Life Is Good: 6 Things We Take for Granted

June 22, 2013

Life is good, but we take some things for granted

Photo credit: Flickr user Gamma Man via photopin cc


Recently, I had work done on my car. It was a weekday, which means that I had to find a place to check email and do some work. So I dropped the car off at the garage and found my way to the closest place that (a) serves breakfast and (b) has free WiFi.

As I flipped my laptop open and connected to the WiFi network, I remembered the days when WiFi didn’t exist. You had to get a colleague to give you rides to and from the mechanic. That made me realize how easy it is to take things for granted.

Life is good. Let’s appreciate some things we often take for granted.

1) WiFi.

One thing we take for granted: free WiFi

There was a time when the Internet and the web didn’t exist. Later, there was a time when you only had Internet access at work. Then came dial-up modems. I remember the day I got DSL installed: I didn’t think a web page could load any faster.

Today, we have WiFi in businesses, we have 4G data in the palm of our hands and if we pay for it, we even have WiFi when we fly across the country.

2) Abundant computing power.

It’s been said that today’s smartphone has more computing power than the world’s top supercomputer of 25 years ago. Computers have become so powerful that technology was invented (virtualization) to take advantage of excess computing cycles.

My first computer was an IBM PC, back in high school. Back then, the “mega” in “megabyte” had yet to exist. Also, fast runners could complete a mile before a computer booted up.

3) GPS.

The U.S. DoD

Image via: Wikipedia.

Thank you, U.S. Department of Defense! Your Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was instrumental in building the Internet.

Later, you gave us the Global Positioning System (GPS). I have a horrible sense of direction. And I’m not the stereotypical guy: I ask for directions (often at gas stations). GPS first came to life on the dashboard of our car. Now, we have fully functional GPS apps on our smartphones.

4) Facebook.

Facebook has its ups and downs in the court of public opinion. Privacy changes, the roll-out and withdrawal of Beacon, etc. I use it to stay connected with family, friends, colleagues, ex-colleagues, high school classmates and college classmates. There’s no other social network (or online service) that makes this possible. Thank you, Zuck and team.

5) Individuals as publishers.

It’s never been easier to share your thoughts and expertise and find an audience willing to listen. Blogging, microblogging, video blogging – it’s free, it’s easy and it’s fun.

I used to publish a New York Yankees blog. I sent a posting to a local reporter and got selected as the “Blog of the Week” in his Sunday column. What a thrill! Through blogging, Twitter and other online platforms, I’ve learned a lot and met a great number of great people.

6) On-demand media.

Children now grow up with tablets

Photo credit: Flickr user Toca Boca via photopin cc

My kid’s generation was born into a world of on-demand media. Once they reach grade school, they’re using their parents’ iPads to consume content any time of day, from wherever they are.

I remember the day when the “prime” in “prime time TV” really meant something. On-demand media amounted to your VCR. Today, content is available in many forms, on whatever device we want it.


Life is good. Let’s not forget that.

10 Reasons Print Rules in The Digital Age

November 12, 2012

Image source: User delusionalcubsfan on flickr.


I subscribed to a magazine just once in my lifetime: it was in high school and I responded to a promotional offer for a 12-month subscription of SPORT magazine. According to Wikipedia, the magazine was shuttered in August 2000.

I’m now onto my second-ever magazine subscription, which is somewhat ironic in this day and age. Why did I do it? Because an airline (which I don’t fly any more) sent me a notice in the mail, indicating that a significant number of my frequent flyer miles were about to expire.

One way to consume those miles is to purchase magazine subscriptions. And I did just that, opting for 12 month relationships with Sports Illustrated and The Economist. In this era of tablets and smartphones, I’ve discovered a number of benefits of old fashioned print. Here are ten of them.

1) Raises questions from the kids.

I have one child, so when I say “kids,” I mean my daughter and her grade school friends. Today’s generation engaged with technology moments after exiting the womb. And it amuses me how much technology shapes their world.

When kids saw the DVD display in the ceiling of my car (a technological marvel when it was installed), they were amazed that a physical disc is needed to watch a film. One child asked, “Can’t you download the movie onto that?” So with magazines, it’s great when kids ask me what is “that thing” I’m reading? After all, it doesn’t reside on a tablet.

2) Opening and viewing a two-page spread is (still) magical.

