Back in August, I jumped the gun a bit and wrote a “year in review” posting about virtual events. Now that we’re in December, I think it’s high time to peer into the Magic 8 Ball and speculate on what’s in store for the virtual events industry in 2010. Away we go…
Widescale adoption and integration of video conferencing
Virtual events have incorporated a lot of on-demand and live video – however, to date, the majority of attendee interaction has been via text (e.g. private text chat, group text chat, etc.). Many platforms have enabled the use of attendee webcams (a la Skype) and that was a nice start. In 2010, I believe that the virtual event platforms will integrate with third party video conferencing technologies in a big way – stirred largely by client demand for it.
Think about it – multinational corporations have adopted high-end video conferencing to encourage collaboration and save on travel costs. They have the budget to invest in Cisco Telepresence or HP Halo. As those same corporations look to adopt virtual events (e.g. for an annual virtual sales meeting), it’s only natural that they incorporate the video conferencing technology that they already have running.
To capture mid-market and small business interest, virtual event platforms will look to integrate with mid-tier video conferencing systems, such as Tandberg (whose acquisition by Cisco is pending) and Polycom.
Another interesting player is LifeSize Communications, an Austin-based provider of “mainstream telepresence” that was acquired by Logitech in November. LifeSize recently launched an offering called Passport, which they term “a portable telepresence-quality system” that fits in the palm of your hand.
I see continued use of consumer-grade webcam technology in 2010 virtual events – however, the game changer will be the incorporation of multi-party, HD video conferencing.
Emergence of global players
We’ve already seen the emergence in Europe of virtual event platforms – IMASTE in Spain and Ubivent in Germany. I expect to see another European-based platform emerge in 2010, along with one or more in Asia Pac. In addition, we’ll see services companies launch to capitalize on the demand (for virtual events) from publishers, corporations and event marketers. The companies will provide both strategic and logistical services around virtual events. You’ll see some start-up companies and you’ll also see physical event marketers spawn service offerings around virtual (or more logically, hybrid) events.
We’ll see the merging or acquiring of virtual event platform companies. Some providers will look to acquire/merge out of platform capability gaps – while stronger players will look to complementary/synergistic technologies offered by the competition. As the economic environment comes back around, companies (and their investors) will be more apt to combine forces to fuel the next phase of growth. Lastly, larger and more established players in the “collaboration space” may look to acquire virtual event platform companies, to add a complementary piece to their product portfolio.
Decrease in “relative response rates”
Virtual events had a great run in 2009, but we’re now past the novelty, “wow, this is cool” phase. In the B2B market, we now have plenty of users who have attended two or more virtual events. If virtual event show hosts continue to use the same graphical templates, organize the same presentation agenda and re-create an identical experience to their last event, then “relative response rates” will drop – meaning, it will become harder and harder to recruit users to register and attend.
Decreased response rates are natural as any new “content type” grows beyond infancy – and the supply/demand ratio begins to tilt towards having more supply than demand (e.g. lots of virtual events). Virtual event show hosts will need to consider the incorporation of gaming, the creation of affinity programs and more. The solution to decreased response rates will be fun to watch – innovators will step to the table to find creative ways to engage and attract virtual event attendees.
Platforms take first step towards immersiveness
While virtual event attendees may not “require” the immersiveness of Second Life and other 3D virtual worlds – immersive capabilities provide real value in a B2B setting. The most obvious use case is an immersive rendering of a complex product – consider the high-end video conferencing system, the high-end router, the latest luxury car model. Instead of a 2D PowerPoint slide that highlights the capabilities of the video conferencing system, how about an immersive experience where attendees (aka prospects) get to experience the system and interact with it?
Client interest and demand will drive some platforms to add immersive capabilities in 2010. I don’t expect a software download, however – it would serve platforms well to support the immersive experience within their existing framework (e.g. Flash, JavaFX, Silverlight).
Those are my 2010 predictions for virtual events. I’d love to hear your’s!
Thanks for using my photo! http://www.flickr.com/photos/sassycrafter/3014538864/
You’re welcome, Kim – thanks for making it available.
I believe that as the web moves more and more away from simply a data driven/publishing tool to one of shared experiences and simulated placemaking, we will see an even greater adoption and appreciation for virtual events and virtual experiences. This will to some degree evolve naturally as the technology evolves–such as the opportunities Google 03d and HTML5 will offer–might flash and Silverlight be something we see in the rear view mirror? possibly.
I also agree with you that the more virtual events can shift the 1:many attendee somewhat passive/absorption experience to one of active / immersion, the greater the resulting experiential experience, the greater impact on the attendee, the increase behavioral results (such as with Calls To Action), and thus– even more legitimacy in the enterprise followed by business-driven justifications.
I just recently saw of demo of some of the things your company InXpo is doing and it was not a far jump to link Augmented Reality to your capability. In one easy step, extending the experience for the attendee. Great stuff.
Executive Director, Digital Experience
George P. Johnson
Thanks, Kenny – I find augmented reality fascinating (in general) – and there are interesting possibilities tying it in to virtual events. In fact, augmented reality integration probably should have made the 2010 predictions list!
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Great post Dennis.
I agree that virtual events are going to become very commonplace tools within the next 12 to 18 months for many organizations but I think the ways in which they are used will shift somewhat.
I think we will see the emergence of virtual events as online communities / learning environments as more large and geographically disperse organizations see the value in this type of investment. It becomes a platform to build on and leverage within the organization. I think many of these new types of environments will also contain doorways into segmented areas for use by the company’s clients and/or prospective clients. These areas will incorporate gaming and other new/more interesting items to help them become more “fun” and to encourage more two-way participation because for many events I was part of/attended in 2009 the audiences were largely pretty passive. I’m not so sure that too many business people care as much about the wrapper as they do about what they can get from an event and I tend to still believe that content is all-important. If the event design changes that’s nice but I’m not so sure it’s a driver for attendance. I agree with you about the immersive environments but I don’t think they’re in a position for use by the mainstream audience quite yet (but will be very soon) and I think there are many companies where security will remain an issue for video conferencing integration although I think this is the one thing that will really help to drive interaction and adoption for this technology. I can’t help but think that one of the large tier 1 technology companies will either buy an existing platform or develop their own or some combination thereof because at this point, the cost for these is still too high for them to become mainstream. When this happens these will really become commoditized and more widely available and used. Overall Dennis I think you are pretty much right on the money.
VP Marketing, HR.com
Diane – all good points. With regard to the emergence of virtual events as online communities / learning environments (365 days/year rather than a set of live dates), I agree with you.
I see the Enterprise 2.0 space starting to blend together with virtual event technologies in 2010 and beyond. In fact, I believe that Enterprise 2.0 + virtual is where the corporate intranet is heading.
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