Event Planners “Check In” To Location Based Services

July 26, 2010


Due to the rising popularity of Foursquare, Gowalla and related apps, location based services (LBS) is quite the buzzword both in consumer and technology circles.  Logically, the ability to “check in” at venues, connect with friends/associates and make new contacts has relevance to events and event planners.

Let’s highlight some of last week’s articles and blog postings on this topic.

Trade Show News Network

Michelle Bruno (@michellebruno) wrote an article in Trade Show News Network (@TSNN_com_US) titled “Checking Out ‘Checking In’ for Events“.  The article references Foursquare and Gowalla and then profiles a technology provider named Double Dutch.  According to its web site, Double Dutch provides “White label geolocation apps for your brand”.

Michelle references a key point regarding hybrid events, in which event planners support both physical and virtual venues.  Michelle writes, “If a virtual event is also taking place, live attendees can check in at the online and offline events for more recognition”.

Tracking and supporting check-ins across physical and virtual locations can build a more cohesive and compelling hybrid event.  In fact, it can serve to bridge the physical and virtual venues.

Virtual event platforms should look into this.  In fact, I blogged about location based services and virtual events previously.

Cisco Live

In Cisco’s Virtual Environments blog, Dannette Veale (@dveale) writes about virtual technologies that Cisco has incorporated into their Cisco Live (@CiscoLive) annual conference.  The 2010 Cisco Live event concluded recently – the physical component was hosted in Las Vegas, while a virtual component ran concurrently.

Disclosure: My employer (@INXPO) provided the virtual platform for Cisco Live

Dannette describes an innovative use  of Foursquare by Cisco Live’s event planners – a type of scavenger hunt, in which conference attendees received a clue (via social media channels) about a check-in location.  The first 75 attendees to check in at that location (and complete an additional task) would receive buttons, which could be used to redeem a daily prize at the Cisco Store.

The contest generated 802 checkins and allowed conference attendees to network and make connections with one another.

SCVNGR (Mashable)

SCVNGR, “a game about doing challenges at places”, this week announced the social check-in.  Two or more users can bump phones (or, wave them at each other in close proximity) and check in at the same time and place.  There are many ways event planners can leverage this technology.

In a trade show, attendees could be encouraged to perform social check-ins with each other – or, with exhibitors.  In a user conference, the social check-in could be used as a back-drop to a game that encouraged attendees to network with one another.  In a corporate setting, social check-ins could be used to encourage team building.


The concepts of “check ins”, location awareness and location tracking have natural uses for events.  While they’re a great fit for physical events, think about tie-ins between physical and virtual for your hybrid event.  And, think about ways in which “location tracking” (in a virtual event) can create connections, engagement and interaction.

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Mid-Year Report Card: 2010 Virtual Events Predictions

June 9, 2010

At the end of 2009, I posted my 2010 predictions for the virtual events industry.  Now that we’re nearly half done with 2010 (can you believe that), I decided to provide a self-assessment for my predictions.

Overall, I’ve decided on a grade of “B” (I’m an easy grader) – which may improve based on the second half of the year.  Let’s review the individual predictions.

Video Integration (Grade: B)

I wrote:

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.

While video conferencing integration has not (yet!) been implemented on a wide scale, we witnessed the first occurrence of telepresence enablement in a virtual event.

The Sustainability Virtual Summit: Smart ICT was produced by G2 Events, “featuring telepresence enablement, allowing roundtable and panel discussions to be broadcast between panelists in remote locations worldwide (first in a virtual event)”.

I attended the event and viewed a number of telepresence-enabled sessions.  While impressive, it should be noted that my prediction was around “incorporation of multi-party, HD video conferencing”, whereas the Sustainability Virtual Summit event enabled telepresence via “simulive” playback of pre-recorded sessions.

Multi-party HD video conferencing over the public Internet is likely a few years away – instead, we’ll likely see multi-party (with virtual event integration) enabled in a corporate setting, with its tighter controls over available bandwidth – and, with the option to distribute the video conferencing streams via IP multicast.

Global Players (Grade: B)

I wrote:

I expect to see another European-based platform emerge in 2010, along with one or more in Asia Pac.