A two-page spread in Sports Illustrated, featuring Oscar De Lla Hoya

Yes, the iPad, with its retina display, provides visually stunning images. But there’s something about opening up a two-page spread in Sports Illustrated (SI) and “taking in” the image for a little while. After the 2012 World Series, SI published a three-page spread, with the third page tucked underneath the first page. The top half was a panoramic shot of the Giants’ AT&T Park. The bottom half was Comerica Field. And it was awesome.

3) Gives you an excuse to go offline.

It’s rare to be offline these days. We’re always an email, text or phone call away from work, family and friends. But with a magazine, I can head to a park bench, tuck my phone in my pocket and read an entire issue from front to back. Note: despite that statement, I’m rarely able to make it happen.

4) Creates an appointment-based experience.

I love checking my mailbox for the week's issue of SI

I’m a creature of habit, a lover of routines. So I love going to my mailbox every Thursday and grabbing the SI from among the circulars, junk mail and related offers. It’s like the days when I was a Netflix subscriber and I’d look first for that red envelope. I save portions of my Thursday evenings for reading the latest issue of SI. And that routine is supreme.

5) Allows you to fully immerse in something.

Related to being offline, the magazine allows me to go somewhere quiet and fully immerse myself. SI keeps me up to date on the sports world, while The Economist keeps me current on the world. How often can you claim that you’re fully immersed in anything these days?

6) It’s so retro, it’s in.

Publishers are shuttering magazines and newspapers and moving things online (if at all). In relative terms, there’s a dearth of print publications out there. So I when I walk through town toting my SI issue, I’m not afraid to show it. I’m retro and I know it.

7) Engage with advertisements. Yes, advertisements.

I pay attention to the ads in SI

Sure, magazines have been far less successful of late in selling ad pages. If magazines were pizza, we’d all learn to appreciate the thin crust variety. But what I’ve found is that the ads that do make it in are quite contextual to the adjacent pages. And that’s good for readers.

Unlike online banner ads, I pay full attention to the ads in magazines. Banner ads can be contextual, but the amount of targeting and re-targeting done is reaching the point of creepiness. So  I love knowing that my viewing of a print ad is not being track by Big Brother Online. At least not yet!

8) Page turning feels right.

Yes, we’re all used to the swipe of an index finger to turn a page. But we do that so much that I’ve come to enjoy the physical page turning involved in magazines. And that also applies to books, for which I’ve been reading the old fashioned format (print).

9) Multiple ways to hold and fold.

On a tablet, it’s portrait or landscape. With a magazine, there are more ways to hold the pages. Do I spread out both pages, or do I fold the two in half? Or, do I fold half of the right page over the back of the left page? The possibilities are endless.

10) Exercise more fingers.

With a tablet, it’s all about the index finger, with occasional thumb action. With print, I’m able to keep more fingers in shape by involving them in the experience.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .

What “Inside Apple” Teaches You about Product Marketing and Product Management

September 4, 2012


While reading “Inside Apple,” Adam Lashinsky’s book about “how America’s most admired – and secretive — company really works,” Apple Computer became the most valuable U.S. company in history. Apple’s market capitalization reached $623.5 billion, exceeding a record set by Microsoft in late 1999.

I’m a PC” aptly describes my lifelong experience with computers (aside from college and post-college years with assorted variations of Unix). Recently, however, Apple devices have made their way into my household. There was the iPod Nano (for me, in 2005), the iPod Touch (for my daughter, in 2009), then the iPad and Macbook for my wife.

Some evenings, I’d peer across the family room to see all family members using Apple devices: daughter on the iPod, wife on the iPad and me on the iPhone. Apple has made a large dent in corporate America as well. At my workplace, many users have moved to the Macbook. And, emails sent during the evening hours typically say “Sent from my iPad.”

So with all that in mind, I wanted to read Lashinsky’s book, not only to discover Apple’s secrets, but also to gain insights into their product marketing and product management.

Insights on Product Marketing

Build anticipation and suspense around your product launches.

Well before Lashinsky’s book was published, we all knew how insanely secretive Apple is, with just about everything. Apple has clearly demonstrated, however, that secrecy works wonders as far as product launches go. Apple’s product launches are like The Super Bowl, the Oscar Awards and the Election: monumental, “must see” events with a massive amount of coverage.

