RainToday.com Podcast: Accelerated Lead Generation via Virtual Events

November 30, 2010

Introduction

I was interviewed by Michelle Davidson, Editor at RAIN Group, on RainToday.com’s “Marketing & Selling Professional Services Podcast”.  Michelle and I talked about lead generation via virtual events – a process I call  “accelerated lead generation”.

About RainToday.com

RainToday.com “is the premier online source for insight, advice, and tools for growing professional services businesses. Marketers, rainmakers, and leaders in consulting, accounting, law, AEC, marketing, advertising and PR, training, financial, IT, and other professional services industries, turn to RainToday.com for research, tools, training programs, and recommendations to help them market and sell their services.”

Virtual Events Questions

The questions Michelle asked me:

  1. What is a typical virtual event?
  2. What’s the cost of a virtual trade show compared to a physical trade show?
  3. Do people worry about the lack of face-to-face interaction in a virtual event?
  4. What kind of success have B2B service professionals had with virtual events?
  5. You wrote on your blog that generating leads with virtual events is a process, not a discrete project – tell us about that?
  6. Is the use of virtual events growing?
  7. How does a company get started with virtual events?
  8. If people want to get more educated, do you have any resources to recommend?

You can find the podcast here:

http://www.raintoday.com/pages/6575_podcast_episode_96_accelerated_lead_generation_via_virtual_events.cfm

Additionally, you can directly download the MP3 here:

http://traffic.libsyn.com/raintoday/Shiao_Virtual_Events.mp3


2011 Predictions For Virtual Events

October 30, 2010

As we head into the final 2 months of 2010, it’s time for another round of predictions.  First, let’s review my 2010 predictions:

  1. The 2010 Predictions for Virtual Events
  2. The Mid-Year Report Card on the 2010 predictions
  3. A posting on the Future of Virtual Events

I assigned myself a mid-year grade of B.  And now, I’m designating a final grade of B-.  I hope to improve in this year’s predictions.  To assist with my predictions, I invited a few experts from the community to chime in, so I’ll be including their predictions with my own.

Market Expansion

To date, “market expansion” has meant a growing number of “pure play” virtual event platform providers.  In the US, we started with a handful of major vendors and we’ve seen new entrants into the market in 2009 and 2010.  We also saw the emergence of platforms outside the US, notably in Europe – and in 2009, in Asia Pacific as well.

For a large Requests For Proposal (RFP) in 2009 and 2010, the virtual event platforms knew whom they were competing against (each other).  Starting in 2011, it gets cloudier (pun intended), as the blending of virtual, social and Enterprise 2.0 means that a wider set of vendors are vying for the same business that virtual platforms got in 2010.

Consider the following vendors, each of whom has offerings that (in part) look, feel and smell like virtual events or virtual business communities:

Jive Software, Yammer, Pathable, Facebook Groups, Socialtext, SharePoint (Microsoft) and Lotus (IBM).

Virtual event platforms can expect to sell against some of these players in 2011 and some platforms may go the partnership route, to build a combined offering as a competitive advantage.

Service Level Agreements (SLA)

The virtual events industry is at a point in its growth where Service Level Agreements (SLA) make a lot of sense.  With a growing number of vendors, SLA’s help separate the contenders from the pretenders – if you’re offering money back (or a credit) if an event fails, then only the strong will survive.

I predict that one vendor will lead the way and proactively hit the market with an SLA – forcing others to follow suit later in 2011.  Expect SLA’s around availability and simultaneous users.

Later in 2011 (or perhaps in 2012), SLA’s will be defined around “quality”, such as response time.  This development helps the market – the assurance provided behind an event allows the market to expand, attracting new customer growth that exceeds 2010’s figures.

Market Upheaval

Market expansion and SLA’s mean the strong get stronger. But lesser platforms have a challenging year ahead. According to Cece Salomon-Lee, Principal at PR Meets Marketing, “some players will be bought by larger organizations, merging to bring together complimentary strengths or even some disappearing from the industry all together. No matter how, we will begin to see some consolidation within the industry.”