Gensee, based in China, provides a “Web Virtual Events Platform”.  The market for virtual events in China seems to be less developed than in the U.S. and Europe – as such, Gensee may be well positioned to capitalize on any uptick in adoption (in China), as their platform was built to serve a Chinese audience.

“China has more than 400 million internet users, with Flash based virtual games and social network services very popular, although with its own flavors and local providers”, notes Benjamin Chen, CEO of Gensee Technology.

Chen continues, “China has many economic centers and many enterprises have geographically dispersed customers and employees. I already see great demands to complement physical trade shows, expos, events and e-learning with virtual components”.

VisualMente is another European player in the virtual events space – they’re based on Spain and have done virtual event campaigns for BlackBerry, among others.

To be fair, both Gensee and VisualMente were around when my predictions were made, so I didn’t technically predict their emergence.  That being said, I do believe in the trend that more and more players will enter the space, with a growing number of vendors outside of the U.S.  The U.S. is the most developed market to date (relatively speaking) – which means that even larger opportunities lie abroad.

If you’re aware of additional virtual event players (outside of the U.S.), please leave information in the comments section below – thanks.

Source: Cisco Live and Networkers Virtual

Response Rates (Grade: A)

While I can’t provide insight for “relative response rates” on audience generation for virtual events in 2010, I did write the following:

Virtual event show hosts will need to consider the incorporation of gaming, the creation of affinity programs and more.

Cisco Live and Networkers Virtual is incorporating gaming into their upcoming event – Dannette Veale (Cisco) published a post regarding  objectives and considerations behind enabling gaming in that event.  I should disclose that I’m with INXPO, the virtual event platform that’s hosting this event – and we’re big believers in social gaming in virtual events.  So my prediction was a bit self serving.

I do believe in the effectiveness of gaming, especially in a virtual event or virtual business environment (e.g. for learning, retention, sponsor interaction, etc.) – as such, I expect to see an increasing amount of games (especially games with a social component) enabled in virtual events going forward.

Some vendors will integrate them into the core platform, while others will start by creating “one off” games that are loosely coupled with the underlying event platform.

Immersiveness (Grade: A)

In the U.S., the Virtual Edge Summit is the annual face-to-face event in the virtual events industry.  New this year was a “Business 3Di Track”, demonstrating the growing interest in immersiveness [see full program here].  I wrote:

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).

One of the exhibitors at Virtual Edge was Altadyn, who provides an offering called 3DXplorer – “the first ‘browser-based’ and ‘installation-free’ solution which enables a 3D interactive and fully immersive experience, accessible from any corporate or individual computer”.

In addition to Altadyn, one of the “pure play 2D event platforms” (at Virtual Edge) provided a demo of immersive capabilities they’ve incorporated into their platform.  I expect to see more experimentation and deployment in the second half of this year.

Consolidation (Grade: C)

I wrote:

We’ll see the merging or acquiring of virtual event platform companies.

Since neither of these has yet to come true in 2010, this grade really could be an “F” or an “Incomplete”.  I’m still holding firm on this prediction, however, as I do expect some M&A activity in the second half of the year.


The first half of 2010 sure has flown by – on the predictions front, I’m looking decent so far at the half-way mark.  I’m expecting an eventful second half (pun intended).  What are your expectations for the second half of this year in our industry?  Leave your thoughts below in the comments section.

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The Convergence Of Physical Events And Virtual Events

July 1, 2009


In May, SAP’s annual SAPPHIRE conference (SAPPHIRE 09) floored physically in Orlando, Florida, with a concurrent virtual event online.  This week, Cisco’s annual Cisco Live conference followed suit, with a physical event in San Francisco, California and a concurrent virtual event online.

Full disclosure: My company (InXpo) was the virtual event platform provider for both the SAPPHIRE and Cisco Live virtual events – and, I worked on the Cisco Live virtual event.

During a presentation at the Virtual Edge Summit in May, a presenter from SAP noted that considerations were made concerning the potential of cannibalization – whereby physical attendees may stay at home to attend virtually instead.  However, he noted that in reality, a combination of physical and virtual event extended the overall reach – and the virtual component served to augment the overall attendance count.  When combined (physical+virtual), this year’s attendee count for SAPPHIRE was the largest ever.

