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The Biggest Virtual Events Opportunity No One Is Focusing On

January 23, 2012

Introduction

Let’s talk opportunity, by way of an analogy. Amazon.com. Consider that at this moment in time, Amazon’s users have thousands (if not millions) of items in their shopping carts. Combined, I have to believe that the aggregate (but untapped) value of Amazon users’ shopping carts is in the millions of dollars.

Now, let’s consider virtual events. For public-facing virtual events, the average attendance rate is 35-50%. If a virtual event generates 10,000 registrations, let’s be generous and say that half of those registrants (5,000) attend the live event.

E-tailers like Amazon would love for you to take the contents of your shopping cart and “check out.” Virtual event planners need to focus on the 5,000 users who didn’t attend the live event and get them to “check out” (the on-demand archive of the event).

These “no shows” are an enormous opportunity for every virtual event planner, but I don’t see enough effort around this opportunity. So here are tips to get your registrants to “check out” (your event).

The basics: a follow-up email.

Imagine that users registered for your virtual events two months prior to the live date. You’ve scheduled reminder emails, but the users missed them. When your live event comes around, users have forgotten about it. This means that they’re also not aware that an “on-demand archive” exists. Sending a “Sorry we missed you” email is easy to do and gets you immediate results. Invite your “no shows” to experience your event “any day, any time.”

Scheduled webcasts.

Plan an editorial calendar in advance, which includes a few presentations after the live date of your event. Did you covet particular speakers, but they weren’t available on your event’s date? If so, plug them in to the post-event schedule. And, make sure you invite not just the “no shows,” but folks who attended your live event as well.

Scheduled chats (Experts).

Re-feature some of your presenters and invite them back for a 2-hour, text-based chat in your environment. Invite attendees to return and promote this opportunity to “no shows” (e.g. “A great opportunity to interact directly with our featured industry expert.”)

Scheduled chats (Sponsors).

Schedule a few dates to allow sponsors to host chats in the on-demand environment. This could be a nice up-sell feature in your sponsor packages. Note that sponsors tend to generate less response (attendance) as your experts, so plan accordingly.

Email Alerts for New Content.

Did sponsors upload fresh content? Or, perhaps a featured presenter provided an updated slide deck from her webinar. Send an email out, alerting users that new content is available in the environment. Don’t do this too often, of course – and, be sure to include an opt-out link, so recipients can be removed from subsequent mailings.

Activate Social Games.

Find some prizes, then activate a few social games. The games require that users login to the environment, engage with content and engage with one another. It creates fun for the users and active engagement for you (and your sponsors).

Conclusion

Just because users took the time to complete your registration page, doesn’t mean they’re “sold” when your event comes around. Utilize your event and its content, however, to “re-sell” the event to non-attendees. If you sell it well, your users will empty their shopping carts … and buy in.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .

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How Facebook’s Latest Changes Point To The Future of Virtual Event Experiences

October 24, 2011

Photo source: ivanwalsh on flickr.

Introduction

Have you heard? Facebook announced a set of changes to its service. Some changes are active now, while others will be rolled out in the coming weeks or months. Previously, I wrote about why Facebook is the world’s largest virtual event. Looking at the changes Facebook announced, I think that some of the new features should be adopted by virtual event platforms, to improve the user experience. Let’s take a closer look.

Subscribe (for Personal Pages)

You can now subscribe to a user’s personal page without having that person “friend” you back (a la the “follow” on Twitter). This feature is useful for celebrities who have a personal page, but no associated brand page. Where can this be useful in virtual events? Allowing attendees to subscribe to exhibitors in virtual trade shows.

The “subscribe” action creates a much more valuable “relationship” (to exhibitors) compared to the booth visit, document download or document view. By subscribing to an exhibitor, I see “status updates” that they post during the life of the event. This forces exhibitors to:

  1. Publish content (status updates, special offers, etc.) during the event.
  2. Have an ongoing conversation with you, without the pressure for you to respond back.
  3. Be useful to you.

I “Like” it.