Meanwhile, Miguel Arias of IMASTE believes that US platforms will look abroad for acquisitions.  To “gain presence, customers and market knowledge” in Europe, Latin America and Asia, Arias believes US platforms will look to partner or acquire in-country platforms in those same regions.

In my mind, there is an enormous, (largely) untapped market within the US, which means that US-based platforms will continue to focus domestically in 2011.  Global expansion will occur in 2012 or beyond.  In addition, due to the “strong get stronger” phenomenon, I predict that one of the prominent US-based platforms will cease operations in 2011 – or, be sold at a below-market price.

Technology A La Carte


Today, virtual event platforms are “monolithic” – you enter an event and all of the functionality provided by the platform sits within that event.  You can’t experience the platform’s features outside of an “event”.  In my futures column, I predicted that virtual events “move closer to the end user”.

Driven by market demand, platforms will “break out” pieces of their technology platform in a la carte fashion. Customers who do not need a five course meal may opt just for an appetizer and coffee.  This may surface in a number of ways, including:

Thin desktop clients, mobile apps, browser toolbars, virtual booths embedded in banner ads, group chat embedded on a web page, etc.

Hybrid Innovation & The Year of the Hybrid

In 2009, some INXPO colleagues and I predicted that 2010 would be The Year of the Hybrid.  This was partially true – in fact, Cisco received the 2010 Grand Ex Award for their hybrid approach to Cisco Live and Networkers. However, the mass adoption of hybrid events (that we predicted) did not ring true.  But that’s OK, it’s always better to be a year early than a year late.

Event and experience marketing agencies have adopted virtual in varying degrees – 2011 is the year where they demonstrate the most aggressive push to date.  You’ll see strong adoption from the “big brands” in 2011 and it will come by way of these channel partners to the virtual event platforms.  2011 will set the foundation for growth – with “hockey stick growth” coming in 2012.

Another major adopter in 2011 will be associations. They’ve done a number of virtual events to date – in 2011, you’ll see 200%+ growth.  Local chapter meetings will continue to occur at physical locations, while the annual, national chapter meeting of the association will move to a hybrid event, with the virtual component serving those members who were not able to make it to the physical gathering.

More generally, 2011 will see innovative technologies that blend the virtual/online world with the real world.  And these same technologies will be integrated into hybrid event experiences, blurring the lines between physical and virtual.  I’m referring to location based services (LBS), mobile, augmented reality and QR codes.  Expect to see a lot of hybrid events innovation, which benefits everyone.

Miscellaneous Predictions

From Miguel Arias, “After some virtual events vendors, marketers and event organisers have shown in 2010 with successful case studies what are the benefits of virtual events we will see much more events and movements in Europe and South America specially.  I expect a 250-300% growth of the total market size in those regions.”

From Cece Salomon-Lee, “I believe the players that will remain on the landscape will begin building out an ecosystem of services to plug-and-play on the platforms.”

From Miguel on vendor specialization, “With more vendors in the space and more clients asking for more tailored solutions we will probably see a leader in the corporate events environment, a leader in the generic trade show market, other for hybrid events, for virtual career fairs, etc.”

Conclusion

I’ll sum up this piece by using a number of nouns to describe what I expect to see in 2011: innovation, shake-out, growth, change, adaptation, expansion, excitement.  Check back here in 6-8 months for my mid-year report card!


3 Virtual Worlds Technologies To Watch

September 26, 2010

On September 24th, FountainBlue held its annual virtual worlds conference.  This year’s event was hosted on Cisco’s campus in Milpitas, CA.

The event was attended by entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, investors and virtual worlds practitioners.  Several virtual worlds entrepreneurs spoke on the scheduled panel discussions and a few set up stations to demonstrate their technology.

I’d like to highlight 3 virtual worlds technologies that caught my attention.

