Why Every Virtual Event Needs a Community Manager (by @LaurenEHarper) #cmgr

December 5, 2011

The following is a guest post by Lauren Harper.


One of the main goals for every community manager is to help build and facilitate engagement. Virtual events are no different. There are many reasons for companies to host a virtual event. Whether trying to promote a product or service, generate leads, or simply showcasing thought leadership, virtual events prove to be an important strategy for businesses of all kinds.

It is important to have goals outlined ahead of time for each virtual event, and having a community manager on your virtual event can only help to attain those goals. Virtual events need community managers to generate excitement, facilitate engagement, grow the community, employ any and all social business initiatives and strengthen overall brand recognition.

The following are some important areas to focus on:


Regardless of the reasons for hosting a virtual event, one of the main goals should always be to connect with all attendees. Community managers can help pave that path of collaboration by reaching out to attendees one-on-one.

They can also take charge of all social activity surrounding an event in order to help achieve goals of engagement and knowledge sharing before, during, and after the event. Depending upon what kind of platform is being used, community managers can also help inspire conversation among attendees by asking questions and replying to comments. Similarly, community managers can help direct people back to the actual company website to ask questions, or download relevant research.

Even if the goal isn’t to have the attendees interact with each other, it is still important that they engage with the topic, speaker, and the company as a whole, and community managers can help facilitate that. Also, having a community manager present offers a great chance to have a “face” for the company and help humanize the brand.

Platform Assistance

Virtual events have grown exponentially in popularity over the last few years. Due to the overwhelming demand for them, many event platform vendors have emerged. It’s important to have a community manager present to help visitors not only figure out how to log on, dial in, or sign in to the event, but to also help with any other difficulties that attendees may have.

By having the community manager troubleshoot simple issues, the event producers are able to focus on ensuring that the speakers have everything they need, and to sort out any technical issues they may have.

Collect Feedback

Allowing the community manager to engage with attendees creates an easy way to collect feedback that can be disseminated to the speakers and host company, post-event. Customer feedback is an essential element to a company’s success.

Having an actual human listen in to your community’s feedback and take note of any new or inventive ideas helps to make virtual events a more enjoyable experience for the participant. This will ultimately lead to better attendance rates for future events. It also helps the audience feel as though it is are being listened to and valued, again, leading to a better overall experience for the broader community.


Community managers are also a great source of free promotion for your events. Virtual events present a great opportunity for them to promote any other upcoming live or virtual event that the company is hosting. They presumably know the community better than anyone and would know how best to promote an event to reach the target audience. Better yet, they could reach out to people individually and invite them to attend the event.

Community managers can help combine virtual events with their company’s social business initiatives by leveraging all the social media sites the company has a presence on. Posting to social media networks during events in real time can help to reach a broader audience, and boost brand recognition.

Distributing content from the event, e.g.: tweets with quotes, slide URLs, etc., will attract a lot of attention from the social sphere. Companies may find that people will join in mid-event to hear what the speakers have to say.


No matter what type of virtual event you host, there is a real need for a community manager. Community managers are invaluable for event promotion, feedback collection, user experience and audience engagement initiatives.

They also help to retain a consistent audience as companies continue to host events. Virtual events are a great tool to showcase a company’s vibrant community, which inevitably is the thing that will keep people coming back.

About The Author

Lauren Harper is the Sales and Marketing Community Manager at Focus.com. Follow Lauren on Twitter at @LaurenEHarper.

Let’s Collaborate On: Virtual Events Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

July 14, 2010

I’m inviting the community to engage in a PBworks wiki – the idea is to maintain a living FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) document on virtual events.

Ask any question you like – if it’s appropriate and relevant, the virtual events community will answer it.  If the question is not relevant or inappropriate, one of us is likely to delete it.

You can find the wiki here:


How can you participate?  Let me count the ways:

  1. Ask a new question!
  2. Edit existing content
  3. Add new questions to the FAQ
  4. Add new “topical categories” to the FAQ
  5. Answer questions that have not yet been answered

Below, I’ve listed the initial “skeleton” of the FAQ.  Please view the wiki and participate!


  1. What is a virtual event?
  2. What are the different types of virtual events?
  3. What are the benefits of virtual events?
  4. Why are virtual events popular?
  5. What’s the difference between a virtual event and a virtual world, such as Second Life?


