Scheduling of large physical events seems to follow a seasonal pattern. With the exception of CES (Jaunuary 7-10 2010) and Macworld (February 9-13 2010), there are fewer events at the very start of a calendar year – many event planners are probably thinking that fresh off the holidays, potential attendees are less inclined to travel.
The event schedule then picks up a little steam in February and March and by spring time, we’re in full bloom. The summer seems to get its fair share of events – but at the same time, some event planners may scale back on a summer schedule due to vacation schedules (and the fact that kids are home from school). As we head towards the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., the event schedule seems to taper – and during the December holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, etc.) there seem to be very few physical events scheduled.
Virtual events follow a similar seasonal pattern. There were virtual events in January and February of this year, but the pace seemed to pick up in March – with a build-up to June, which could be our high water mark for virtual events this year. I maintain an informal Virtual Events Calendar, which lists 21 virtual events in June, with only 3 currently listed for July.
Do virtual events really need to follow seasonal patterns? Here are my thoughts:
- Consider the convenience factors – virtual events are convenient for all parties involved (virtual event planners, exhibitors, attendees) – there are no travel arrangements to be made and no booth materials to ship. For booth material, one can leverage existing White Papers, Product Collateral, etc. – and not have to send hundreds of documents to the color printer. For exhibiting or attending, one can login from anywhere (in pajamas). As such, the traditional danger zones (e.g. Thanksgiving week, Christmas week, etc.) may be less relevant for virtual.
- Use virtual to complement physical – would I place all my bets on a successful virtual event on December 23rd? No. But, I might want to floor a virtual event on December 23rd that complements another physical or virtual event. Additionally, I may want to leverage the virtual event platform to power a business community that’s open year-round, rather than being “live” on a given date.
The key to the success of a virtual business community will be a critical mass of participants. Live virtual events are successful because a critical mass of live attendees gather to view content and interact with one another. If I login to an virtual community and no one else is online, it means I have no ability to interact with someone in real-time.
I’ll be able to view content and participate in message boards, blogs, etc. – but at that point, it’s no different from using a conventional social networking site. All in all, the possibilities are very exciting. I know that my own calendar is booked solid (virtually) through the end of the year.