RocketOn: A virtual world layer on top of the entire web

Presenting executive: Steve Hoffman, CEO

RocketOn takes my “Best in Show Award” for most innovative virtual worlds technology.  While Facebook and Twitter have propelled social networking to mainstream adoption, surfing the web is still a solitary experience.

While many web sites have added community features (e.g. membership, comments, Facebook social graph integration, etc.) – it’s still the case that when I browse my favorite content sites, I have no idea who else is reading the same page at the same time.

RocketOn seeks to change that.  Using a Flash layer placed on top of web pages via an i-frame, RocketOn users can create their own avatar and have them walk atop any web page.  They can then see other RocketOn users who may be visiting the same web page.

Perhaps you’re reading a movie review and happen to bump into a friend, who’s reading the same review.  You decide to visit a site that hosts a trailer for the movie, so you both navigate to the trailer site, watch it there and continue your chat.

A Foursquare for the entire web

One of the captivating features of Foursquare is the ability to see who else is at the same physical location as you.  RocketOn has built a similar feature for the entire web.  While the service is focused on a consumer audience initially, imagine how this technology could be used in a corporate setting.

Browsing your company’s intranet could become much more productive and engaging.  Now, water cooler conversations could occur online, as you bump into colleagues at the employee directory page (rather than the kitchen).

Additional Information

  1. The “About Us” page for RocketOn
  2. More details on the RocketOn platform
  3. Neat 2-minute video about the RocketOn service

Zenitum: Bringing virtual worlds into the real world

Presenting executive: Albert Kim, CEO

I admire technologies that flip conventional models upside down.  While we visit virtual worlds from the real world, Zenitum seeks to have virtual worlds elements visit us in the real world.  CEO Albert Kim receives the “Jetsettter Badge”, having attended the conference from Zenitum’s home base in Seoul, Korea.

When publicly released (later this year), Zenitum’s technology will be supported on iPhone, Android and Symbian.  Zenitum will provide their app and an SDK (software development kit) for free.  They are encouraging widespread adoption of their technology – consumers use their app and device manufacturers develop services using their SDK. Zenitum will monetize their service via advertising (“augmented advertising”, perhaps).

Our reality will forever be augmented

When you run the app, your smartphone scans your surroundings, attempting to recognize images.  If it finds a match, Zenitum overlays a 3D animated object on top (or around) the real world object.  For example, let’s say a comic book publisher is running a campaign and loads an image of a comic strip into the Zenitum platform.

The same image is on a billboard on a city street.  When I walk down that street with the app running (and my smartphone positioned properly), Zenitum detects the comic strip image.  It then inserts animated 3D objects (perhaps other characters from the comic strip) around the real world object.  As I move my phone left, right, up and down, the animated objects adjust their positions accordingly.

Possible use cases

Imagine the use of this technology at a museum – as you walk past a painting, its “virtual artist” could appear on your phone and speak to you about the inspiration behind the work.  At a trade show or conference, walking down an aisle could cause executives (virtually) to spring up and give you a brief pitch about their product.

Neat stuff – I hope we’re able to keep the distinction clear, though, on what’s real and what’s virtual!

Additional Information

  1. Zenitum’s “Company” page on their web site

Digitell: Bringing a global audience to your next meeting

Presenting executive: Jim Parker, President

Digitell uses the ActiveWorlds 3D platform to bring you hybrid meetings, virtual events, virtual communities and webcasts.  Jim Parker, Digitell’s President, notes that a common client of his service is associations, who want to extend the audience for their annual meetings.  Parker notes that the immersive experience of Digitell makes attendees “feel like they’re there” (at the physical event).

Parker’s clients who run these hybrid events often charge the same amount on virtual attendance as they do for the on-site event.  In this way, the common objection of cannibalization goes away, as the virtual component generates additional audience – and additional revenue for the meeting organizer.

Dispelling the notion that virtual worlds are for the younger generation, Parker notes that the average age of a Digitell user is 44 (wow!).  Users are so passionate about the experience that they often comment, “when’s the next event, I want to use my avatar!”.