The New Timeline

While not yet rolled out, the Timeline replaces your Profile page. It’s an auto-generated, visual summary of your entire life (on Facebook). It provides you with a “scrapbook on life,” and could be a convenient way for your Facebook friends to quickly check out what you’ve been up to.

Virtual events should create an “Event Timeline” that’s dynamically updated throughout the event. As with the Facebook Timeline, certain events are condensed, especially those that happened in the past. The Event Timeline could include:

  1. A listing of all sessions.
  2. Activity updates (e.g. the 1000th user just logged in; 500 attendees viewed this session; etc.).
  3. Announcements.
  4. Special offers from exhibitors (e.g. sponsored listings).
  5. On-demand content (e.g. a prior session that is now available on-demand).

Top Stories

If something happened a week ago that Facebook deems noteworthy, it wants to keep that event (e.g. a status update from a family member) in the Top Stories section atop your News Feed. Virtual Events can leverage this concept alongside the “Event Timeline” (discussed above). An event’s Top Stories could include:

  1. The most viewed sessions.
  2. The most downloaded documents.
  3. The most popular users (e.g. most connections, most friends).
  4. The most active users (e.g. most chat postings)
  5. The most visited areas of the event.

The Ticker

Facebook’s Ticker resides on the right side of your News Feed and lists interesting things that your friends have done. For a one-day virtual event, it’s not likely that I’m going to build out a significant list of friends or followers. So instead, a virtual event’s Ticker could simply be a updated and scrolling area that displays the Event Timeline and Top Stories (discussed above), as they unfold.

Bonus Item: iPhone 4S Assistant

Apple recently launched its iPhone 4S, which includes an Assistant (Siri). You speak to Siri, it understands what you say and it attempts to perform the actions youv’e asked it to do (e.g. find a restaurant, give me directions, etc.). We need a Siri personal assistant (activated by voice commands) for virtual events. And of course, it needs to work on smartphones and tablets.

Conclusion

Facebook is “always on” to its end users, who use it day and night and all year round. Virtual events tend to be “point in time” occurrences that happen on a single day, or over a few days. While it’s interesting to consider these concepts, their value will surface only if applied correctly. That being said, let’s get to work.

Related Resources

  1. David Pogue of The New York Times writes “Facebook Changes Inspire More Grumbling
  2. Learn more about the iPhone Assistant (Siri).
  3. My thoughts: Why Facebook Is The World’s Largest Virtual Event

A Flight Attendant Call Button for Virtual Events

April 22, 2011

Introduction

On a recent flight, the passenger in front of me pressed the flight attendant call button as we neared cruising altitude.  As I heard the “ding” and saw the light turn on, a light bulb came on in my own head.  The pressing of the call button sends two signals:

  1. “I’m here”
  2. I need assistance (i.e. “Please engage with me”)

Let’s consider how a flight attendant call button can be added to virtual events.

Technical Support

To receive technical support in a virtual event, you need to go find help, usually in the form of a Help Desk.  On an airplane, it’s more efficient for the help to come to you – far simpler than having you get up, disturb the passengers in your row and walk down the aisle.  In a virtual event, you’re often busy viewing sessions, engaging with exhibitors or chatting with fellow attendees. Wouldn’t it be so much more convenient if the help would come to you?

Virtual events could include a “call button” that attendees could click.  Staffers providing technical support at the event would see the attendee added to a queue, along with an audio cue (the “ding”).  Attendees could be provided with the option of including a one-sentence description of their issue, prior to clicking the call button.  From here, support staff would connect directly with the requesting user, to assist them one-on-one.

Engage with Exhibitors

Similar to “technical support finding you,” attendees looking to engage with multiple exhibitors could opt in to invite exhibitors to connect with them.  An “exhibitor call button” could be clicked that would signal to all booth staffers that particular attendees could be contacted.

If an exhibitor engaged with a requesting attendee via private chat, the “call button” would be turned off, until that private chat concluded.  In many ways, this mechanism would be more efficient for attendees, compared to visiting assorted booths and engaging with the staffers in each one.  A more sophisticated call button could allow users to specify which type of exhibitors they’d like to engage with.

