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Post Your Slogan for Virtual Event Experiences

April 26, 2012

Photo source: mckaysavage on flickr.

Introduction

Recently, Mike Swift published an interesting article in The Mercury News, “Ship code or ship out: Bootcamp for new Facebook engineers.”

The article provided a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at Facebook’s boot camp for new engineers. I loved reading about the slogans that Facebook reinforces within its team. As Swift notes, “Facebook recruits are exposed to a series of slogans that are intended to encapsulate the company’s values.”

Facebook’s Slogans

Swift’s article lists the following Facebook slogans:

Move Fast and Break Things
What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?
The Foolish Wait
Our Work Is Never Over
We Hack Therefore We Are
Are You Fearless?
Done Is Better Than Perfect
Code Wins Arguments

Slogans for Virtual Events

It occurred to me that we should develop slogans regarding what virtual event experiences should aspire to. So fresh off reading Swift’s article, I went to Twitter to ask. After all, for soliciting slogans, what better a place than one that deals in 140 characters or less?

And the Twittersphere spoke:

“Think big and be creative!”  — @EmilieBarta
“Where less is more”   — @scottlum
“Less steps, less windows, less mess = less stress!”  — @EmilieBarta
“DIY-Do It Yourself”  — @virtualpioneer
“Be Effective. There’s too much doing too little reasoning” — @webcaston
“Connect everywhere, anytime with everyone”  — @mike_arias
“Content Engagement”  — @firstlegion
“Make Every Seat The Front Row” — @bXbOnline

And here are my slogans:

Minimize Load Times
Simple Always Wins
Less Clicks
Connect People to People
Connect People to the Right Content
Make Them Want to Come Back
Delight and Overdeliver

Let’s Hear From You

There’s got to be plenty of great slogans out there. Use the Comments section below to leave your slogan. Thanks!

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What The @NFL Can Teach You About Virtual Events

April 20, 2012

Introduction

News flash: The National Football League (NFL) is an event planning organization. And they happen to be among the best in the universe. The NFL runs a year-long series of events, from mini-events, to large scale events to mega events (e.g. The Super Bowl).

Recently, the release of the NFL’s 2012 schedule coincided with 3-hour, prime time specials on both ESPN and NFL Network. Wow. Unlike any other major sport, the NFL is top of mind (in their fans’ minds) 365 days a year, 24×7.

While I’m not suggesting that your virtual event become a year-round, round-the-clock sort of thing, I do think the NFL can teach you some things. Instead of your annual virtual event being a “one and done” experience, steal some ideas from the NFL to extend your event’s livelihood. Let’s take a further look.

The Ecosystem

While the NFL is the arbiter of its brand, it relies on an ecosystem of partners to extend and reinforce that brand. The ecosystem includes:

  1. Individual teams
  2. Broadcast partners
  3. The Press
  4. Related content providers
  5. Merchandise retailers

The point here is that the NFL can’t do it alone. Where would it be without CBS, FOX and ESPN? Similarly, consider your virtual event. Your ecosystem includes:

  1. Exhibitors and sponsors
  2. Speakers and presenters
  3. Content providers
  4. Service providers

Be sure to fully leverage your own ecosystem in areas like monetization, audience generation, buzz building and media coverage.

Owned Media

The NFL, over the past several years, concluded that it needed to beef up its owned media, to complement its ecosystem. Have you visited NFL.com recently? It has as much original content as its ecosystem partners (e.g. ESPN.com, SI.com, SportingNews.com, etc.), written by a growing team of writers.

And of course, there’s NFL Network, which launched in 2003 and is carried on cable and satellite TV systems. With its talented team of analysts, I often find myself tuning in to NFL Network before and after games, when I’d formerly watch ESPN.

As a virtual event planner, you need to consider owned media, too. This could take the form of an event web site, a related blog and social media channels. If you run an annual, mid/large scale virtual event, realize that you’re now in the publishing business. Devise an Editorial calendar and start banging out content. Start by linking to and commenting on existing articles, then consider developing content of your own.