Parker has created 3D replicas of museums, which allows students (across the globe) to visit and experience the museum’s works, without having to be “bused” to the physical building.  Imagine how easy it would be to have a virtual guide take students on a tour of the museum’s main works, any time of day, with students participating from all over the world.

Additional Information

  1. More info on Hybrid Meetings from Digitell

Conclusion

While the term “virtual worlds” has a negative connotation in the minds of many, it hasn’t stopped innovative entrepreneurs from developing new and exciting services.  It will be interesting to watch each of these technologies to review their adoption, growth and monetization.


Virtual Recap: Recent Postings On Virtual Events And Virtual Worlds

August 26, 2010

Virtual Events eBooks

  1. Virtual Events: Ready, Set, Go – download the eBook
  2. Social Media and Virtual Events – download the eBook

Across the Industry

  1. My guest post at PR Meets Marketing, “Go Virtual for your Next Press Event” – how virtual events can be an effective platform for PR and marketing simultaneously
  2. Ken Heyward (vcopious) with a guest post on this blog, “Flexible Platforms in a Virtual World,” which addresses considerations for SaaS vs. on-premise software for virtual events
  3. ROI for Virtual Events,” a posting I authored on the INXPO blog, with insights on virtual events ROI from thought leader Todd Hanson from ROI of Engagement

Virtual Worlds

  1. Stanford Media X Event – Virtual Worlds Entrepreneurs Show The Way
  2. Stanford Media X Event – Summary of IMVU Presentation from Brett Durrett, VP Engineering at IMVU
  3. FountainBlue Event – Annual Virtual Worlds Conference hosted by Cisco (Milpitas, CA)

Virtual Events Calendar

  1. There were a few virtual events in August as summer winded down – but look at what’s scheduled for September – events on luxury travel, natural products, publishing, higher education, autos, wireless technology, cruise shipping and eBooks.  Glad to see virtual events being leveraged across so many distinct industries

FountainBlue’s Virtual Worlds Annual Conference (2010)

August 11, 2010

On September 24th 2010, FountainBlue will hold its “Second Annual State of the Virtual Worlds Industry Event” on Cisco’s campus in Milpitas, CA (USA).  The title of the event is:

Virtual Worlds: Where We Were, Where We’re Going, What Does It Mean to YOU?

Register to Attend

The conference will host three panels of virtual worlds experts and thought leaders – one on industry trends facilitate by Jeff Pope (Founding Partner, Spark Sky Ventures), another featuring industry entrepreneurs and facilitated by Nina Gerwin (Founder, The NRG Group) and one that I’m facilitating on corporate use of virtual worlds.

Linda Holroyd, Founder and CEO of FountainBlue answered a few questions about FountainBlue and this virtual worlds event:

Q: Tell us about FountainBlue.

A: FountainBlue stimulates collaborative innovation one conversation, one leader, one organization at a time, through our monthly events, our dynamic communities, and our strategic and business development consulting services for early stage clean energy, high tech and life science entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and beyond.

Q: Who should attend this conference?

A: This conference is for virtual worlds and other high tech entrepreneurs involved in or interested in this hot space, for intrapreneurs involved with virtual worlds solutions building brand and serving customers, and investors interested in investing in this space.

Q: Why should they attend?

A: FountainBlue events are known both for the quality of the speakers and program, but also for the value of the quality, win-win, long-term connections created. Both are highly valued in creating an entrepreneurial community in this exciting area.

Q: On virtual worlds and “where we’re going”, what is your opinion?

A: The opportunities in virtual worlds brings together the best of enterprise solutions which automate business process to better serve customers at all levels, the best of social media and its capacity to expand audiences virally leveraging technology, and the best of gaming with its fanatical appeal to extremely loyal customers. It is a hot Web 3.0 opportunity, which takes the technology, community, and monetizing potential of Web 2.0 to the next level.

Q: Tell us about other upcoming events from FountainBlue?

