In my former role as a b-to-b media industry product manager, I developed product packages that utilized audio podcasts for delivering IT-specific content to IT practitioners and IT managers. The conventional wisdom at the time (early on, at least) was, “CIO’s will not download and listen to podcasts”. I wasn’t so sure about that – after all, podcasts made it easier for busy executives to consume content they wanted – when and where they wanted to consume it. So why wouldn’t a busy executive leverage technology to make her day more efficient?
Lo and behold, a CIO speaker at an event I attended was asked about the different content types he leveraged to get his job done. He mentioned that he takes a 30 minute ferry boat ride to and from work each day. While most boat passengers are reading the daily newspaper, this CIO would listen to IT-specific podcasts on each ride – and, he insisted that each downloaded podcast be 30 minutes long (or less), so that he could listen its entirety on the ride.
With virtul events, I’ve heard from event organizers and event sponsors who wonder whether the CIO (and her companions in the C-Suite) will adopt virtual events and virtual tradeshows. I think the answer is “yes”. First, let’s characterize some of the C-Suite occupants:
- CEO – may be too busy to attend virtual events – but, will occasionally make the keynote appearance to kick off a virtual event. Many CEO’s do not use a computer, but most carry PDAs. This means that the path to CEO participation in virtual events may be via the PDA.
- CMO – they see the value of virtual events as a marketing and lead generation vehicle, so one of their key roles today is in funding and approving budget. As for attendance, my feeling is that they’re interested in doing so.
- CIO – like with podcasts, virtual events enable and empower an executive. The CIO can attend a virtual event to peer network with like-minded CIO’s and not miss a day in the office to do so.
- CTO – intimate with technology, the CTO is virtually a slam dunk to participate (pun intended).
- CFO – not so sure about CFO’s, but I will note that IBM Cognos produced a virtual event called Virtual Finance Forum 2009 that targeted finance executives. Cognos produced the same event in 2008 as well.
B-to-B publishers have caught on to the notion that CIO’s will attend virtual events, as past virtual events have specifically targeted the CIO. Two upcoming events are taking a similar approach:
- CIO Virtual Forum: Navigating Through Dynamic Times (May 19, 2009 – CIO.com and Cisco)
- CIO Summit: Driving Business Value and Customer Value in the Global Economy (June 10, 2009 – InformationWeek)
In my experience with technology focused virtual events, I found that of all registrants, 7-9% had senior IT titles (CIO, CTO, VP of Technology, etc.). So an event with 1,000 registrants would have 70-90 of them be CIO’s or CTO’s. Why would the C-Suite attend a virtual event? I think there are a few primary benefits:
- Conveniently network with like-minded peers – one of the draws of attending an event is the ability to network with other attendees. With a virtual event, a busy executive can do so without losing a day outside the office.
- Efficiently connect with partners and customers – an online experience can’t re-create the dyamics of an in-person interaction, but it does allow a busy executive to connect with many more partners and customers than could have occurred in-person.
- Extend your social graph and social presence – some C-Suite execs have enthusiastically adopted Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. Industry-specific virtual events allow the executive to further expand the social graph. And of course, they’ll be tweeting about the event as soon as they login.
What has your experience been – has the C-Suite at your own company attended a virtual event?