2009 Year In Review: Virtual Events

December 24, 2009

2009 was a landmark year for the virtual events industry – early adopters expanded their virtual event initiatives and leveraged the technology in innovative ways.  Many industries (and associated corporations) entered the mix, producing their first ever virtual event in 2009.  Despite the economy (or perhaps aided by the downturn), virtual event platform providers enjoyed healthy growth in client demand, event volume and revenue.  The platform market expanded beyond the U.S., with the emergence of new platforms in Europe and New Zealand.  We even had the industry’s first ever face-to-face event, the Virtual Edge Summit (U.S. – Santa Clara, CA).

To get a better sense of how 2009 unfolded, I reviewed the past 12 months of postings on this blog and sought to categorize the trends and patterns.

Source: flickr (User: Linzi's Cakes)

Assorted Shapes and Sizes

In the early days, the industry was all about virtual tradeshows.  During 2007-2008, new event types were spawned – and in 2009, we saw many more instances of non-tradeshow events: virtual job fairs, virtual sales meetings, virtual partner summits.  In addition, we saw innovative concepts applied in hybrid events – where event planners staged concurrent physical and virtual events.  I wrote about learnings and observations from Cisco Live and Networkers Virtual, in which virtual and physical blended together.  In 2010, I expect to see many more hybrid events, with event planners leveraging creative ways to tie virtual together with physical.  In fact, I believe 2010 will be The Year of The Hybrid Event.

In addition to the assorted event types – we’re starting to see the use of virtual event technology to support ongoing business communities.  The community concept makes a lot of sense in conjunction with physical or virtual events – instead of “going dark” between live event dates, event planners can leverage the “platform” to keep the community interaction and dialog going – where the events serve as “momentum points” to drive continued activity within the online business community.  I brainstormed about tactics that could be applied to sustain virtual business community loyalty.

Social Media and Twitter

With all due respect to Facebook and other services, I believe 2009 was The Year of Twitter.  There are many ways in which Twitter can be leveraged for virtual events – here are a few ideas that I blogged about:

  1. Leverage Twitter for Virtual Tradeshow Outreach
  2. How to Promote Your Virtual Event on Twitter
  3. Leverage Twitter Lists for your Physical or Virtual Event

Virtual event platforms have integrated with Twitter and other social networks – in 2010, I see the breadth and depth of integration expanding.  The expansion will be fueled both by interest (from the virtual event platforms and from clients) as well as richer interfaces (APIs) from the social network sites.  For instance, LinkedIn recently announced an open API for their platform.

In parallel to virtual events, 2009 was a watershed year for social gaming (e.g. Zynga, Playdom and other sites).  In 2010, we’ll see virtual event platforms leverage gaming for a mix of fun and business use.  I wrote about the reasons that virtual events should incorporate gaming.  Lastly, I believe the tried and true webinar needs to become more social – webinars need to encourage and support more participation from the audience.

The market extends beyond the U.S.

In 2009, virtual events platform vendors emerged globally – in order of appearance in this blog:

  1. ExpoNZ – New Zealand
  2. IMASTE – Spain
  3. Ubivent – Germany

I expect to see a few more virtual event platforms emerge in Europe in 2010 – Asia Pac is sure to see local entrants as well.

Virtual Event Best Practices

I wrote a lot about virtual event best practices in the past 12 months. Here’s a selection of the more popular postings:

  1. Virtual Event Best Practices
  2. How to Market your Virtual Event
  3. Best Practices for Virtual Tradeshow Exhibitors
  4. Lead Follow-Up for Virtual Events
  5. Assemble the Right Team for your Virtual Event
  6. Increase Your Virtual Event ROI
  7. Think Outside the Inbox for Virtual Event Promotion
  8. How to Run a Virtual Event Command Center

Happy Holidays to all.  2009 was a great year for virtual events.  And I have news for you – 2010 will be even better!