Why Apple does this:

  1. The build-up of anticipation creates heightened excitement and intensity when the big announcements (i.e. new products or product features) are made.
  2. Minimizes deferred purchases, which affect sales of existing products (e.g. “I’m not buying the iPhone 4 because the iPhone 5 is due out soon.”)
  3. There’s a danger to pre-announcing products or features that you don’t end up delivering. HP pre-announced the sale of its PC business, then later changed its mind.
  4. Pre-announcing product details gives the competition a head start in responding.

While reading the book, in fact, TechCrunch published a piece about a Silicon Valley start-up whose product launch was ruined by a broken embargo. While Apple never would have done this, it must be said that Apple’s position affords it the ability to do “big news” product launch events.

Start-ups, on the other hand, face a chicken and egg problem: they need to brief reporters on their new product in order to get the coverage (to some day be as prominent as Apple).

Tie each and every deliverable to a single owner.

Chapter 4 describes Apple’s approach to event marketing planning. The event marketing group creates a document called “At a Glance,” a detailed schedule for the event. “Each item, along with the time and place it will occur, includes a DRI.” (DRI stands for “directly responsible individual”).

DRI’s are used not only in event marketing, but throughout Apple. Every single task, no matter how small, would have a DRI assigned to it. Jobs “made committee a dirty word at Apple.” With DRI, you knew whom to contact when the signage never appeared at your trade show booth. You don’t contact the event marketing team, mind you – instead, you contact an individual.

Insights on Product Management

Product development process.

Apple uses a repeatable process to build product. It’s called ANPP – the “Apple New Product Process.” Once the design of the product is under way, two parallel tracks begin: the supply-chain team (who determines how and where to source the component parts) and the engineering team (who figures out how to build and assemble the parts).

Related to the DRI concept, the supply chain effort is headed up by a Global Supply Manager (GSM) and engineering by a Engineering Program Manager (EPM). Based at headquarters, but spending most of their time in China, these individuals head up each team.

Most companies will follow through on a product development process until the product ships. Apple is different. “But once Apple is done designing, building, and testing a product it starts designing, building, and testing all over again.” This process happens every four to six weeks.

An extreme focus on the user experience.

User experience not only defines the ease with which end users operate your device or application, but it can also create emotional bonds. The user experience is a key reason why Apple has an adoring fan base of intensely loyal users.

This segment from the book tells it all: “.. the modern obsession with user experience has created a shorthand for how Apple employees communicate .. At Apple, thirteen of fifteen topics get cut off after a sentence of discussion. That’s all that’s needed.”

Pillars of Simplicity

Image source: User JoshSemans at flickr.

In the building housing Apple’s marketing and communications team, a large wall reads “SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY.” And a line is drawn through the first two SIMPLIFY’s. Apple is all about simplifying, from product design straight through to product marketing.

Simple is hard.

You may be inclined to think, “simple is easy.” Simple means less things to include, less to say, less to do. That’s easy, right? Wrong. Simple is hard and doing simple right is even harder. That’s part of Apple’s competitive advantage: they do simple well.

What makes “simple” challenging:

  1. Adding more features is far too easy.
  2. Saying “no” to particular features is hard.
  3. Simple means less – and when you have less, what remains (the features, the design, etc.) must be world class.
  4. As such, simple raises the bar on every nook and cranny of your product.

Simplicity in the product line.

You can see Apple’s simplicity in its product portfolio. You could once fit their entire product line on a conference room table (this may no longer be possible). Even with a company of Apple’s size and stature, they focus on a few key things at a time. “The minute you’re doing a hundred things, you can’t possibly do things the Apple way,” said a former executive there.

Simplicity in product marketing.

Think about doing product marketing for the iPhone. A conventional approach may be to list all the amazing and unique features that it has. You might list this out in a matrix, alongside competitors’ phones, showing all the areas you beat the competition.

If you ask Bob Borchers, who ran product marketing for the iPhone, “the best messaging is clear, concise and repeated.” Apple boiled down the iPhone messaging to:

  1. A revolutionary phone.
  2. The Internet in your pocket.
  3. The best iPod we ever created.

The approach here is to highlight what makes the iPhone stand out, then give “consumers only as much as they needed to get excited.” According to Borchers, “Just use the same words over and over again. That will turn into the same words that the consumer hears, which ultimately will turn into the same words that they then use to define the product to their friends.”


Lashinsky’s book provided interesting insights on the Apple Machine. Some insights can be applied directly to your product marketing and product management, while others are completely unique to Apple (this post attempts to distill what you can apply directly).