  1. What are the technical requirements (prerequisites) for attending a virtual event?
  2. What technology serves as the foundation of virtual event platforms?
  3. Can virtual events incorporate live video streams?
  4. What third party technologies do virtual event platforms integrate with (e.g. CRM, ERP, etc.)?

Technology Providers

  1. What companies provide virtual event platforms?
  2. What companies provide complementary technologies to virtual event platforms?
  3. Are there any independent analyst reports on the virtual event platform providers?
  4. What criteria should I use to evaluate virtual event platforms?
  5. Are there any independent measurement providers (e.g. like a Keynote for virtual event platforms)?


  1. Where do I go to get more information on virtual events?
  2. Are there any online communities around virtual events?
  3. Are there any good introductory White Papers on virtual events?
  4. How do I experience a sample virtual event?

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How 3D Virtual Worlds Can Be More Like Twitter And Facebook

February 8, 2010

3D Virtual Worlds Diagram

Facebook and Twitter have taught us that people of all ages love to utilize the web for self-expression, connecting and staying in touch.  3D virtual worlds have similar characteristics: the ability for self-expression via customized avatars and the creation of your own ‘island’; the ability to connect with friends (or meet people you’d never get a chance to meet in the real world); and the ability to be part of a vibrant community.

In addition, 3D virtual worlds offer a fully immersive environment, that allows you to escape from the real world – and, experience virtual representations of real-world locations. For virtual worlds experiencing declining usage, however, “community” becomes a challenge to maintain (i.e. imagine using Facebook when none of your friends or family are using it).

Mark Kingdon (in-world: “M Linden“), the CEO of Linden Lab, laid out his vision of Second Life’s evolution, tying it in with the recent acquisition of Avatars United.

M. Linden on Community:

“When we talk to the users who sign up but then decide not to stay, they say they left, in part, because they had a hard time finding people to hang out with. Either their friends weren’t there, or they have a hard time meeting new ones inworld, or sometimes both.  We need to fix this.”

M. Linden on Social Sharing:

“Another part of the “social glue” of any community is the concept of sharing.  Inworld, it’s easy to share and we’ll make it even easier.  But sharing between Second Life and the larger social Web is not as easy.  As an avid photographer (well, aspiring to be avid), I’d love to be able to easily share my snapshots from Second Life with my friends on other Web services, and be able to watch a feed of the people I’m interested in.”


Kingdon’s blog posting generated a wealth of comments from the Second Life community – I’d characterize the comments as mixed to fairly positive.  My own reaction to the blog posting was very positive – my use of Second Life (and other virtual worlds) would increase based on my knowledge of in-world events/happenings attended by members of my social graph.

Here are my thoughts on how to increase community engagement and social sharing in a 3D virtual world.

Facebook and Twitter

Direct Integration with Twitter, Facebook

With Avatars United, according to Kingdon, “you’ll start to build an activity feed (similar to Facebook or Twitter) that keeps you in closer touch with the people you’re connected to in Second Life.” While I see value in a single feed that aggregates content from multiple social networks, I see equal (if not more) value in direct integration of Twitter, Facebook, etc., into the virtual world.

The Twitter API and Facebook Connect make doing so fairly straightforward.  A B2B company with an island in Second Life may want to integrate a Twitter stream that displays tweets related to the company.  Similarly, the company could prompt visitors to tweet about their visit and have that message be distributed to all of the visitor’s followers on Twitter.

By enabling this, the owner of the island generates “free” promotion to the social web – and, the underlying platform gains wider reach as well.  A relevant analogy is Ustream’s Social Stream, which allows viewers to “chat with your friends over Twitter” while they’re viewing a live video.

On the Facebook front, imagine if the virtual world platform enabled Facebook Connect, thus allowing residents to sign in to Facebook and find a list of their Facebook friends who are also residents.  Then, imagine showing users a real-time list of their Facebook friends who are in-world right now, with “links” to teleport to the friends’ locations.

Borrowing from another popular service (Foursquare or Gowalla), the virtual world platform could enable residents to “check in” at different locations (islands).  Broadcasting their whereabouts to their social graph may result in more “planned encounters” within the virtual world.  If my friends just checked in to “virtual island”, I may choose to teleport and join them there if I happen to be free.

“I Like It!”

