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?


Create More Effective Virtual Events With Web Analytics

July 31, 2009

Source: flickr (User: kantan2007a)

Source: flickr (User: kantan2007a)

Melinda Kendall wrote an interesting posting on her Event View blog titled, “Improving event flow“.  Her blog posting begins:

Run across ethnoMetrics yet?  They put 45 video cameras with 360-degree panning in the ceiling of a convention center and watch what really happens at an event.  A lot of the value comes in analyzing the behavior of attendees at individual booths…information that, if acted on, could really improve an exhibitor’s results from an event.

Melinda references a May 2009 issue of Expo that highlights optimizations and improvements made by the RSNA (Radiological Society of North America) event team for their conference.  For me, the technology from ethnoMetrics is intriguing, but what most interests me is their methodology – that is, capture detailed information from an event (that otherwise would have been “lost”) and perform in-depth analysis to improve an event’s ROI.

Can an equivalent approach of analysis be applied to virtual events?  Of course – because virtual event platforms already track all activities – meaning the 360-degree panning ceiling cameras area already installed.  Today, however, most virtual event show hosts view event data in a tactical, results-based manner.  Important metrics include number of registrants/attendees, number of visits per booth, number of viewers per Webcast, number of chats, number of document downloads, etc.

And while that’s all fine and good, both the show host and virtual event platform provider might want to take a step back (once the event is done) and analyze the overall attendee experience.  I’ll call this Web Analytics for your Virtual Event.  For content and e-commerce sites, web analytics can be a very effective tool to increase page views (content site) or online purchases (e-commerce site).  So in the same way that an e-tailer may analyze “shopping cart abandonments”, a virtual event show host (and provider) may want to analyze why the average visit time to an exhibitor’s booth was only 5 minutes long.

Other analytics exercises that come to mind:

  1. Greenscreen video –  did you invest a lot of time and money to have your CEO welcome visitors to your booth?  Have a look at average view time of that greenscreen unit.  Then, look at the number of return visitors who “clicked to play” to replay the greenscreen video a second time.  If you score a lot of replays, your use of greenscreen was effective.
  2. Where is my traffic coming from –  or, where is it not coming from?  On the web, we frequently look at “referral URL” – for virtual events, the same need applies.  If I had 1,000 booth visits, did they come from the Exhibit Hall?  Or, did they come from a search result – or, somewhere else?  If 70% of my booth visits came from sources other than the Exhibit Hall, then I need to assess (a) the amount of traffic to the Exhibit Hall in the first place and (b) the effectiveness of my Exhibit Hall layout.
  3. Biological tracking – this obviously adds to your costs, but consider pairing your web analytics with physical instrumentation – have a panel of users experience your virtual event and track eye movement, heart rate, facial expressions, etc.  If I spent 2 months creating a visually rich 3D environment, did it make an emotional impact on the user who saw it for the first time?  Are users looking at areas of the event that I want them to?  Or, are they skipping past the important areas?

The possibilities are nearly endless.  This is an important next step for the  industry – with video monitors already installed, tapping into the existing data will be a key to creating better and more effective virtual events.

Related links:

  1. Event View blog
  2. ethnoMetrics home page
  3. Wikipedia entry on web analytics
  4. NY Times article: Lab Watches Web Surfers to See Which Ads Work

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