To summarize some of the key points:

  1. Product launches are hugely important events. Figure out how to best manage the information you provide around them.
  2. Assign deliverables to individuals, rather than groups or committees.
  3. Develop, refine and continually re-use a product development process.
  4. KISS (keep it simple, sir).

Buy the book at Amazon:

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .

How iPads Transform Product Marketing

July 25, 2012

Note: The following is a guest post by Gavin Finn, President & CEO of Kaon Interactive, Inc.


Most of us are very well aware of how mobile platforms (smartphones and tablets) are transforming sales for B2B companies. Many companies are now arming their sales forces with these tools, and we see what is happening right at the moment of each sales encounter: a very much more excited prospect. An iPad is much more than a mobile email and CRM platform for the salesperson to use on-the-go: it is a new way of engaging customers directly.

Mobile Device Content

“Marketers are generally delivering exactly the same brochures, videos, and presentations for use on the iPads as they were previously delivering on the laptop. What a missed opportunity!”

But what is less obvious, yet just as important, is a new focus on answering the question “what exactly is on these mobile devices?”  It’s all very well to put a mobile device in the hands of the sales force, but what content are you going to use to truly capitalize on this innovative platform?

In reality, today the answer, sadly, is that marketers are generally delivering exactly the same brochures, videos, and presentations for use on the iPads as they were previously delivering on the laptop. What a missed opportunity!

This new delivery environment is designed for a very different type of encounter — not so much a presentation as an interactive dialogue between the salesperson (or marketer) and the prospect. Why not take advantage of this interactive environment by creating and delivering truly interactive content?

Interactive Content

What is interactive content? This is a new kind of application that does not follow a linear demonstration or presentation sequence. It allows users to interact directly with the content itself, rather than watching a video or a pre-sequenced flow of slides.

A great example of this is a fully interactive 3D Product Model — where the user sees a photo-realistic virtual representation of the physical product, and can touch the screen to rotate the product, zoom in to any area, measure, and explore the product in any area of detail that is of interest or importance to that user.

What’s unique about this encounter is that even though the information in the 3D product model is the same for every user, each customer experiences this product in a distinctive way. They each have a very specific path that they follow through learning about the product — spending as much time on any detail that they want, and looking at features or benefits in any order.

Interactive Content is Better

Why is this better? Cognitive studies have shown that when people are presented with information (either via a video or by a person) they retain a very small portion of the material (anywhere from 5 to 20%).

However, when a person is actively involved in the process of delivering this information, they remember dramatically more (anywhere from 66 – 75% for the same time period.)  So, it is much more effective to get the prospect involved in the delivery of the marketing or sales information through interactivity, because they will remember more of what you want them to know.

Interactive Sales Experiences

In order to make a sales experience interactive, it needs to engage the prospect in three ways:

  1. Intellectual: There has to be meaningful information conveyed: information that is of interest and is relevant to their needs;
  2. Sensory: One or more of the five human senses must be engaged (sight, smell, sound, taste, touch);
  3. Emotional: The experience has to evoke some specific emotion (anger, joy, fun)

All of the developments in mobile platforms (and interactive content) come at a propitious time for marketers. MarketingProfs released a study that found that B2B marketers had a far greater need for content that was “more engaging” than simply “more” content.

What we know is that studies have shown that many sales people don’t use up to 60% of the content that marketers deliver, and it is not uncommon for sales teams to spend up to 40% of their time customizing or developing content of their own. In other words, there is a really strong demand for more engaging and effective content. Now, happily, there is also an ideal platform on which this kind of content can be delivered! The mobile device — smartphone or iPad.

“A mobile application is an easy way to put a product demo into the hands of a salesperson. Instead of carrying a big physical presentation around, it can be in their hands at all times and deliver collateral that engages the client.” –Michael Greene, Forrester Research Analyst

Kaon 3D Product App

The Kaon 3D Product App, mobile application is an example of the perfect combination of stunning visuals, interactivity, and ideal delivery device. When sales teams have the ability to show their customers every product in their portfolio, at every sales and marketing encounter, they are empowered to capture the most out of every planned and unexpected face-to-face customer touch point.

But when those sales encounters are turbo-charged by giving the customer control of their own interactive experience, a powerful and transformative experience is realized. Not only does the right message get conveyed at the right time, but it is also delivered in the most effective way possible — so that the customer retains the critical information necessary for them to understand the benefits resulting from the differentiation inherent in your products and solutions.