Generate Online Chatter

Is there any other sports league where the release of the season schedule is an event in and of itself? That’s the genius of the NFL. For an organization where most of the action takes place on the field, the NFL finds ways to create action (and generate related commentary and discussion) off the field.

The release of the 2012 schedule is an example of using its ecosystem (e.g. ESPN) and its owned media (e.g. NFL Network) to create an event (“2012 Schedule Prime Time Special!”). The prime time specials were the “main event” and it generated a wealth of discussion and commentary online, in the form of social networks, blogs and web coverage.

Think of similar ways to create news about your event that results in online chatter.

Select and Announce Speakers

Speaking of which, how about generating buzz around the selection of speakers for your virtual event? Madden NFL (from EA Sports), a key partner in the NFL’s ecosystem, runs an online tournament to select the player to appear on the game’s cover.

This not only puts the power in the hands of its fans, but generates buzz and chatter about the upcoming season’s game. Why not do the same for your virtual event? Allow your attendees to vote for the speakers they’d like to see and build some buzz at the same time. You could generate additional registrations, while creating a loyal attendee base at the same time (which will help your attendance rate).

Create an Off-Season Schedule

If your virtual event makes up your season, consider how you engage with your audience during the remaining 11+ months of the year. The NFL loves to generate online chatter, but it also knows that it needs to connect directly with fans via off-season events. Consider the following “mini events,” which occur after The Super Bowl:

  1. NFL Combine
  2. NFL Draft
  3. Training Camp
  4. Pre-season Games

Fans are invited to attend each of these events and all build up quite nicely to opening day. Like I said, with the NFL, it’s a year-round schedule that doesn’t have an end. Consider ways in which your virtual event can be complemented with off-season events. Speaking of which..

Re-broadcast (i.e. re-purpose) key content

Ever notice how NFL Network re-broadcasts a selected game from the prior week’s action? They don’t re-broadcast the entire game, mind you. They edit out the “between play” action, where players stand up, walk back to the huddle, etc. If you missed the game, this makes it quite convenient to view the action you missed.

In virtual events, you can provide access to all sessions for on-demand viewing, but why not take it a step further? Create abridged versions of the sessions (e.g. the top 10 slides from the presentation), then schedule a mini event during which the presenters appear (online) to engage with the audience.

Further Monetize Your Audience

The NFL has numerous ways to monetize its audience, in the form of ticket sales, merchandise sales and corporate sponsorships. There’s also TV commercials, the content of which has nothing to do with football.

According to Wikipedia, NBC generated $75MM in advertising sales for the Super Bowl XLVI broadcast (2012). The NFL benefited in the form of broadcast rights paid by NBC. Consider ways in which you can leverage your ecosystem to generate additional revenue from your audience. Hint: it could be in the form of unrelated content!

Conclusion: This takes work.

I can hear you already: you’ll tell me that your organization has nowhere near the resources to pull any of this off. And I’ll agree, somewhat. All of this takes work, which involves resources. You must first analyze how much you’re willing to invest (dollars, head count, etc.) and whether the anticipated ROI is there.

The NFL decided it was. It now employs writers, analysts, broadcast engineers (and more) – but, it continues to wisely tap into its ecosystem to widen its reach. Leverage your ecosystem to make this year’s Super Bowl your best ever.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


10 Lead Generation Tips for Digital Events

January 12, 2012

Introduction

At Virtual Edge Summit / PCMA Convening Leaders in San Diego, I gave a Learning Lounge talk titled “Digital Events: 10 Tips for Generating Leads for Your Exhibitors.”

Ten Lead Generation Tips

My ten tips are:

  1. Content Marketing (You).
  2. Content Marketing (Your Exhibitors).
  3. Social Media (You).
  4. Social Media (Your Exhibitors).
  5. Leverage Speakers for promotion.
  6. Utilize social sharing buttons.
  7. Start promoting early.
  8. Leverage your partners.
  9. Issue a press release.
  10. Supplement with paid media.

The Presentation

Here are the slides from my presentation.


Event Planning Tips Courtesy of the Times Square Ball

December 26, 2011

Image courtesy of “Between a Rock” on flickr.