Cisco GSX: Learnings, Best Practices, Looking Forward

December 3, 2009

In 2009, Cisco moved their annual Global Sales Meeting from a physical gathering to a 100% virtual event called Cisco Global Sales Experience (GSX).  I authored a posting on the InXpo blog regarding GSX – with numerous insights from Angie Smith (Manager, Global Sales Experience at Cisco), I covered:

  1. Best Practices – Virtual Sales Meeting
  2. Considerations for a Hybrid (Physical+Virtual) Sales Meeting

Here’s a link to the full blog posting:

http://inxpo.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/the-hybrid-model-comes-to-global-sales-meetings/


How Location Awareness And Augmented Reality Can Be Leveraged For Events

November 24, 2009

Photo source: Layar.com

With the addition of a compass, GPS and associated software, the PDA/smartphone has become as powerful as ever.  Services are emerging that blend social networking and location awareness (e.g. Foursquare, Google Latitude) – in addition, augmented reality has received a lot of recent attention.  Amsterdam-based Layar has interesting technology that they call Layar Reality Browser – Version 2.0 (a mobile, augmented reality browser).

How could location awareness and augmented reality apply to events and trade shows?

Event Check-In

Source: flickr (User: Buckeye Beth)

Event planners could partner with location awareness providers to determine which registrants have appeared on site.  Attendees would need to register and opt-in to the location awareness service – but once they do, the technology can determine who’s on site and provide automated check-in.  Imagine arriving at the event, skipping past the long check-in line and going straight to a self-service kiosk, where you can print your event badge.  Once you have your badge printed, perhaps the event planner disables the location service, to give attendees the reassurance that they’re not being watched, a la Big Brother.

Eco-friendly maps

Photo source: Layar.com

You’re at the main lobby of the event – imagine holding up your PDA and having a map appear of the venue.  You no longer need to ask where the keynote session is being held – your PDA can map it for you – and perhaps guide you right there via its GPS function.  Such a service would make support overhead more efficient (less staff required to direct attendees) and be eco-friendly, since the printed event guide (and map) may no longer be required.

Augmented Reality at Exhibitor Booths

For trade shows that include exhibitor booths, augmented reality provides for some interesting possibilities.  I’m standing at the event’s most popular booth – the event staff is swarmed with visitors and I have to wait in line to speak to the exhibitor and/or get my product demo.  While I’m waiting, I bring up the augmented reality app on my PDA – it shows an image of the physical booth (right in front of me) with the following information overlaid:

  1. Related content from the exhibitor that I can view (right now) from my PDA – documents, white papers, on-demand videos, etc.
  2. Bios/profiles of event staffers who are in the booth right now – so I know that the most popular demo is being given by the exhibitor company’s Senior Product Manager for Mobile – I can view his LinkedIn profile, so that when my turn comes, I already know that we have a connection in common.
  3. An option to view the demo – perhaps the physical booth demos are being streamed out to the web – e.g.  into a hybrid virtual event.  With a click, I’m able to view the live stream of the demo via my PDA.  I’ll admit, it’s an odd thought to watch a live demo that’s occurring a few feet from you – but sometimes at events, it is truly hard to see the demo from the back of an assembled crowd.
  4. An option to join a text chat with a virtual booth staffer – again, in a concurrent virtual event, perhaps the exhibitor supplements their physical staffers with online staffers in the virtual environment.

Social gaming and following friends/colleagues

Events could incorporate a gaming aspect, with points tied to actions – and activity tracked via location awareness.  Exhibitors no longer need to scan an attendee’s badge – instead, the location awareness service tracks which booths they’ve visited.  Safeguards need to be established, of course, to ensure that a booth visit was real/substantial, as opposed to a “drive by”.  To use a Foursquare analogy, perhaps exhibitors offer a grand prize (e.g. HDTV) and award that to the attendee who holds the title of “mayor” (of that booth) at the conclusion of the event.