This week, I attended Cisco Live on-site, but spent most of my time online to support the virtual event.  However, in experiencing all the touch points of the event, it quickly occurred to me that the entire notion of physical vs. virtual is blurring – they’re coming together to form an aggregate attendee experience.

Some participants are not able to travel to the event’s venue – and as such, their only choice is to participate in a virtual component.  For those on-site, they can choose the attendee path that suits their preferences.  Perhaps that means attending the John Chambers keynote in person, grabbing a cup of coffee, visiting the World of Solutions (exhibit floor) and then returning to the hotel room to login to the virtual event, to follow up with a few exhibitors in their virtual booth.  Later, that same attendee may visit the customer apprecation event in Second Life, and then attend a tweetup at a nightclub (in person).  Here’s an image of my Second Life avatar at the Tuesday evening Second Life dance party:

The author's avatar with right hand raised

The author's avatar with right hand raised

To make this convergence really work, I believe the following should be done:

  1. Create a unique value proposition for each venue – virtual event, virtual world, physical event – do not simply re-purpose one into the other.  Dannette Veale explains it quite well in a Cisco Virtual Worlds blog entry, The Value of Virtual Events.
  2. Tie the venues together in a logical fashion – link the venues together where it makes sense.  Convergence should happen for a good reason – and not for the sake of convergence.
  3. Give the attendees freedom to choose – allow attendees to choose their own attendee path, without forcing them down any one direction.  Leave the hooks in place and each attendee will follow their own path.  Some physical event attendees may opt out of any convergence and focus 100% on the physical event.  Others may actively engage in the virtual event while on-site physically.  Either path is fine.
  4. Integrate social media across the spectrum – whether it’s Visible  Tweets displayed on a physical monitor or Facebook integration with the virtual event – integrating social media increases engagement within the attendee experience and also extends the reach of the event to networks of social networks.  Here’s an interesting example of user generated, social media at the physical event – a physical whiteboard that asked attendees to write about where they were in 1989:


In Cisco Live Virtual, elements of the physical event were streamed into the virtual event.  By doing so, virtual event attendees (who could not travel to San Francisco) were still able to get a taste of the physical event experience.  For instance, webcams were deployed throughout the physical event to stream in live feeds from the show floor – and to host personalized webcam chats with Cisco executives.  One of the webcams was pointed at this Solutions Theater – from which virtual event attendees had a continous live stream of presentations given throughout the day:


Here are some of the ways I experienced physical/virtual event convergence:

  1. Watching John Chambers’ keynote presentation online, via a Live Webcast streamed into the virtual event (by On24).
  2. Viewing a Cisco Live Second Life session (LIVE!) from a booth in the virtual event – the session was broadcast by treet.tv in Quicktime – so users needed the Quicktime player but not the Second Life client application.
  3. Watching a live (physical) demo of Telepresence, which was broadcast via a Live Video Webcast, which was carried within the virtual event (many layers of convergence there).
  4. Participating in live chat sessions that Cisco executives (Carlos Dominguez and Padmasree Warrior [separately]) attended via webcam.  Attendees typed their questions (via text) and the executives answered via webcam / audio.  The executives answered just about every question posed, so it felt like a personal meet and greet with the executives.
  5. Walking past the NetQoS physical booth – and noticing one of their demo workstations displaying their booth in the virtual event.  Quite a good idea – host visitors to your physical booth and remind them of your presence in the virtual event.  That prospect can’t return to your physical booth next week (when the event is over), but they sure can visit your booth in the virtual event [at any time] to find the needed information.
  6. Reading one user’s in-show blog, where he asked physical attendees to name the “one [physical] booth that should not be missed”.  This particular user was not able to attend physically – but, he may be able to visit the virtual booths of the vendors recommended by his peers.

Moving forward, I expect to see many more events follow this model – whereby physical events will leverage virtual event and virtual worlds technologies to accomplish the following:

  1. Deliver additional value to the physical event
  2. Extend the reach of the event to a global audience
  3. Blend physical and virtual components to create a more compelling experience
  4. Drive stronger event revenue and ROI!

I hope to see you at a future event – I haven’t decided whether I’ll be there physically, virtually or both.

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