The direct sales and marketing benefits from this type of interactive solution on the iPad are many, and companies realize these benefits almost immediately.

Cisco Systems uses its Interactive 3D Product Showcase on the iPad to shorten sales cycles, in more than 100 countries. Ciena Corporation uses its Interactive Product Portfolio on the iPad to deliver its product and solution message at a variety of venues, helping to eliminate 85% of shipping and drayage expense from trade shows.

Other companies have developed interactive 3D Product catalogs on the iPad, using Kaon’s mobile applications, to deliver a consistent, compelling sales message to sales and channel partners all over the world, ensuring that everyone is selling using a common set of the most effective value propositions.


True interactivity, putting the customer in the “driver’s seat”, means more effective delivery of the right product information in a way that will have a positive effect on buying decisions.

Mobile platforms mean that no sales opportunity is missed — whether at a customer’s office, an unexpected airport meeting, or a trade show. Fully interactive 3D product models mean that marketers don’t have to ship physical products to every venue — saving a great deal of money, time, and effort, while achieving superior results. Isn’t that what every marketing and sales department wants? More sales, at a lower cost.

About the Author

Gavin A. Finn, Ph.D., is President and CEO of Kaon Interactive, Inc. For questions about this post, feel free to contact Gavin via email.

4 Social Apps and Services You Need to Know More About (@socialtables, @ideaflight, @MeetMeme, @sonarme)

November 28, 2011


The social web, mobile devices, apps, location awareness and more: it’s a great time to be an entrepreneur. And by extension, it’s a great time to be a consumer of technology. There’s an abundance of apps and web services that can bring you tremendous value, for little to no cost. Let’s take a look at four services you need to know more about.

Socialtables (@socialtables)

Socialtables provides web-based seating charts for any occasion. Event planners are provided with a simple and intuitive web-based interface. You can load guest information into the service, then drag and drop guests to particular tables. The service includes a social component, which encourages guests to share pictures, tell stories and get to know one another (e.g. with the guests you’re seated with at a wedding table).

Ideaflight (@ideaflight)

Idea Flight allows you to share ideas easily on the iPad. A “pilot” controls the flight and can provide a presentation to “passengers.” We bring our iPads to meetings today, don’t we? With Idea Flight, you can leave the projector in your desk drawer. This service would also be a great fit for college lectures and trade shows, to name a few.

MeetMeme (@MeetMeme)

I discovered MeetMeme social trading cards at JiveWorld11 in Las Vegas. For me, the “trading” of MeetMeme cards replaced conventional business card exchanges at the event. Most events have networking components (e.g. mixers, cocktail hours, dinners, etc.) and these sort of social trading cards are perfect for the occasion. I returned home with a large stack of cards, getting to meet people I would never have met without the cards.

Sonar (@sonarme)

Search engines, along with services like StumbleUpon, help us find content. But what about finding and discovering people? Check out Sonar, “a mobile application that uncovers the hidden connections you share with people nearby.” One afternoon in a pumpkin patch, I wondered whether a “people discovery app” existed. I returned home, discovered Sonar and tried it out. Wouldn’t it work great at conferences and trade shows?


I’ve only scratched the surface on all the neat sites and apps that are hitting the market these days. Use the comments section below to let us know about neat services that you’ve recently started using.

Related Links

  1. Blog Post: Social Networking and Seat Management with Social Tables
  2. Blog Post: Share Ideas Across iPads with Idea Flight
  3. Blog Post: Conference Networking with MeetMeme Social Trading Cards
  4. Blog Post: Turn Outings into Professional Networking Opportunities with Sonar

Share Ideas Across iPads with Idea Flight

July 19, 2011


According to a blog post introducing the service, Idea Flight “is a new tool to share ideas, presentations, documents, designs, and whatever else you can think of easily from one iPad to many. It enables one person, whom we call the Pilot, to control the screens of multiple iPads, whom we call the Passengers.”

The iPad app was developed within Conde Nast, by a small team focused on creating new digital opportunities for the company. “The inability to give controlled design presentations on the iPad” was a business challenge that inspired team member Don Eschenauer (Director of Design) to create the app.

Internal Pre-Launch

Prior to launching the app in the iTunes App Store, Idea Flight underwent a pre-launch beta internally, with users representing Sales, Design and Project Management.