A: FountainBlue produces monthly events for clean energy and life science entrepreneurs as well as a Tech2Green series for executives transitioning into the clean energy industry and a When She Speaks Women in Leadership series, supporting women entrepreneurs and leaders. We run annual events for the high tech entrepreneurs in our community, which includes an annual freemium-to-premium event, an annual M&A event, an annual data analytics event, as well as an annual virtual worlds conference – this one, which we are conducting for the second consecutive year. We facilitate the cross-over between communities in support of entrepreneurial ventures.

Q: How do you support early stage entrepreneurs beyond connecting them through regular events?

A: FountainBlue supports entrepreneurs through one-on-one strategic and business development consulting for early stage clean energy, high tech (including virtual worlds) and life science entrepreneurs. We help our founders develop and refine business models and strategies and work with founders to build momentum with initial customers and strategic partnerships.

FountainBlue’s Virtual Worlds Annual Conference

Topic: Virtual Worlds: Where We Were, Where We’re Going, What Does It Mean to YOU?
Date & time: Friday, September 24, 2010, from 8:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m PT
Location: Cisco, Great Dane Conference Room at MCCARTHY RANCH 3 (SJCMR3), 155 North McCarthy Blvd., Milpitas, CA
Cost: Register by September 22 at noon: $42 members, $52 partners, $62 general
Late and On-Site Registration: $62 for members, $32 for non-members
Registration: http://www.svvirtualworlds.com by 9/22 at noon
Audience: Entrepreneurs, Intrapreneurs and Investors only. No service providers please.

Description
FountainBlue’s Second Annual State of the Virtual Worlds Industry conference updates entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and investors on the successes, challenges and trends of the industry overall, and showcases corporate and entrepreneurial virtual world demos. Beginning with a panel sharing the growth of the industry from the legal, venture, research and corporate perspectives, the program will next highlight how leading corporations are leveraging virtual worlds solutions to better serve their constituents, and culminating in showcasing early stage, funding-bound virtual worlds entrepreneurs with a range of solutions pushing the technology and business envelope.

Agenda

8:30 Registration and Networking

9:00 Welcomes and Thank Yous

9:15 Trends in the Virtual Worlds Industry: An Update on What’s New and What’s Coming

Facilitator Jeff Pope, Founding Partner, Spark Sky Ventures
Tim Chang, Principal, Norwest Ventures
David Helgason, CEO and Co-Founder, Unity
Chris Platz, Creative Director and Art Lead, Stanford Sirikata Labs
Eilif Trondsen, Research and Program Director of the Virtual Worlds @ Work Consortium at Strategic Business Insights
Mark Wallace, Conversation Manager, Linden Lab

10:20  Morning Break

10:35 Corporate Panel: Serving Customers, Building Communities, Training Users

Facilitator Dennis Shiao, Director of Product Marketing, INXPO
Mic Bowman, Intel
Dannette Veale, Global Virtual Event Strategist, Cisco, Lead, Virtual Component, Cisco Live
Another Corporate Presenter to be confirmed

11:40   Lunch and Networking

12:30   Entrepreneur Panel: The Tools, The Goods, The Immersion Experience

Facilitator Nina Gerwin, The NRG Group
Michael Gold, CEO, Electrotank:
Steve Hoffman, CEO, Rocketon: virtual world for tweeners
Albert Kim, CEO, Zenitum: Augmented reality with 3D displays
Jim Parker, CEO, Digitell: SaaS 3D immersive virtual events and virtual training
Reuben Steiger, Founder and Chairman, Virtual Greats

1:30 Adjourn and Further Networking and Corporate Exhibits and Entrepreneur Showcases open until 2:00

For more information and to register, visit http://www.svvirtualworlds.com.

Thank You to Our Sponsors:
We are grateful to our sponsors at Cisco for their ongoing sponsorship of FountainBlue’s annual virtual world’s conference.

(Technorati code: 2KFW26VPVNTT)

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Event Planners “Check In” To Location Based Services

July 26, 2010

Introduction

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.