Engage with Attendees

Engagement with other attendees is typically done via group chat and private chat.  But how do you know whom you should have 1:1 chats with?  An attendee call button could let others know, “I’m here” and  “engage with me.”

The attendee call button could include a one-sentence description of the user’s interests.  All users who pressed the call button could be listed in a Lounge – and mousing over the users’ profile images could display their names, titles and one-sentence descriptions.  The attendee call button can spur more connections and networking than the typical Networking Lounge.

Conclusion

All too often in virtual events, we “venture out” to find people and information (e.g. exhibitors and attendees). Instead, a simple call button could turn the tables, allowing the people, at least, to come seek you out – and engage.

What do you think – would you use the call button feature  in a virtual event?  Leave a comment below.


A New Approach to Virtual Trade Show Booth Surveys

April 19, 2011

Introduction

Surveys should not be difficult to operate! Too often, however, they are. For virtual trade shows, booth surveys can complement the demographic data (collected during registration) with psychographic data to help you further qualify your virtual trade show leads.  In this post, I introduce a new approach to the virtual trade show booth survey.

Make it Fun

Surveys are no fun.  As a first step, don’t call your’s a “survey”.  If you sell B2B products, call it a “Readiness Assessment” instead. Then, make it fun. Introduce a host or hostess (audio voiceover) who talks to the end user after each step, cracking jokes along the way.

Develop humorous text or imagery, to encourage users to unmute their speakers.  After every few questions, pipe some humor into the process. For instance, insert a text bubble that reads, “4 out of 5 of virtual event attendees surveyed indicate that they … dislike surveys!”

Provide Instant Feedback

When you complete most surveys, the feedback you receive is, “Thank you for participating in our survey.”  The new approach to the booth survey leverages numerical weightings to each multiple-choice answer.  You design the survey questions (and the answers), so that the answers are summed up to a total “score.”

Next, capitalize on the current popularity of badges (a la Foursquare) and assign ranges of scores to custom-designed badges.  For instance, in our B2B Readiness Assessment, the badges could be:

  1. The Dunno Badge (“I don’t know if I’m ready or not”)
  2. The Boyfriend Badge (“I don’t know if I’m ready to commit”)
  3. The Trooper Badge (“I think I’m ready, let’s do it”)
  4. The Honeymoon Badge (“Let’s skip straight to the honeymoon”)

(Note: use of sarcasm for demonstration purposes – may not be appropriate for a B2B setting.)

Your Ticket to Lead Qualification

When you designed your survey questions to add up to a score, did it seem like lead scoring?  It should have!  Just as you’d calculate an “A lead” based on their activity in your virtual booth, you badges become a form of a lead score.  If you’re implementing lead scoring for your booth visitors, you can augment scores with badge information.

For instance, “A leads” who completed your survey and received the “Honeymoon Badge” are the cream of the crop.  They receive higher priority than other “A leads” who received the Trooper, Boyfriend or Dunno badges.

Be Prescriptive on Next Steps

Surveys provide little to no information on next steps.  Since your survey is labeled a “readiness assessment,” you ought to prescribe the next steps to the user.

Our new approach assigns a specific piece of content to each badge.  For instance, users with the Dunno Badge receive the “Widgets for Dummies” eBook, while Honeymoon Badge users receive the “Widget Implementation, Volume I” white paper.  By giving users a clear follow-up plan, you’re delivering tremendous value in exchange for filling out the survey.

Conclusion

The new approach to booth surveys can create a win/win/win scenario.  First, by making it enticing and fun, you generate more survey completions. Next, by mapping each survey responder to a badge, you provide instant lead qualification (which helps you).  And finally, by prescribing a follow-up plan for each badge, you provide value back to the user, while conveniently leading them down the sales cycle.


How Your Virtual Event Can Benefit From Personalized Guides

March 2, 2011

Add Personalized Guides to Your Virtual Event

Introduction

In virtual events, there are staffers to “patrol” the event and assist attendees who have technical and logistical issues.  Beyond the logistical matters, however, how much do event planners invest towards the end-to-end attendee experience?