Virtual worlds could create a stronger “shared experience” by allowing visitors to leave a trail of breadcrumbs reflecting their visited locations.  If I “friend” someone in-world – or, if an in-world resident is a Facebook friend of mine, then I might want to follow the path they took during their last session.  Additionally, the platform could support location endorsements, in the same way Facebook allows me to “like” a friend’s wall posting.

As I enter a location in the virtual world, I can see whether members of my social graph previously visited – and, what their comments were.  Alternatively, I could see a list of all past visitors – with a link to view their in-world avatar and profile.  If a past visitor panned a location, but I enjoyed it, allow me to send an offline message to that user, who can read my message the next time she logs in.  This allows me to connect with other users even when they’re not online (a form of virtual world email).

Source: flickr (User: Indiewench)

Virtual World Closed-Circuit TV

Business owners leverage closed-circuit TV technology to perform surveillance of their store front or office.  Wouldn’t a similar service be useful for virtual world residents, especially those who “own” an island?  While we tend to be online during our waking hours, it may not be practical to be in-world all the time.  How about a virtual world thin client – it provides a read-only “view” of a given location, similar to closed-circuit TV.

Since it doesn’t allow you to navigate, teleport, interact with others, etc. – the client is entirely lightweight and can sit in a corner of your desktop with only a portion of the CPU/RAM consumed by the full-blown client.  So if you’re interested in a given location, the closed-circuit TV can alert you to visitors – and with one click, the thin client can launch the full client and teleport you to the location.

Services (like this one) that can instantaneously connect users are a win-win – they generate more logins to the platform and enable more connections, upon which a stronger sense of community develops.  Alternatively, the virtual world platform can provide even more lightweight notification mechanisms: it can generate an email, Twitter direct message or Facebook email whenever a user enters a designated space.  The notification could contain a link that teleports the recipient into that space to connect with the current visitor(s).

Embed Web Content In-World

As Twitter and Facebook have demonstrated, users of social services are inclined to share interesting content, often in the form of web links.  Within a virtual world, “sharing” often results in the launching of a web browser to render the shared page.  Why not provide sharing capabilities that render the shared content on an in-world wall or projection screen?  This keeps users engaged, while retaining their attention in-world.  Building upon this, I may want to look up Facebook friends and be taken to all locations in which they shared content in-world (as I have an interest in what my friends are reading and sharing).

On Demand TV (for Virtual Worlds)

Facebook has a great utility that allows me to record a video on my laptop’s webcam, upload it to Facebook and share it on Facebook.  Virtual world platforms should enable users to press a “record” button and have their current session saved for later playback.  Perhaps I’m attending an in-world concert or watching a keynote presentation – capturing a recording of the session allows me to share it with members of my social graph who weren’t able to attend.  Treet TV provides similar services (with professional quality) – this capability empowers end users to create on-demand programming with the click of a mouse.


3D virtual worlds have a lot to offer already – by adopting useful social sharing services, they can tap into the phenomenon (social media) that’s the force behind many of today’s most popular web sites.

Related Links

  1. Wagner James Au in New World Notes, “How To Make Second Life Truly Mass Market, Part 1: Deep Integration With Facebook

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Virtual Events: Year In Review 2009

August 18, 2009


Coming into this year, I considered 2009 a taking-off point for the virtual events industry.  Sure, virtual events and virtual tradeshows have been around for some time, but I felt 2009 would see enormous growth (in both event volume and in the breadth of industries entering the mix), as virtual event organizers (and virtual event platform providers) pushed the envelope with new technologies and new event models.

From my perspective, this has come to fruition – 2009 has had so much activity and excitement that I’ve decided to publish my year in review before the summer is out!  And maybe I should re-label this – I don’t intend to provide a review of the entire year – but rather, highlight the important trends that I’ve noticed in 2009:

