Why Big Data is The Future for Virtual Event Platforms

May 18, 2013

The future for virtual event platforms

Image source: User gwire on flickr.


Previously, I wrote about the future of face-to-face events. The future of events lies in technology that creates business intelligence from event data. Events create a massive amount of data (trees) and technology should enable event planners and sponsors to “see the forest from the trees.”

Virtual/hybrid event platforms can play an important role in this future. These platforms are a primary driver of “event data.” The future for virtual event platforms is to pair the data they generate with third party data sources to generate comprehensive event intelligence.

Let’s consider reasons why Big Data is the future for virtual event platforms.

Data is no longer in one place.

Data is no longer in one place

Image source: Horia Varlan on flickr.

In the early days, data generated by the virtual event platform was the one and only source of event data. Along came social media and attendees began to tweet, post and pin their way around (and often outside) the event experience.

Throw in hybrid events (which have a corresponding face-to-face event) and you have another universe of data being created “on site” (check ins, user-generated video, badge scans, etc.).  The reality is that event data, even for virtual events, is widely dispersed. To drive true event intelligence, “someone” needs to coalesce that data and make sense of it. For me, the virtual event platform should be that “someone.”

The ever-elusive “ROI” can be defined up front.

Virtual event planners still struggle to answer the question, “how are you measuring [and proving] ROI for your virtual event?” One reason is that the planner doesn’t quite know how to measure ROI. The other reason is that tools aren’t readily available to do so. By working with Big Data, virtual event platform providers (and the event planners) can define the ROI model when the deal is sold.

I imagine the platforms providing both standard and custom “ROI packages.” Standard packages could be “sentiment” (for internal, HR events) or “retention” (for training events). Using “pre” and “post” data, planners can now make statements such as, “our virtual town hall meeting drove a 45% increase in employee satisfaction.”

When you define, measure and prove ROI, it’s more likely that this year’s virtual/hybrid event will happen again next year (and the year after that).

The core technology already exists.

The foundation for the future is already in place: virtual/hybrid event platforms create online experiences, store data, process data and present/render data. The missing piece (and yes, it’s a big one) is the ability to integrate (import) third party data coming from social media, the broader web and face-to-face event systems.

The strategic value is in the data.

The value is in the data

Image source: User andertoons on flickr.

Content and user experience will always be critical to the success of an event. You need the right content and user experience to drive engagement, after all. After the event is over, the strategic value you take from it is found in the data.

Attendees will remember the content and user experience. Business owners will remember the data. Why do virtual event platforms need to work with (and make sense of) data outside their own platform? Because it paints the whole picture. And because true ROI cannot be delivered without it.


There’s a technology company called Splunk that “turns machine data into valuable insights no matter what business you’re in.” (source: Splunk web site). Splunk is a publicly traded company with a market cap well over $4B. There’s value in data. Virtual event platforms can be the “Splunk for event data.”

Draft The Right Team For A Successful Virtual Event

June 28, 2009


Last week, the National Basketball Association (NBA) held its annual draft in New York City’s Madison Square Garden.  Some teams were looking for the missing link to their 2010 NBA title aspirations – while others were looking to build a new foundation from scratch.

In either case, it’s important to know what you need – and then make the right talent evaluations to select the players that best fit your needs.  Similarities exist when planning a virtual event – draft and assemble the right team and you have the potential to bring home the championship.  Build your team incorrectly and you’ll miss the playoffs.

Continuing with the basketball analogy, here’s how I’d assemble my virtual event team:

  1. The Center – for many teams, both the offense and defense revolve around the important center position.  For a virtual event, the Center is your content – the theme, the independent expert presenters, the presentations themselves, etc. Make this your number one draft pick – identify the target audience for your virtual event and then select the best players who will deliver the most compelling content to that audience.  Be sure to make this a slam dunk (pun intended).
  2. The Point Guard – the point guard is often considered the surrogate coach on the floor – s/he dribbles the ball up the court and commands the offense.  In a virtual event, the point guard is the Event Host or Event Planner – the person who’s responsible for coordinating all the various parties involved in the execution of the event.  Rookie point guards rarely excel in the NBA – so make sure you have a veteran player running point in your virtual event.  If you have rookies on board, have them play the understudy role, so that they can grow into a starting role for the next virtual event.  A virtual event is best produced by someone who’s run the show many times before.
  3. The Shooting Guard, Small Forward and Power Forward – these players round out your squad – in basketball, they do a combination of scoring, defending, shooting, passing and rebounding – just about everything.  In a virtual event, these are your production assistants, project managers, webcasting engineers, video engineers, campaign managers, quality assurance engineers, etc.  As with any top team, this portion of your roster needs to have talent and depth – when one player becomes unavailable, the next one must step right in.  Championships cannot wait – and neither can the virtual event that’s one month away.

As general managers are astutely aware, assembling the right pieces is no guarantee of success.  As in sports, virtual events depend on the following:

  1. Team Chemistry – if pairs of groups have worked well in the past, keep them together for subsequent events.   This way, they don’t have to re-learn each others’ working habits and personalities.  As in sports, team continuity improves the likelihood that you’ll win over and over.  On the client-facing side, identify team members whom specific clients love – and keep them on those same client accounts – they’ll thank you for it.
  2. The Front Office – in sports, a front office that puts a good team on the field often reaps the benefits of strong ticket sales.  In virtual events, the quality of the team is independent of attendee interest.  Here, you need talented and knowledgeable front office staff to handle the audience generation for the virtual event – email blasts, web site syndication, social media integration, etc.  The best  (execution) team on the planet is useless if your virtual attendance is poor – so the audience generation crew is critical.
  3. In-Season Moves – championships are often won and lost by in-season moves – trades, player signings, managerial firings/hirings, etc.  For virtual events, you’ll find many inflection points where critical decisions need to be made.  Whether it’s a shift in the audience generation strategy or a change to the content/theme – making the right decision can make or break the event.  Make sure you weigh all decisions as a team – and remember, virtual event decisions do not need to be approved by the league office (ha ha).

With the virtual event season in full swing – best of luck to you all – bring home a winner!

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