Conclusion

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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What I’ve Been Tweeting (Edition 1.0)

June 25, 2010

Because tweets are temporal, while blog postings are permalinked…

Selected musings and sharings, all done in 140 characters or less – for a full subscription (at absolutely no cost), follow me at @dshiao.

What I’ve Been Tweeting

Virtual Events

  1. #Telepresence In #Virtual Events With @G2Events: http://bit.ly/bcALWq #eventprofs
  2. Lots of #virtual events this month – see calendar: http://bit.ly/6IYdC5 | just added CSCO Summit & Retail Marketing events
  3. @VirtualEdge highlights @CiscoLive 2010, with thoughts from @dveale: http://bit.ly/bSjeJw
  4. Let’s collaborate on the evolution of #virtual events – info: http://bit.ly/brNUGE & wiki: http://bit.ly/9AF7JU #eventprofs
  5. 5 Tips For A Successful Virtual Trade Show by @funnelholic: http://bit.ly/ciApcx
  6. Maximizing the #ROI of #Virtual Trade Shows – Tips from the Trenches: http://bit.ly/9nBATP (by @ellehwoulfe) #eventprofs
  7. A @Focus discussion on #virtual events & what works: http://bit.ly/drin3W (via @funnelholic) #eventprofs
  8. Making Virtual Event Connections”: @dveale on Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn integration into @CiscoLive Virtual: http://bit.ly/ao0Ibm

Social Media

  1. #socialmedia will shift from specialized machinery in hands of few to Swiss Army knife in hands of many (my take from #ragancisco)
  2. Just noticed: @Yelp now has “Follow This Reviewer”, a “Compliment” button on each review and a type of badge (“Elite ’10”)
  3. Expect @Groupon to ramp up on social: “Most people who use Groupon don’t realize it’s a group purchasing site” (said CEO in @NYTimes)
  4. RT @samueljsmith: Free Report: #SocialMedia in the New Event World http://ow.ly/1YOg4 #eventprofs #mpi RT @ericlukazewski
  5. YouTube Gets a Cloud-Based Video Editor: http://bit.ly/9z3BFS (from @RWW – good stuff, @YouTube)
  6. Fabulous: Inside @Gatorade’s Social Media Command Center from @Mashable: http://bit.ly/9Ma4d8
  7. “8 Interesting Media Offerings on LinkedIn”: http://www.clickz.com/3640716 (by @HarryJGold) – @LinkedIn has a white paper program

Cloudforce 2010

  1. Salesforce doing demo of Chatter app for iPad – planning to release later this year #Cloudforce #Cloud2
  2. Dell is on stage doing demo of Chatter running on the new Dell Streak (Android tablet) – 5 inch form factor #Cloudforce
  3. Neat things from #Cloudforce keynote: #Chatter demo on web, iPad; Jigsaw integration; Service Cloud 2 demo
  4. My learning from #Cloudforce: the cloud can move business “chatter” from a backchannel to an always-on channel
  5. Salesforce using 40-50 percent less email since they enabled #Chatter internally #Cloudforce
  6. #Chatter used to collaborate and share docs within a business – who’s thankful? The Exchange Administrator

Product Ideas

  1. Idea to promote businesses: design floor tiles with embedded QR codes – some patterns I see already look like them 😉
  2. Product idea: Twitter Funnel Server. Why? Because without one, companies would feel like they’re drinking from a firehose

General

  1. How iPhone 4 Could Change Augmented Reality: http://bit.ly/cbgxw8 (via @RWW) #AR
  2. RT @ojchiang: Watch The World Cup Through Your Video Game Console « Velocity – Forbes.com http://bit.ly/diu67X #worldcup
  3. A click is like a first date – it may be your only chance to make a first impression (via @ClickZ article)
  4. New term for startups who do not invest capital wisely: they operate at “broke-even” 😉
  5. Over breakfast, my first grader was talking about bloggers. Asked her to define “blogger” – her answer, “someone who blocks the road”

Telepresence In Virtual Events With G2Events

June 15, 2010

In the mid-year report card on my 2010 virtual event predictions, I wrote about the first telepresence-enabled virtual event – the “Sustainability Virtual Summit: Smart ICT”, produced by G2Events.  Subsequent to my posting, I heard from Bruno Castejon, Senior Vice President and Co-Founder of G2Events.