And, how often do staffers provide tips and guidance on the more strategic elements of an event: which sessions to attend, what content to download, which exhibitors to visit and which attendees to meet with? The answer: probably not enough.

An Idea, Sparked by Metaverse Mod Squad

I was struck by this missing element while reading a New York Times article, “A Patrol for the Web’s Playgrounds.” The article profiles Metaverse Mod Squad, a company that provides clients with moderators to “patrol” their web sites and virtual worlds.  Amy Pritchard (@AmyMMS), the company’s chief executive, had a great quote:

“We found if we greeted people, told them what they could do, gave them an event card and introduced them to other people, they had more fun.”

I think the same benefit can apply to B2B virtual events, where “fun” (in the sentence above) could be replaced with “getting more value out of the event”.

Benefit #1: Better Orientation of New Visitors

After logging in to a virtual event, attendees typically see a video greeting, either in an embedded video player, or via a host/hostess who was filmed against a “greenscreen” and overlaid on top of the environment.  The “New Greenscreen” are real, live “greeters”, who welcome visitors to the virtual event and chat with them, either via text or audio/video.

The “New Greenscreen” is like a host or hostess at a cocktail party.  They take your coat and point you to where the action is happening.  To support large audiences, the greeters can hold group sessions.  They can let the gathered audience know “what’s hot” (e.g. details on the session that is coming up next) and ask attendees what they’re looking to get out of the event.

As they learn more about the visitors, the greeters can suggest exhibitors to visit, sessions to attend and event content to download. Already, you’re providing attendees with a lot more usefulness than the typical video greeting, which is targeted to a broad audience and not an individual (who has unique needs and goals).

Benefit #2: Better Connect Attendees to One Another

A significant benefit of events (whether they’re physical or virtual) is the ability to network with like-minded (or perhaps different minded) attendees. In a virtual event, I may “seek and find” other attendees via social network integration, via group chat and perhaps via search.  But the connections are somewhat random and serendipitous.

The event’s personalized guides could serve as “business-oriented matchmakers”, pairing attendees with one another. I once attended a physical networking event and told the host that I work in the Marketing function at a start-up.  She immediately introduced me to a consultant who helps companies launch new  products – and, asked if my company was looking to hire, since there were executive recruiters in attendance.

Without the proactive host, my introduction to the consultant may never have happened. In a similar way, the personalized guides, upon understanding attendees’ business goals (and challenges), could pair them with exhibitors whose products or services address those challenges.

The guides could have a special designation on their profile (analogous to wearing a “Staff” shirt at a physical event), so that attendees know to accept their chat requests – and, so that they can be proactively contacted by other attendees.

Benefit #3: Get Help from the Concierge(s) at The Information Desk

Personalized guides would all have their “presence indicators” (i.e. whether they’re online) appear at The Information Desk. This area becomes the one-stop shop for both technical support and “concierge” services.  Need a recommendation between the two sessions airing simultaneously? Visit the Information Desk and get an informed opinion.

Looking for exhibitors who provide certain solutions?  Ask your friendly guide at The Information Desk.  Looking for that “kitchen design consultant” to map out the schedule and activities for your entire day?  No worries, the concierge at the desk who assemble a “user journey” for you.

Conclusion

Virtual events do not employ this sort of service today, but I think that attendees will find it valuable. Of course, doing this will result in additional cost for the event producer, but it may pay off in the long run, based on attendee satisfaction.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below – will this work?



Book Supplement: Virtual Event Lead Management (#leadmanagement)

January 22, 2011

Introduction

In “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events,” Chapter 6 is titled “Score and Follow Up with Leads”.  This really could have been Chapter 7 – and instead, Chapter 6 could have focused on important steps to consider before scoring.  Before you import your virtual event leads into your CRM system, consider these important steps first.

Step #1: Beware of the “Drive-By Viewing”

Someone visited your virtual booth – congratulations! Not so fast.  Make sure the booth visit was not a “drive-by viewing”.  I define a drive-by viewing as:

  1. One (and only one) visit to your booth
  2. “Visit time” of 5 minutes or less
  3. No engagement with others while in the booth (e.g. group chat, private chat)
  4. No interaction with booth content (e.g. booth tabs, documents, links, etc.)

I see plenty of drive-by viewings from booth visitors. Some visitors simply want to see which companies are exhibiting at the virtual event.  And, some virtual platforms have “previous” and “next” buttons in the virtual booths, which means that drive-by visitors may simply be doing a quick tour of all booths.

Drive-by visitors are not leads – they’re NAMES!  My recommendation for drive-by visitors:

  1. Go ahead and import them into your CRM system
  2. Schedule a “thanks for visiting” email
  3. Using simple text links, provide them with a few options (e.g. receive more content, schedule an appointment, etc.)
  4. Respond accordingly – and, if they do not open the email or respond to the offers, cease communications [for now] and nurture them over the long term

Step #2: Beware of Existing Leads and Business Partners

Your virtual event leads can look like a pile of dominoes.  You may not be aware that within that pile of dominoes are existing sales prospects, along with current customers and business partners.  When you exhibit at a virtual event, your sales team is inclined to invite current prospects to come visit – and, your existing customers and partners are inclined to stop in to see what’s new.

Warning: LEAD IMPORT CAN BE DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH.

If you don’t manage your leads well, you may import “hot prospects” (who are already in your CRM system) and trigger a follow-up email to them.  The result is a turning back of the clock with those prospects – imagine finalizing your purchase decision, only to have one of the potential vendors call on you and ask if you’re in the market for their product!

Personal Story: I attended a virtual trade show and did a “drive-by viewing” through an exhibitor’s booth.  I’ve been a long-time subscriber to this exhibitor’s email newsletter and know some of the employees there.  My drive-by viewing was done simply to see who was staffing the booth.

A few days later, I received an email from the exhibitor, asking if I’d like more information.  This exhibitor probably should have known that I was a long-time subscriber – and, routinely click on the links in their newsletter.  Given this, the follow-up should have been more tailored, or skipped entirely.  If I was contemplating a purchase  decision with this exhibitor, that follow-up email could have cost them my business.

Step #3: Build and Import Engagement Profiles

Virtual event platforms have built-in RFID, which means that all interactions from sales prospects (with your content) are tracked and recorded.  The platforms assemble a detailed “engagement profile” for you – the worst thing you can do is throw away that profile when the lead is imported into your CRM system.  My guess is that the majority of marketers today do just that.

Instead, create custom fields in your CRM system to capture this data (e.g. number of visits, documents downloaded, transcripts of chats, etc.).  The more data, the more informed your sales team.  Just like an auto insurer reviews your past driving record and a loan officer reviews your past credit history, your sales team should have the benefit of a prospect’s past engagement data.

Step #4: Curate Leads as You Would Fine Art

You can automate portions of lead management, but you can’t automate the entire process.  It’s easy to automate the de-duping process, which ensures that new records are not created in your CRM system when there’s an existing lead record.

However, it’s not as easy to automate the business intelligence that needs to be applied to your leads (e.g. you can’t do AI on your BI). Examples of business intelligence rules:

  1. Knowing (and spotting) competitors
  2. Knowing (and spotting) existing business partners
  3. Knowing (and spotting) industry experts, analysts, media [who should not be followed up with]
  4. Spotting “creatively submitted” leads, such as “Mick E. Mouse” or “Barack Obama”

Sure, you can automate part of this by filtering on a list of company names, but there are bound to be some leads that slip through the cracks.

For instance, users may have a typo in their company name – or, may list their company differently that what you’ve entered in your filter list.  Your leads are the lifeblood of your business, so you should curate them as if they were fine art.  This means that manual review will always be a part of the lead management process.

Conclusion

Lead Management is not easy.  However, perform these steps before your first virtual event lead hits your CRM system – and you’ll be better off.  Your sales team will receive a far higher percentage of qualified leads – and they’ll thank you for that.


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