turnkey tactics that marketers can apply to increase their success with virtual events. Whether a marketer is just getting started with virtual events or just looking for tips on improving their metrics, Dennis provides the insight marketers need and want to know to maximize lead flow from virtual events.”

– Amanda Ferrante Batista, Associate Editor, DemandGen Report (@Amanda_Ferrante)


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,042 other followers

%d bloggers like this: