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

December 5, 2011

The following is a guest post by Lauren Harper.

Introduction

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:

Engagement

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.

Promotion

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.

Conclusion

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.

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Hybrid Events Roundtable: Help Us Determine the Questions

March 31, 2011

Hybrid Events Roundtable - Help Us Determine the Questions

Introduction

I’ll be moderating a Focus Roundtable, “Best Practices for Your Next Hybrid Event.” The Roundtable will feature Dave Lutz (Velvet Chainsaw Consulting), Malcolm Lotzof (INXPO) and Samuel Smith (Interactive Meeting Technology, LLC).  We’d like you to shape the questions that get asked to this esteemed panel.

How to Participate

There are a number of ways to participate.

1) Provide your input on Focus.com.

I’ve posted four questions that I may ask to the panel.  Write an answer to the question (on Focus), letting us know which of the four questions you’d like me to ask – and why.  To post an answer, you’ll need to sign up to become a Focus.com member.

2) Vote via Twtpoll.

I’ve posted the same four questions on Twtpoll (Twitter poll).  Visit the Twtpoll page to view the current results – and, to log your own vote.

The Roundtable Flow

The Roundtable is scheduled  for April 6th (Wednesday) at 11AM PT.  Anyone can access the Roundtable via telephone:

Toll-free Dial-In Number: (866) 951-1151
International Dial-In Number: (201) 590-2255
Conference # : 4999006

All callers (besides the speakers) will be muted.  However, you will be seen and heard via Twitter.  Use Twitter hash tag #FocusRT to ask questions of the panel – and to provide comments.  I plan to ask four questions:

  1. Question with the most votes (Focus.com plus Twtpoll)
  2. Question from the Twitter audience (#FocusRT), selected by me
  3. Question with the second most votes (Focus.com plus Twtpoll)
  4. Question from the Twitter audience (#FocusRT), selected by me

As an alternative, feel free to leave a comment below with your panel question (for those of you not inclined to tweet your question).  Hope to “see” you during the roundtable!


FOCUS Best Practices Report: Exhibiting at Virtual Trade Shows

December 28, 2010

Introduction

FOCUS.com has published a Best Practices Report, “9 Best Practices for Exhibiting at a Virtual Trade Show“.

The report features insights and tips from Roger Courville (1080 Group), Dave Lutz (Velvet Chainsaw Consulting), Shannon Ryan (FOCUS), Cece Salomon-Lee (PR Meets Marketing), Tom Wieser (CGS VirtualEvents365) and myself. We’re all FOCUS Experts and contribute to virtual events (and other) topics on FOCUS.com.

Download The Report

You can download the report here:

http://www.focus.com/research/research-briefings/sales/best-practices-exhibiting-virtual-trade-show/

A Related Webinar

I did a related webinar with FOCUS titled “From Fad to ROI: How Smart Marketers Succeed with Virtual Trade Shows”.  You can view the on-demand webinar (or the associated slides) by following the links here:

https://allvirtual.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/live-webcast-how-smart-marketers-succeed-with-virtual-trade-shows/

Join the Discussion

The report was generated from a question posted to FOCUS.com – feel free to join the discussion by adding your own thoughts about exhibiting at virtual trade shows:

http://www.focus.com/questions/marketing/virtual-trade-show-best-practices-best-practices-exhibiting/


How I Published A Virtual Events Book

December 4, 2010

Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events

For more info: New Book, Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events

Introduction

Publishing a book has never been easier. Today’s Web 2.0 tools (e.g. self publishing, wikis, crowdsourcing, etc.) completely empower the aspiring author.  If you’ve got the inspiration to create a manuscript, then the logistics of going from completed manuscript to Amazon.com has gotten a whole lot easier.  Here’s the approach I took to publish my book, “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events“.

Self Publishing

With self-publishing, you’re in complete control.  You dictate all the details of the book (e.g. title, cover image, etc.) and you define the schedule.  At the same time, you become your own editor, producer and PR agency.  Those are some key trade-offs.  In the end, I decided self-publishing was the way to go.  Its immediacy is a huge advantage – with a completed manuscript, you can self-publish a book in as little as a day, whereas a traditional book publisher requires several months.

First, I selected my self-publishing service, FastPencil. While there are a number of services available, I had used FastPencil for a family project and found it quite intuitive and easy.  It also helped that their support team (especially Dave) was helpful and always responded to my emails sooner than I anticipated.

As you can see above, self-publishing looks a lot like blogging. And it really is that simple. For me, publishing a book was like writing a series of blog posts in Microsoft Word – and then copy/pasting them into a blog editor, with a little bit of formatting afterwards.  I then purchased the “Wide Distribution” option from FastPencil and they took care of assigning the book an ISBN and listing it for sale at Amazon, BarnesAndNoble.com, Ingram and Apple’s iBooks Store.

Community Publishing

As I was working to complete the manuscript, I posted the book’s introductory chapter here on this blog and on a PBworks wiki.  My objectives were to get some early promotion of the book (and give potential readers a taste for what I’d cover) and see if the community would want a hand in editing it.  Anyone who created a PBworks account could edit the introduction.

Copy edits were welcome – and, I invited folks to make changes to the content.  If I liked the edits or contributions, I’d apply them to the manuscript and acknowledge the contributor(s) within the printed book.  While no one made edits to the wiki, I think we’ll see a trend towards community publishing of books.

Authors will leverage the web to source spelling and grammatical corrections from a global network of copy editors.  And industry peers will participate to become co-authors.  You see it today on sites like Quora or FOCUS.com – in the near future, the collaborative discussions sourced  there will be excerpted into printed books.

Cover Image via Crowdsourcing


It doesn’t get much better than this: you name your price for a cover design and have a global network of graphic designers bid on your project.  You then receive several submissions of the actual (proposed) book cover, which you then need to whittle down to a final few.  For submissions you like, you request some adjustments or alterations.  Those updates are made by the designers and you make a final selection on the eventual book cover.  This was all made possible by a great site called 99Designs.

I’ve worked with some design shops who limited the number of iterations they’d allow on a design (i.e. since each iteration increases their cost). With the crowdsourced model at 99Designs, I received messages from designers that I had not rated their design or provided enough feedback! Such is the dynamic when the incentive model is inverted: you get paid only when your design is selected.

99Designs has done cover design projects for other books, including “The Purpose Driven Life” and “Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Body”. “Crowdsourcing is a great way for book authors to see the many different ways in which artists interpret the title and subject matter of the book. They get ideas and concepts that they would have never gotten otherwise,” said Matt Mickiewicz, co-founder of 99Designs.

With a neat polling feature from 99Designs, I invited friends and family to review the submissions – they were able to rate each submission and leave comments.  The number of submissions received will correspond to the dollar value of your reward – I happened to set a moderately priced reward, but still received 67 submissions, which I thought was a fantastic amount.  The biggest challenge was in narrowing them down to a single selection.

Conclusion

Aspiring authors have more tools at their disposal than ever before.  If you’re a high frequency blogger who loves to write, then turning you expertise and passion into a printed book (or, e-book) may be the thing to do.  The power is in your hands (and fingers).


Answers To Your Virtual Events Questions

November 23, 2010

Introduction

Got a question about virtual events, virtual trade shows, virtual career fairs, etc.?  Post it to FOCUS.com and a network of FOCUS Experts is here to help.

Focus “provides millions of professionals with the expertise they need to make better business decisions. At the heart of Focus is a network of world class business and technology experts. These experts power the real time Q&A, world class research, and personalized support that so many businesses now depend on”.

Sample Q&A

Below is a sampling of the questions posted, along with their answers:

Virtual Trade Show Best Practices: Best Practices for Exhibiting at a Virtual Trade Show

Should virtual event teams reside on the IT or Business side?

Virtual trade show booths: What are best practices for creating virtual event booths?

What are your top three tips for planning a successful virtual event?

Virtual Trade Show success: What is the ideal number of exhibitors at an event?

What should your content strategy be for your virtual event booth?

Virtual Events: Best practices for determining the success of your virtual event?

Conclusion

Join the conversation! If you need some help with your virtual event strategy, planning or execution, post it on Focus.  If you have thoughts and experiences to share, “come on down”.  Hope to “see you” there.

Related Links

  1. From the INXPO blog, “Interview with The Funnelholic: Virtual Events, FOCUS Expert Network and More
  2. A webinar I did with FOCUS, “How Smart Marketers Succeed with Virtual Trade Shows

Comparing Physical And Virtual Trade Shows

September 16, 2010

At Focus.com, Alex Gonzalez posed a question about the pros and cons of physical and virtual trade shows.

I’d like to share an insightful answer posted by Steve Gogolak, Director of Solutions Innovation at Cramer.

