That’s right, even the Virtual Events industry has a need to meet face-to-face. Thursday (05/28/09) marked Day 1 of Virtual Edge 2009 – a 2-day face-to-face “summit on virtual events, meetings and communities”, held at the Santa Clara Convention Center. By my estimation, the event had over 150 attendees and approximately 50 exhibitors.
Most of the presentations and panel discussions had “standing room only” crowds. Two of the noted presentations of Day 1 were “The ABC’s of Virtual Events, Meetings & Marketing” (featuring Kenny Lauer of GPJ and Kelly Graham of Cisco) and the keynote presentation, featuring Paul Salinger or Oracle and Sandy Carter of IBM.
The sessions were streamed live into the virtual world – a combination of live video (via Stream57) and live video in a 3D immersive world (via VirtualU from Digitell). A physical event on virtual events, which was then simulcast virtually – neat! The “concurrent virtual” allowed global access to event, for folks who were not able to attend in person – and that included some speakers, who (of course!) presented their sessions virtually.
In the afternoon, I participated in a panel discussion titled “Measurement, Tracking & ROI”. Two of the main themes we heard from the audience were:
- Better measuring event engagement – sure, we know about registration-to-attendance ratio, number of live attendees, average session time, etc. And Stu Schmidt of Unisfair introduced the notion of a “virtual engagement index”. The calculation of that index (or score), however, may need to get “smarter” – for instance with a chat session. Dannette Veale of Cisco noted the difference between a “where’s the Auditorium” and a “can you send me pricing information” comment – whereby the latter should carry a higher score from an engagement or “prospect worthiness” point of view.
- Aggregate profiles by user type – customers are in the need for published profiles by user type, so that they can better plan targeted virtual events. For instance, if an enterprise is interested in a virtual event for C-level employees, they need to see a published profile (e.g. what does the C-level do in a virtual event), to determine whether the event is worth pursuing (aka what’s the expected ROI). The panel responded that there are data privacy issues that need to be worked out – since all data is “owned” by customers – and NOT by the virtual event platform vendors.
While I was able to sneak out to attend a session or two, I spent most of the day in the InXpo booth. I had the pleasure of meeting (face-to-face!) with many colleagues in the industry and also spoke to countless attendees who are considering their first virtual event. For attendees from corporations, many had already executed virtual events – and were there to learn best practices and refine their game. On the other hand, I met several folks from the event marketing industry, who were looking to leverage virtual events to complement their clients’ physical event strategy.
For me, Day 1 marked a momentous occasion for the virtual events industry – the creation of a physical event speaks to the legitimacy of the industry – while the turnout speaks to the timeliness and interest in virtual events. Today, our industry is like the TV sitcom Cheers (“Where everybody knows your name”). I imagine that this industry will grow quickly enough that it will be challenging to remember everyone’s name – and in a few years, the venue will have to shift to the Moscone Center in San Francisco! Looking forward to Day 2 today.
- Virtual Edge 2009 program: http://www.virtualedgesummit.com/program.php
- Virtual Edge 2009 program – to attend virtually: http://www.virtualedgesummit.com/virtual-event-schedule.php
- Dean Takahashi covered Day 1 for VentureBeat: http://venturebeat.com/2009/05/28/virtual-events-draw-a-live-in-person-crowd/