Introduction

As we count down to midnight on New Year’s Eve each year, our attention is focused on Times Square in New York City. There, a ball made of Waterford Crystal descends 77 feet in 1 minute. When the ball touches the ground, millions of people, both on-site and watching remotely, cheer, “Happy New Year!”

For every New Year’s Eve growing up, I made sure to stay awake to watch the count-down on television. In college one year, some classmates and I decided to brave the cold and experience the celebration in person. We never did get close enough to see the ball drop, but “just being there” was worth it.

Let’s consider aspects of the Times Square Ball that you can apply to your events.

Create a Focal Point

What is “New Year’s in Times Square” known for? The Times Square Ball, of course. What is your event known for? If there’s no clear answer to that question, then you should create one. Figure out something unique and special to focus attention around. Perhaps it’s the game show that you host or the great evening entertainment you bring in each year. Create a compelling focal point and you make your event memorable.

Build Up to a Compelling Close

The Times Square Ball is 60 seconds of “action,” but people gather in the square 8 or more hours earlier. Having a “compelling close” to your event helps to build up anticipation, which makes the “close” all the more compelling. Make sure your events have that “can’t miss moment.”

Create a Tradition

According to Wikipedia, “The first New Year’s Eve celebration in the area was held in 1904.” If you combine a great event with a compelling focal point, you create a tradition. A tradition helps to build brand recognition around your event. And, it gives people a reason to return to your event next year.

Create a Digital Extension to Your Event

According to Wikipedia, one million gather in Times Square (at the face-to-face event), while one billion watch on television. Television creates a digital extension that allows the entire world to catch a glimpse of the Times Square celebration. And just like B2B events, the live broadcast of the Times Square “event” doesn’t cannibalize your audience, it encourages attendance at the face-to-face event the following year.

Create a Programming Channel for Your Event

New Year’s in Times Square has “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” (now Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest) and many other programs. Your event needs a programming channel that on-site and remote attendees can tune in to. In the same way that Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest convey what’s happening in Times Square, your event needs a virtual emcee to connect with your digital audience.

Conclusion

Isn’t New Year’s in Times Square a great “event?” It’s got a focal point, a tradition, a compelling close and a great set of hosts. I’ve been “attending” for years and look forward to this year’s event. Now that I live on the West Coast, however, I’ll have to tune in at 9pm local time. Happy New Year!


My Grown-Up Christmas List for Digital Events

December 19, 2011

Introduction

Driving in the car during the holiday season, I love it when Amy Grant’s “Grown-Up Christmas List” comes on the radio. Here’s what Ms. Grant wishes for in her song:

“No more lives torn apart,
That wars would never start,
And time would heal all hearts.
And everyone would have a friend,
And right would always win,
And love would never end.”

Sounds about right to me. Now, I’d like to provide a list of my own. It’s certainly not as noble as Ms. Grant’s list. Mine is a grown-up Christmas list for digital events.

A User Experience That’s More Whole

Ms. Grant sings, “no more lives torn apart.” My corresponding lyric would be “no more user experiences torn apart (by new browser windows).” Think of it this way: the more browser instances you see “popping up” in a digital event, the less cohesive the user experience. We need to deliver better and more integrated experiences. How often does Facebook launch a new browser window? Never.

A Consistent User Experience Across Platforms

Ms. Grant hopes “that wars would never start.” Well, we’ll always have “platform wars” (e.g. iOS vs. Android). And as digital event platforms “widen” to meet a growing array of platforms, my wish is that the user experience remains consistent across all of them. My iPhone and Android experiences ought to be the same. And to the extent possible, my iPhone experience should resemble what I see on the desktop. Is that HTML5 I see under the tree?

Driving Adoption by Meeting Expectations

Ms. Grant hopes that “time would heal all hearts.” Digital events have their share of naysayers, who are not convinced on the “return on investment” (ROI). For these naysayers, my wish is that “baby steps” are taken in 2012. Throw ROI out the window for now. Make a small bet and see if digital events (at a small scale) generate a Return On Expectations (ROE). The healing process here is about finding ROE first, then delivering on the ROI as you progressively scale up your bets.