Juliana Stock, Senior Director, Marketing & Product Development, indicates that the pre-launch helped their “discovery and roadmap validation” and that Conde Nast colleagues “tell us they use it in their personal lives to share photos or at their kids’ schools.”

Use Cases

Stock envisions the app being used “anywhere people have a lead who wants to keep everyone on the same page.” Potential users include:

  1. Education
  2. Cultural institutions
  3. Museums
  4. Choirs
  5. Sales teams
  6. Real estate brokers
  7. Event planners
  8. Companies that license computers and tablets
  9. Small businesses

Beyond Sharing

In an insightful post about the technical considerations behind Idea Flight, Robert Tolar Haining, the team’s Technical Architect, described the scenario that led to the app’s LinkedIn integration (i.e. a new employee who, during a meeting, asked Robert whom was speaking). The “passengers” in Idea Flight sign in to their LinkedIn account and the flight “manifest” lists information pulled from passengers’ LinkedIn profiles.

So the app goes beyond sharing to also address connecting. According to Stock, “as more people rely on devices for creation, communication and connecting, this app triangulates all three” [source of quote].

My Take on: Market Fit

Currently, Idea Flight works over WiFi and Bluetooth and supports a maximum of 15 passengers. As such, it’s suited to small, in-person gatherings and is not competitive with online meeting software, such as WebEx or GoToMeeting (both of whom already have iPad apps and allow presenters to share their entire desktop).

Improving small, face-to-face meetings” may be a good niche market to hone in on, with broader aspirations to follow later on. To achieve broader adoption, the team will want to look beyond the iPad, to support Android tablets and perhaps smaller form-factor devices (e.g. smartphones).

My Take on: Additional Use Cases

We’re sure to see many innovative uses of Idea Flight. Here are two that immediately come to mind for me.

College Lectures

For professors who are so inclined (and for schools with a high adoption of iPads among students), the whiteboard/blackboard goes away. Instead, the day’s lecture is prepared on an iPad, which enables the professors to embed hyperlinks to related content.  For instance, on the first day of class, professors often provide the list of required textbooks. These could be embedded in the PDF that is shared with passengers (students).

In addition, future revisions of Idea Flight could allow for the professor to push out exercises (e.g. quizzes, related reading, etc.) that students are asked to participate in. I’ll call this “hands on learning, enabled with a swipe”.

Conferences and Trade Shows

With iPads becoming prevalent at physical conferences and trade shows, Idea Flight could create a virtual event layered on top of the physical event.

First, attendees at the back of the room could view the presentation on their iPad, rather than squinting at faraway display monitors. Next, publishing the “manifest” to all “passengers” could allow attendees to view the LinkedIn identities of everyone else (connected to the service), enabling a stream of comments and connections.

More Efficient Meetings

New features could make all meetings more efficient. For instance, a “feedback loop” could allow passengers to vote up/down a particular slide, giving the pilot real-time feedback on the presentation.

In addition, a “raise hand” indicator could signal questions to the presenters, without having to interrupt them in mid-speech. Finally, a “leave a note” system could allow passengers to leave comment(s) on particular pages, that presenters could review during (or after) the meeting.


I’m interested in watching the adoption of Idea Flight, including the innovative uses that arise. Use the comments section below to let me know if you’ve tried it.

Watch a Short Video on Idea Flight

Related Resources

  1. Blog posting, “Charting the Course” (on Idea Flight)
  2. Blog posting, “Introducing Idea Flight for iPad
  3. The technical approach behind Idea Flight
  4. The team behind Idea Flight
  5. Idea Flight brochure [PDF]


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For Virtual Events, The Mobile Revolution Has Arrived

May 4, 2011


In the early days of virtual events (i.e. a few years ago), we used to say that users could attend a virtual event “from anywhere.” Of course, that wasn’t entirely true, as “anywhere” usually meant at a location with “fixed” (vs. roaming) Internet connectivity and “chained” to a desktop or laptop on a desk.

Tablet devices are quickly becoming pervasive and I believe (as do the analysts) that they’ll come to dominate the enterprise in short order.  Many of the emails I receive (at work) these days are stamped with “Sent from my iPad” or “Sent from my Android device”.

