Virtual Event Evolution

June 28, 2010

In a prior blog posting, I promoted a wiki that I created that allows us to collaborate on the evolution of virtual event platforms.  The wiki received some very thoughtful contributions.

Miguel Arias (IMASTE) added several insights via the wiki. In the paragraph “Make it easier to experience” he writes:

Along with a simplification of interfaces and the use of usability and navigation conventions, many customers and users seem to be demanding more immersive environments. While presenting a brand and hosting an interactive experience in a convention centre, it seems an interesting field to add some real-time rendered environments using engines like papervision3D or Unity3D. This said, it is unlikely that avatar based real time rendered environments will make it a a mainstream audience. Mainly considering plugin or applets downloads, system performance and learning curve barriers.

In the paragraph “Make it easier to experience” he writes:

The most relevant virtual event platforms will introduce or already have Facebook connect and twitter connect, and they will need to move to even wider standards like OpenID. On the other hand, deskopt or mobile widgets to control your stand usage, statistics and reporting will be a must. Lastly, the platforms will have extense APIs to manage their integration with various social networks, corporate databases, physical event managing software, etc.

Miguel then added a new paragraph:

Make the platform more adaptable for different customer needs and different usage

There are so many different kind of virtual events: trade shows, conferences, job fairs, corporate events, webinars, congresses… that vendors should decide in which market niche they are going to play. We will see generic platforms and other vendors delivering a tailored solution for one or many of the previous choices. It will become more and more complex to provide physical event managers with the features they need to handle their hybrid events at the same time as the platform is able to cope with the extensive data handling of the virtual job fair, or the networking tools of a professional tradeshow.

Steve Gogolak  (Cramer) also added several insights via the wiki. In the paragraph “Make it easier to access” he writes:

For public events, ease of registration is a must. Using open methods for registering and/or connecting social networks have three-fold benefits:

  1. Registration is faster because basic information can be provided by services like LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. Shorter registration forms increase completion, period.
  2. Intelligence gathered by the platform about the user’s existing social graph can enhance the experience within the event by automatically creating connections with other attendees based on that user’s connection outside the platform. This will lead to more networking and awareness of actual people within the environment.
  3. Users opting into connections at the point of registration allows platforms to create publishable actions that can be spit out to twitter and facebook news feeds that can increase viral awareness of the event. Marketing automation at its best.

In the paragraph “Make the experience available on more devices” he writes:

One of the key areas where mobile can play a huge role is the “reminder” needs that come from tons of scheduled activities within virtual events. If attendees have the ability to build out a personalized agenda before the event and opt-in to either SMS reminders or download some kind of app that will push notifications at them throughout the day, it would be much easier to create a flexible agenda. Currently we’re cramming so much into the shortest amount of time because we’re afraid of losing people. If only we had better planning and reminding tools, driven by devices that never leave our pocket!

In the paragraph “Make the platform more adaptable for different customer needs and different usage” that Miguel created, Steve writes:

Take a hint from Apple’s “face time”. Video chat will, without a doubt, increase the effectiveness of networking. It is the one key element that can be introduced that will get critics to come around to the idea that networking in an online environment can be as effective as the cocktail hour of a physical event.

To view the fruits of our collaboration, you can read the wiki page here:

http://allvirtual.pbworks.com/How-Vendors-Should-Evolve-Their-Virtual-Event-Platforms

By default, you’ll be taken to the “VIEW” tab – to contribute, click on the “EDIT” tab. We’d love to hear (read) your thoughts!

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What Virtual Events Can Learn From Twitter

October 13, 2009

Virtual Events - Twitter

Virtual Events - Twitter

In 2009, Twitter has taken the world by storm – in fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Time magazine named Twitter their Person of the Year.  In my opinion, Twitter’s success hinges on its simplicity, celebrity (use by celebrities, that is) and portability (users stay connected to the service from nearly anywhere).

While virtual events have been around for a few years – they too took the world by storm in 2009 – mostly, the business-to-business world.  As we look forward into 2010, here’s what virtual events can learn from Twitter:

  1. 140 characters or less – I often find it a challenge to condense my thought into 140 characters – the usual trick is to lean on acronyms (or abridged versions of words) to get under the limit.  The better approach is to be more efficient, using less words to make the same point.  While I still get frustrated at times (having to distill my thought down to 140 characters) – other times, I find that my message comes across clearer and more elegant in the shorter form.  In virutal events, a lot of chatter (e.g. group chat in the Lounge) is long-winded.  It would be interesting to participate in a group chat in which each chat message was limited to 140 characters.  I get the feeling that the chat would be much more enjoyable and productive.
  2. Application Programming Interface (API) – Twitter was recently valued at $1B – it couldn’t have possibly reached that valuation without it’s excellent API and the rich ecosystem that’s been created by developers and start-ups.  The API has made possible desktop clients such as Tweetdeck and Seesmic Desktop, along with numerous third party services, such as Tweetbeep, Twimailer and many more.  Virtual event platform providers should look to “open up” their platform via API’s – allowing show hosts and exhibitors to tap into underlying registration data; customize the look and feel of their events; and develop functional mini-apps that ride on top of the platform.  As Twitter discovered, opening up the platform creates a “wealth” of opportunity.
  3. Mobile support – Twitter’s API allow for applications like TwitterBerry (for BlackBerry) and Tweetie (for iPhone).  Users are increasingly on the go these days – whereby less and less interaction with the web occurs from their desk and keyboard.  Virtual event platforms that can extend their reach to smartphones will stand to benefit greatly – adoption will increase, as will average session time and overall session counts.  Twitter also integrates with the Short Messaging Service (SMS) – making access nearly universal (e.g. from non-smartphone cell phones).  Perhaps there are capabilities in a virtual event that can also be triggered via “commands” transmitted via SMS.
  4. Connecting with others – Twitter’s growth in 2009 has resulted from (a) needing to connect with your friends, family and colleagues who are already on the service and (b) a desire to “follow” celebrities or sports figures.  In business-to-business virtual events, you won’t have this same sort of dynamic (wanting to follow others) – however, the platforms can do a better job of finding and recommending folks you should be following or connected to.  For instance, a CIO at a small-and-medium sized business (SMB) may want to know that a CIO from another SMB company is also in attendance.
  5. Self service / self starter – Many companies are now active on Twitter, to provide customer outreach, customer service, outbound marketing and even e-commerce sales.  Other than learning the basics of social media and Twitter etiquette, the process to get started with Twitter is very straightforward.  Virtual event platform providers ought to provide a means for curious/inquisitive users to set themselves up with a test event – some day, configuring your virtual event (a basic one, at least) should be analogous to creating a new blog in WordPress.

And there you have it – adopt these five principles and your virtual event platform may some day be worth $1B as well!


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