Pros/Cons as an attendee

Travel – the convenience of not having to travel is great for the participant. What’s even better is being able to invite a colleague who may be interested despite not having any intentions to visit the event. It’s the “hey, Jerry would really want to see this” moment realized.

Experience – this is highly dependent on the effort put forth by the booth owner. A lot of booths fall flat in a virtual world, but the same is true in the real world. If an exhibitor understands how to use the features within the booth well, it will make for a good experience. The use of self-directed video is a great example here. The more an attendee browses through video, the more fulfilling the experience. Chat is functional and generally gets the basics across, but will not be comparable to an in-person experience until two-way video is an option.

Privacy – browsing privately is much less intimidating online than in-person. The biggest opportunity an exhibitor has with a visitor is in the attract loop. In a virtual booth, the visitor can be presented with a finite “pitch” regarding what the booth is about. They remain captive for 30-60 seconds as the watch the video, which is effectively qualifying them as a lead (if they bolt, they weren’t interested anyway). It’s hard to stand in a physical trade show booth for a minute and not be bombarded by sales people.

Pros/Cons as an exhibitor

Cost – oh where to begin. A smart exhibitor will shift funds away from travel, employee time and expensive scenery to content production. More content that is suited specifically for a virtual booth is what the best exhibitors will focus on.

Reporting – this has already been mentioned, but near-real-time data about who is in your booth, who has visited and what they did is readily available. Similar results can be achieved in the real world with RFID systems, but the cost is near prohibitive for all but the largest companies. The data that emerges from a virtual booth can keep your sales team busy for weeks worth of follow up.

Commitment – I haven’t seen that many exhibitors really commit the time to understanding what they are doing in side of a virtual booth. They need to see it as a mini-website. An extension of their online presence, targeted for the specific audience that is attending the event in question. The reality is that 95% of the time commitment is spend in content development since the actual tools to “build” the booth are so darned easy to use. In my opinion, the limiting factor is always the content, not the technology.

Re-purpose existing content from other marketing initiatives. As Dennis mentioned, you’re online… so use the assets you already have available and treat the booth as a traffic driver, feeding highly-qualified traffic into your other marketing nets.

View the original Focus.com discussion here:

http://www.focus.com/questions/marketing/live-vsvirtual-trade-shows-pros-and-cons/

About Steve Gogolak

Marketing & Communication is my passion because I love to tell stories. I love to see the look on someone’s face when I’ve hit a chord that resonates with their needs, wants and desires.

Marketing is changing. It is moving further and further away from the “blah blah blah” of a bullhorn in the hands of large companies with big budgets and more toward the targeted messages and subsequent conversations between real people and real buyers. In short, marketing is “getting real” in a big way. What does that mean? It means that companies with remarkable products and services that demonstrate remarkable passion for their buyers’ needs will succeed more quickly – and those who rely on bullhorn-style marketing to force feed their buyers will not.

I’m passionate about marketing because real stories told by real people sell – fast and frequently. I tell stories and I help my clients tell theirs every day.


Job Posting: Virtual Event Contractor (SF Bay Area)

April 21, 2010

Position: Virtual Event Contractor

Focus (focus.com) is looking for a contractor to act as a Project Manager for a major virtual event scheduled for the end of June.  The event will be a virtual trade show with multiple vendor sponsors and a attendee goal of 5,000.

The Project Manager will be in charge of producing the entire event (with support).

Responsibilities

  1. Create speaking agenda – organizing 5-7 expert web presentations
  2. Audience Development – work with the Focus email and partner network teams to ensure maximum registrations and attendees
  3. Work cross-functionally with audience development, content and expert presenters
  4. Onboarding sponsors
  5. Produce and coordinate event

Requirements:

  1. Virtual event experience
  2. Strong product management skills
  3. Media background

Candidates local to the San Francisco Bay Area (US) are preferred.

Please submit resumes to: Craig Rosenberg (crosenberg@focus.com)

About Focus

Source: http://www.focus.com/about/

Focus is a private venture-funded company in San Francisco that was founded in August 2005 by a team committed to making world-class business expertise universally available.

Today, Focus is the world’s fastest-growing business research and media company. Focus.com features high-quality research, 1:1 briefings with analysts, and a thriving community of business and technology professionals. Whether it’s data-driven product research, topical briefs, or expert answers to your questions, the information on Focus is sourced from real experts in their fields – professionals like you. Best of all, it’s free and available to everyone who needs help making better business decisions. That’s why millions of professionals continue to rely on Focus.


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