Definitions, definitions. Terms can be best explained by breaking them down into their component parts.
“Virtual event” – let’s cover the second part first, the “event”. An “event” can mean many things to many people; however, I like the following definition from Dictionary.com:
An event is “something that occurs in a certain place during a particular interval of time”. With a virtual event, the same definition applies – however, the “certain place” happens to be “online” or “on the web”. For “virtual event”, the Dictionary.com definition could be re-worded to:
something that occurs in a certain web destination during a particular interval of time
Of course, like any loosely worded definition, many “things” fit this description, which you and I typically would not consider a virtual event (e.g. a multi-party instant messenger chat qualifies, but isn’t typically considered a virtual event). In my mind, a virtual event is
a web and occasion-based gathering that facilitates information sharing, collaboration and interaction.
To date, the look and feel of virtual events have been modeled after a physical counterpart (e.g. a trade show, user conference, sales meeting or job fair). As the industry evolves, the experience will evolve as well – and unique, web-based experiences will emerge. For instance, expect to see virtual trade shows that look and feel nothing like their physical counterpart (hence the power of the web).
There are no “bare minimum requirements” for a virtual event (e.g. Auditorium, Exhibit Hall, Networking Lounge, Booth) – an experience with no Auditorium and no booths can still qualify. Virtual events come in many flavors – with many more on the way. There are a variety of use cases and objectives that can be achieved virtually.
Virtual events are known for the following benefits:
- Green technology that minimizes carbon emissions
- Supports a global audience
- Convenience – participate from your home, office, beach
- Ongoing showcase – the event is not required to be “torn down” at the conclusion of the live date(s)
- Granular engagement tracking – activity is recorded an deep engagement profiles generated
While virtual events occur on the web without a physical (face-to-face) component, some event planners are creating hybrid event experiences, whereby a face-to-face event is combined with a virtual component. The virtual component can occur before, during or after the face-to-face event – when done concurrent to the physical event, interesting opportunities arise for blending the physical and virtual experiences.
While events occur “during a particular interval of time”, some virtual event planners are creating 365 day/year virtual communities, which have a focus around periodic “events”. So rather than create a virtual event that’s live for a single day, event planners create an evergreen (and virtual) business community that sees consistent activity throughout the year, with spikes of activity during scheduled days of “live event activity”.
Virtual events are here to stay – the broad definition of a virtual event will hold – however, more specific definitions will morph over time, as the industry and experience grow and evolve. Tomorrow’s virtual events may look (and feel) nothing like today’s.
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