More Discovery and Connecting of People

Ms. Grant hopes that “everyone would have a friend.” Most of us login to a digital event with no pre-existing friends (at that same event). My wish is that digital event platforms prove more effective in helping us discover and find new “connections” (people) as a “side effect” of attending the event. We need to reproduce the serendipity of meeting others at face-to-face events, online.

More Focus on the Attendee Experience

While Ms. Grant sings, “and right would always win,” I shout, “the attendee must always win.” My wish is that digital event planners always put the attendee first – they come before the speakers and the sponsors. Deliver them what they want and need – and you will always win. And they will, too.

Keeping the Lights On (Event Communities)

Ms. Grant sings, “and love would never end,” while I sing, “events don’t need to end.” With digital events, there are no walls to tear down and no stands to ship back to your vendor. Why, then, do so many digital event planners “abandon” the digital event once the schedule of sessions has concluded? Digital events can and should sustain “365 communities.” Attendees stay engaged with one another until the next scheduled activity (when they continue to engage, of course).

Conclusion

Thanks, Amy Grant, for the wonderful song. My hope is that your wish list comes true for all of us. Secondarily, let’s see if my digital event wish list comes true in 2012.

To all of you out there, thanks for reading. And, Happy Holidays.


12 Reasons to Consider Hybrid Events

August 26, 2011

Read the full post: http://12most.com/2011/08/24/12most-hybrid-events/

Introduction

On 12Most.com, I wrote an article titled “12 Most Compelling Reasons to Consider Hybrid Events.” In the introduction, I wrote, “Increasingly, event planners are adding a ‘digital extension’ to their physical events. The digital extension expands the event’s audience reach across the entire web.”

The 12 Reasons to Consider Hybrid Events

My 12 reasons are:

  1. The digital event provides a marketing tool for the physical event.
  2. Extends your audience reach.
  3. Creates events that never end.
  4. Does not cannibalize physical events.
  5. Use virtual booths to follow up with leads from your physical booth.
  6. Creates a DVR of event content.
  7. Gets you a raise or promotion.
  8. More networking for attendees.
  9. More leads for sponsors.
  10. Measure the effectiveness of event content.
  11. Reach a global audience.
  12. Enables localization.

To read the full post:

http://12most.com/2011/08/24/12most-hybrid-events/

Got a comment on the 12 reasons? If yes, please click through to the article on 12most.com and leave your comments there. Thanks!

Related Content

  1. Blog Posting: Use Virtual Booths to Follow Up with Leads from Your Physical Booth
  2. C&IT Article: “Cisco advocates free virtual content to boost live event attendees

A Virtual Blog Posting

March 14, 2011

A Virtual Blog Posting

Introduction

We’ve been well served by the term “virtual events” and by its related siblings, “virtual trade shows”, “virtual career fairs”, “virtual sales kick-off meetings” and the like. The industry has been using these terms for the past 5+ years and we’ve seen gains in understanding, recognition and awareness (of the terms).

Time for a New Name?

I was happy to see that Virtual Edge Institute’s new certification is called Digital Event Strategist and not Virtual Event Strategist.  I think it’s time to consider a shift in terminology, away from the adjective “virtual”.

Is this a virtual blog posting?  Well, no, I hope not.  I’d like for it to be real.  According to the “virtual” entry on thesaurus.com, the antonyms for “virtual” include: actual, authentic and real.

Is the event running on a virtual platform?  Well, no – the platform is real, or so I hope.

Need to have the on-site team coordinate with the virtual team?  May not need to, if the virtual team isn’t real.

Want to create virtual experiences?  I hope you’re creating real experiences, experienced digitally.

Practical Limitations

Having made my point, I understand that we can’t simply turn on a dime and change terminology right away. First, it would create confusion among prospects, as well as people who are newly considering “virtual” technologies.  And while the term “digital events” seems on target, “digital trade shows”, “digital career fairs” and “digital sales kick-off meetings” don’t quite do it for me.

Your Thoughts?

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts – should we keep the “virtual” terminology? If not, what new terminology would you suggest?

Related: A posting from Mike McCurry, “Meeting Attendees: It’s About My Experience, Not My Location!


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