In a sales meeting, on the other hand, you often have colleagues who want to attend sessions together – instead of texting or IM’ing to coordinate meet-ups, a location awareness service (think Google Latitude) can allow opted-in attendees to track one another’s location on the show floor.  If your colleague is spending too long on line for coffee, go grab him so that you’re both not late to your boss’ presentation.

The important stuff – food!

Photo source: Layar.com

Layar, Yelp and Urbanspoon have all released augmented reality apps related to restaurants.  Whether it’s lunch during the event or dinner afterwards, you’ll always be a few augmented clicks away from knowing where’s the best burger, steak or burrito.

Perhaps what we need is a conference on augmented reality and location awareness – where all of this becomes reality!


Virtual Events: Year In Review 2009

August 18, 2009

virtually_actionpacked

Coming into this year, I considered 2009 a taking-off point for the virtual events industry.  Sure, virtual events and virtual tradeshows have been around for some time, but I felt 2009 would see enormous growth (in both event volume and in the breadth of industries entering the mix), as virtual event organizers (and virtual event platform providers) pushed the envelope with new technologies and new event models.

From my perspective, this has come to fruition – 2009 has had so much activity and excitement that I’ve decided to publish my year in review before the summer is out!  And maybe I should re-label this – I don’t intend to provide a review of the entire year – but rather, highlight the important trends that I’ve noticed in 2009:

  1. Virtual events go global – since I reside in the United States, it’s not surprising that many virtual events I hear about are produced by U.S.-based show hosts  (e.g. b-to-b publishers, corporations, etc. based here).  In 2009, I saw a marked increase in virtual events outside of the U.S. – including those for a global audience and those targeting a specific geography.  I saw a few “24 hour consecutive” virtual events that sought to follow the sun.  I saw the launch of ExpoNZ (a global showcase for New Zealand) and virtual job fairs in Europe, powered by IMASTE.  I expect to see this trend continue into 2010.
  2. Many new industries come on board – prior to 2009, b-to-b publishers and technology vendors took up the lion’s share of virtual events.  That’s no longer the case now.  In my Virtual Events Calendar, you’ll see events from the following industries: pharmaceutical, packaging, consumer goods, mortgage, travel, healthcare, retail, textile.  I’m sure there were other industries (not listed here) that saw their first virtual event in 2009 (e.g. auto, financial).  Expect this trend to continue as well – in 2010, additional industries will surely enter the mix.
  3. The emergence of hybrid events – it’s only logical to complement your physical event with a virtual component.  In the technology space, SAP and Cisco ran virtual events concurrent with their annual customer conferences.  In the minds of the virtual events industry, this trend is quite clear, as more and more physical events will be expected to have a virtual component.  I haven’t yet seen a scenario whereby a physical event was produced to complement an existing virtual event – so perhaps that’s a trend to come in 2010.
  4. The shift from event to ongoing community – the use of live show dates will continue with virtual events – but increasingly, show hosts are looking to take the audience generated for the event – and support post-event continuation, in the form of an ongoing community.  Virtual events are shifting from a single (or multi) day focus – to one of a 365 day/year community, sprinkled in with pre-scheduled live dates throughout the year.  Working hand-in-hand here is another important 2009 trend – the integration of social networks into virtual events.  Jeremiah Owyang had a very interesting blog posting on this topic.
  5. The shift from single-day to multi-day events – prior to 2009, the typical virtual event ran during the business hours of the show host’s local timezone (e.g. 9AM to 6PM ET).  In 2009, we witnessed some 24-hour consecutive virtual events, along with an increasing number of events that ran for 2 consecutive days or more.  Part of the multi-day trend runs in parallel with the hybrid event trend – for physical events that run multi-day, it’s only natural that a virtual event also span more than one day.

And that wraps up my 2009 trend watch for the virtual event industry.  Let me know which trends I missed!


%d bloggers like this: