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:

http://allvirtual.pbworks.com/Virtual-Events-FAQ-%28Frequently-Asked-Questions%29

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!

General

  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?

Technology

  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)?

Resources

  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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From Web 2.0 to Webinar 2.0

September 28, 2009

Source: flickr (User: Werkplay)

Source: flickr (User: Werkplay)

In this age of social sharing, participation, “users as publishers”, Facebook updates and Twitter tweets, the webinar is a seeming anachronism.  In your typical 60 minute webinar, the presenters speak for 45-50 minutes – and the only “participation” from the audience occurs when the presenter selects your question to be answered.  Users are not able to see questions submitted by other viewers – in fact, they rarely know how many other users are also viewing the webinar.

At the Feeding the SAP Ecosystem blog, there’s an interesting posting titled “SAP Virtual Events: A Work in Progress“.  Here’s a great quote about webinars:

Or the presenters drone on too long, overloading the audience with slides and not coming up for air until there is a few minutes left and the participants are too burned out to even attempt a last minute question. Webinars that incorporate reader chat and questions throughout the broadcast, rather than exiling them to a shrinking time slot at the end, are much more effective.

I agree wholeheartedly with this observation.  I believe that webinars can be much more engaging if they adopted an unconference model.  According to Wikipedia, “an unconference is a facilitated, participant-driven conference centered around a theme or purpose”.  As a webinar presenter (or sponsor), you’ll still want to define the topic and prepare a set of slides to reinforce your speaking points and presentation objectives.

But, what if you were to hand over some control back to the audience?  It requires a leap of faith, I know.  But when the audience is directly involved, I think you create a more rewarding user experience – and, you stand to benefit as well.  User involvement should directly result in engagement, retention and satisfaction.

Here are some simple ideas from Web 2.0 that can be applied to create Webinar 2.0:

  1. Audience drives the content selection – the presenter flips through two potential slides to the audience and then pushes out a survey to the audience.  The survey prompts the audience to select which slide they’d like to see covered.  The presenter then publishes the survey results and advances to the slide that won the vote.  This addresses one issue I’ve had with webinars – I attended the live webinar because the topic intrigued me; however, the content didn’t quite hit the mark.  If presenters gave more control and input to the audience, they’d have a better chance of giving viewers what they want.
  2. Audience members render their own slides – akin to a virtual meeting (e.g. WebEx, GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect), where the meeting host passes control to another participant, who then shares his/her desktop.  For webinar platforms that support this, imagine how powerful this could be.  Viewers would need to know to come prepared with slide content – but imagine the presenter asking for real-world case studies of a given technology and allowing a viewer to render a slide about his real-world implementation experience.  Again, this is a leap of faith and a “risk factor” in surrendering control of the content.  However, isn’t that what Web 2.0 is all about?
  3. Better balance between PowerPoint content and Q&A – a typical webinar has an 80/20 split (or more) between the PowerPoint presentation and Q&A.  I think it should be more like 50/50.  Scheduling frequent pauses (to answer questions) provides a lot of value to viewers – it means that they don’t have to wait until the 50 minute mark to have questions answered – and it signals to the audience that the presenters are “listening” to them.  Along these same lines, the webinar platform should allow all viewers to see all questions submitted by attendees.  And to cap it all off, follow up after the webinar by publishing an FAQ – list commonly asked questions along with their answers.
  4. Answer questions coming from the statusphere – define a Twitter hashtag for your webinar and have staff available to monitor the tweets – then, have presenters address and answer interesting questions that were posed via Twitter (and other social tools).  This allows you to extend the audience of your webinar – and engage with users who might not be able to attend.  Additionally, have staff members tweet back (with the answers), so that users monitoring the tweet stream know that you’re not only listening, but participating back.

I’m sure we’ve just gotten started – what tactics do you have to recommend for bringing Web 2.0 to Webinar 2.0?


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