“G2Events is the first Virtual event management services firm to truly integrate Telepresence”, notes Castejon. “We captured the Telepresence feed (high definition video and audio) straight out of the Telepresence racks and rendered the true Telepresence experience over IP in our virtual event platform.  It provided the Virtual Conference attendees a truly immersive experience, as if they were sitting in a Telepresence suite”.

Sustainability Virtual Summits

“Sustainability Virtual Summit: Smart ICT” had 8 sessions (out of a total of 35) that included Telepresence enablement.  Five of the eight sessions were round-table discussions with panelists participating from different geographic locations. G2Events is looking at physical events as well, where Telepresence can serve to bridge on-site and remote participants.

According to G2Events, there is a science behind the technology and process for bringing Telepresence into physical events, especially when one factors in cost and scalability considerations.  “G2events believes Telepresence is one of the most promising technologies to bridge the physical and virtual event worlds and optimize the value of a true hybrid model”, said Castejon.

TelepresenceWorld 2011

Hemisphere, the parent company of G2Events, and NAB recently announced a partnership to launch “TelepresenceWorld 2011” at the 2011 NAB Show (April 9-14, 2011).  Telepresence World 2011 will be a hybrid event, combining an on-site conference with a concurrent virtual event, “TelepresenceWorld 2011 Virtual Live!”.

Notes Castejon, “This will really be a showcase hybrid event demonstrating how Telepresence, in addition of being a very powerful collaboration solution, is also an impactful channel to efficiently reach out to large audiences for marketing purposes”.

Telepresence and Virtual Events

At Sustainability Virtual Summits, Telepresence-enabled panels had increased attendee satisfaction – delegates were most engaged with that format.  Castejon notes that the viewing “completion rate” for the Telepresence-enabled panels was by far the highest of all content broadcast during the show.  “They constituted the very reason why the average time at the event was over 2 hours and 50 minutes per attendee”, notes Castejon.

Bruno contributes two of his own predictions for 2010:

  1. Before 2010 is over, the technology integration will be mature enough to bring Telepresence Live into Virtual Event platforms.
  2. Before 2010 is over, the Virtual event platform leaders will release “full screen” capabilities for video content.  This will take the delegate experience even higher and make Telepresence-enabled panels even more enjoyable.

Hosted Telepresence

Think of it as “Telepresence as a Service” – you receive the benefits of Telepresence without the capital investment and hardware support.  “You can now show up at a public Telepresence facility (e.g. Cisco, Marriott, Taj, Starwood) nearby and rent both the room and infrastructure at a cost of $300 or lower”, notes Castejon.  The “Telepresence footprint” (both private and public) is reaching critical mass.  Castejon adds, “The number of rooms is now such that it provides proximity with most, if not all the main business hubs in the world”.

Telepresence Interoperability Protocol (TIP)

At the InfoComm conference last week, Cisco announced “interoperability between Cisco and Tandberg TelePresence systems, and with other third-party systems, by integrating the Telepresence Interoperability Protocol (TIP) on Cisco’s newly acquired Tandberg TelePresence Server”. Castejon says this “is a BIG deal”, since it allows one vendor’s system to interoperate with another’s (e.g. in theory, a session betweeen Cisco Telepresence and HP Halo systems).

While TIP does define interoperability at a protocol level, Castejon notes that telcos will need to follow suit on carrier interoperability.  “Existing private and public Telepresence deployments are on private networks. As of today, I do not believe these carriers have found a way to manage Telepresence roaming. If two parties use different carriers (e.g. one AT&T and the other BT), they still might not be able to communicate”, notes Castejon.

Conclusion

Telepresence is a technology to watch – it can facilitate a “virtual meeting” or “virtual event” on its own.  Combined with a virtual event, however, it can significantly expand its audience reach and power.  If you plan to integrate Telepresence into your virtual events, leave a comment below and let us know of your plans.