  1. Virtual events go global – since I reside in the United States, it’s not surprising that many virtual events I hear about are produced by U.S.-based show hosts  (e.g. b-to-b publishers, corporations, etc. based here).  In 2009, I saw a marked increase in virtual events outside of the U.S. – including those for a global audience and those targeting a specific geography.  I saw a few “24 hour consecutive” virtual events that sought to follow the sun.  I saw the launch of ExpoNZ (a global showcase for New Zealand) and virtual job fairs in Europe, powered by IMASTE.  I expect to see this trend continue into 2010.
  2. Many new industries come on board – prior to 2009, b-to-b publishers and technology vendors took up the lion’s share of virtual events.  That’s no longer the case now.  In my Virtual Events Calendar, you’ll see events from the following industries: pharmaceutical, packaging, consumer goods, mortgage, travel, healthcare, retail, textile.  I’m sure there were other industries (not listed here) that saw their first virtual event in 2009 (e.g. auto, financial).  Expect this trend to continue as well – in 2010, additional industries will surely enter the mix.
  3. The emergence of hybrid events – it’s only logical to complement your physical event with a virtual component.  In the technology space, SAP and Cisco ran virtual events concurrent with their annual customer conferences.  In the minds of the virtual events industry, this trend is quite clear, as more and more physical events will be expected to have a virtual component.  I haven’t yet seen a scenario whereby a physical event was produced to complement an existing virtual event – so perhaps that’s a trend to come in 2010.
  4. The shift from event to ongoing community – the use of live show dates will continue with virtual events – but increasingly, show hosts are looking to take the audience generated for the event – and support post-event continuation, in the form of an ongoing community.  Virtual events are shifting from a single (or multi) day focus – to one of a 365 day/year community, sprinkled in with pre-scheduled live dates throughout the year.  Working hand-in-hand here is another important 2009 trend – the integration of social networks into virtual events.  Jeremiah Owyang had a very interesting blog posting on this topic.
  5. The shift from single-day to multi-day events – prior to 2009, the typical virtual event ran during the business hours of the show host’s local timezone (e.g. 9AM to 6PM ET).  In 2009, we witnessed some 24-hour consecutive virtual events, along with an increasing number of events that ran for 2 consecutive days or more.  Part of the multi-day trend runs in parallel with the hybrid event trend – for physical events that run multi-day, it’s only natural that a virtual event also span more than one day.

And that wraps up my 2009 trend watch for the virtual event industry.  Let me know which trends I missed!

A Virtual Event For All Seasons

June 17, 2009

Scheduling of large physical events seems to follow a seasonal pattern.  With the exception of CES (Jaunuary 7-10 2010) and Macworld (February 9-13 2010), there are fewer events at the very start of a calendar year – many event planners are probably thinking that fresh off the holidays, potential attendees are less inclined to travel.

The event schedule then picks up a little steam in February and March and by spring time, we’re in full bloom.  The summer seems to get its fair share of events – but at the same time, some event planners may scale back on a summer schedule due to vacation schedules (and the fact that kids are home from school).  As we head towards the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., the event schedule seems to taper – and during the December holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, etc.) there seem to be very few physical events scheduled.

Virtual events follow a similar seasonal pattern. There were virtual events in January and February of this year, but the pace seemed to pick up in March – with a build-up to June, which could be our high water mark for virtual events this year.  I maintain an informal Virtual Events Calendar, which lists 21 virtual events in June, with only 3 currently listed for July.


Do virtual events really need to follow seasonal patterns?  Here are my thoughts:

  1. Consider the convenience factors – virtual events are convenient for all parties involved (virtual event planners, exhibitors, attendees) – there are no travel arrangements to be made and no booth materials to ship.  For booth material, one can leverage existing White Papers, Product Collateral, etc. – and not have to send hundreds of documents to the color printer.  For exhibiting or attending, one can login from anywhere (in pajamas).  As such, the traditional danger zones (e.g. Thanksgiving week, Christmas week, etc.) may be less relevant for virtual.
  2. Use virtual to complement physical – would I place all my bets on a successful virtual event on December 23rd?  No.  But, I might want to floor a virtual event on December 23rd that complements another physical or virtual event.  Additionally, I may want to leverage the virtual event platform to power a business community that’s open year-round, rather than being “live” on a given date.

The key to the success of a virtual business community will be a critical mass of participants.  Live virtual events are successful because a critical mass of live attendees gather to view content and interact with one another.  If I login to an virtual community and no one else is online, it means I have no ability to interact with someone in real-time.

I’ll be able to view content and participate in message boards, blogs, etc. – but at that point, it’s no different from using a conventional social networking site.  All in all, the possibilities are very exciting.  I know that my own calendar is booked solid (virtually) through the end of the year.

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