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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.

Conclusion

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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2009 Year In Review: Virtual Events

December 24, 2009

2009 was a landmark year for the virtual events industry – early adopters expanded their virtual event initiatives and leveraged the technology in innovative ways.  Many industries (and associated corporations) entered the mix, producing their first ever virtual event in 2009.  Despite the economy (or perhaps aided by the downturn), virtual event platform providers enjoyed healthy growth in client demand, event volume and revenue.  The platform market expanded beyond the U.S., with the emergence of new platforms in Europe and New Zealand.  We even had the industry’s first ever face-to-face event, the Virtual Edge Summit (U.S. – Santa Clara, CA).

To get a better sense of how 2009 unfolded, I reviewed the past 12 months of postings on this blog and sought to categorize the trends and patterns.

Source: flickr (User: Linzi's Cakes)

Assorted Shapes and Sizes

In the early days, the industry was all about virtual tradeshows.  During 2007-2008, new event types were spawned – and in 2009, we saw many more instances of non-tradeshow events: virtual job fairs, virtual sales meetings, virtual partner summits.  In addition, we saw innovative concepts applied in hybrid events – where event planners staged concurrent physical and virtual events.  I wrote about learnings and observations from Cisco Live and Networkers Virtual, in which virtual and physical blended together.  In 2010, I expect to see many more hybrid events, with event planners leveraging creative ways to tie virtual together with physical.  In fact, I believe 2010 will be The Year of The Hybrid Event.

In addition to the assorted event types – we’re starting to see the use of virtual event technology to support ongoing business communities.  The community concept makes a lot of sense in conjunction with physical or virtual events – instead of “going dark” between live event dates, event planners can leverage the “platform” to keep the community interaction and dialog going – where the events serve as “momentum points” to drive continued activity within the online business community.  I brainstormed about tactics that could be applied to sustain virtual business community loyalty.

Social Media and Twitter

With all due respect to Facebook and other services, I believe 2009 was The Year of Twitter.  There are many ways in which Twitter can be leveraged for virtual events – here are a few ideas that I blogged about:

  1. Leverage Twitter for Virtual Tradeshow Outreach
  2. How to Promote Your Virtual Event on Twitter
  3. Leverage Twitter Lists for your Physical or Virtual Event

Virtual event platforms have integrated with Twitter and other social networks – in 2010, I see the breadth and depth of integration expanding.  The expansion will be fueled both by interest (from the virtual event platforms and from clients) as well as richer interfaces (APIs) from the social network sites.  For instance, LinkedIn recently announced an open API for their platform.

In parallel to virtual events, 2009 was a watershed year for social gaming (e.g. Zynga, Playdom and other sites).  In 2010, we’ll see virtual event platforms leverage gaming for a mix of fun and business use.  I wrote about the reasons that virtual events should incorporate gaming.  Lastly, I believe the tried and true webinar needs to become more social – webinars need to encourage and support more participation from the audience.

The market extends beyond the U.S.

In 2009, virtual events platform vendors emerged globally – in order of appearance in this blog:

  1. ExpoNZ – New Zealand
  2. IMASTE – Spain
  3. Ubivent – Germany

I expect to see a few more virtual event platforms emerge in Europe in 2010 – Asia Pac is sure to see local entrants as well.

Virtual Event Best Practices

I wrote a lot about virtual event best practices in the past 12 months. Here’s a selection of the more popular postings:

  1. Virtual Event Best Practices
  2. How to Market your Virtual Event
  3. Best Practices for Virtual Tradeshow Exhibitors
  4. Lead Follow-Up for Virtual Events
  5. Assemble the Right Team for your Virtual Event
  6. Increase Your Virtual Event ROI
  7. Think Outside the Inbox for Virtual Event Promotion
  8. How to Run a Virtual Event Command Center

Happy Holidays to all.  2009 was a great year for virtual events.  And I have news for you – 2010 will be even better!


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