The Power of the Tablet

In the enterprise, we may very well be experiencing the last cycle for desktops and laptops. When the tenure of your current laptop “expires,” your IT Department may be moving you to a tablet device, such as the iPad, or one of the many Android-based tablets.  These tablets come packed with a number of key features:

  1. A form factor that further enables mobility
  2. A form factor that encourages simultaneous, “multi person” use
  3. Location awareness
  4. Pervasive connectivity, via 3G (and other) networks

What This Means for Virtual Events

For virtual events, this truly means that one can attend “from anywhere” – on the treadmill at the gym, walking along a sandy beach or sitting on your  train commute into the city.  Mobile access to virtual events mean added convenience for attendees – and, potentially higher ROI for event organizers and exhibitors.

Why?  Because mobile can create higher attendance rates.  And, exhibitors can now staff their booth and engage with visitors from anywhere.  In fact, at a hybrid event, a marketer can staff her physical booth, walk down the show floor (with tablet in hand) and staff the virtual booth at the same time!

Location Innovation

As more users attend virtual events from tablets, expect to see innovation in how events leverage users’ location data (when users opt in to share that information, of course).  Ever enter a virtual event’s Networking Lounge and observe how users are asking where everyone else is from?

Now, imagine a Google Map that shows where all virtual attendees are located geographically.  In addition, imagine hybrid events, where on-site attendees could use a tablet application to show virtual attendees where (on the show floor) they happen to be.

Demo Time

In the video (below), my INXPO colleague John Leahy shows how you can attend a virtual trade show from the iPad.

New Book: Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events

December 1, 2010

Book Cover: Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to sites on which the book is available for purchase.

“Virtual events can be a dream for marketers. They can generate leads cost effectively and they facilitate real-time interactions with sales prospects that can lead to quicker and more efficient marketing qualification.”

That’s the premise behind my new book, “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events”.

Previously, I posted the introduction of the book – you can find it here:

Introduction: Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events

And here’s what I cover in the other chapters:

Chapter Listing

  1. Get Started
  2. Assemble a Plan
  3. Build Your Virtual Booth
  4. Use Social Networks to Generate Interest and Awareness
  5. Engage with Virtual Event Attendees
  6. Score and Follow Up with Leads
  7. Conclude Your Virtual Event Campaign

The book also includes an eloquent Foreword, written by Craig Rosenberg (@Funnelholic), a lead generation expert.

Purchase for Kindle

Purchase for Kindle

“Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events” (Kindle version) ($9.99)

Purchase for iPad, iPhone & iPod Touch

“Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events” – via iBooks ($9.99)

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Praise for “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events”

“This book should be required reading for any event producer or marketer that plans on using online events to engage with customers and prospects. Done properly, using virtual events for lead generation and lead nurturing as well as sales acceleration can yield impressive ROI and drive customer relationships. Dennis is one of the few experts with real-world experience from having produced lots of virtual events across many markets.”

— Michael Doyle, Executive Director, Virtual Edge Institute (@virtualedge)

“Interacting virtually is now a must-have marketing skill.  In Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events, Dennis Shiao shows you exactly how to run a successful virtual event from end-to-end. What’s amazing is that the opportunities to engage with leads virtually can be as productive, or more so, than attending events in person.”

— Ardath Albee, author of eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale (@Ardath421)

“Dennis is one of the pioneers when it comes to virtual events.  He certainly knows and understands the environment, and his information is right on target!”

— Susan Friedmann, CSP, The Tradeshow Coach (@Tradeshowcoach)

“As interactivity becomes an increasingly important element of marketing campaigns, virtual events offer marketers a cost-efficient solution to engage with prospective buyers. Dennis’ book offers real-world examples and turnkey tactics that marketers can apply to increase their success with virtual events. Whether a marketer is just getting started with virtual events or just looking for tips on improving their metrics, Dennis provides the insight marketers need and want to know to maximize lead flow from virtual events.”

— Amanda Ferrante Batista, Associate Editor, DemandGen Report (@Amanda_Ferrante)

How Vendors Should Evolve Their Virtual Event Platforms

July 10, 2010

The following is a collaborative posting by Miguel Arias, Steve Gogolak and Dennis Shiao.

Content creation and collaboration was facilitated by a PBworks wiki – the wiki page can be found here:

To evolve their platforms for enhanced experiences and broader adoption, virtual event platforms should consider the following:

Make it easier to experience

Most virtual event platforms are easy to use – on a first-time visit, users tend to grasp the overall user experience and can figure out where to go (and how).  That being said, for wide scale adoption, virtual events needs to be as easy as Facebook.  That is, our grandmothers need to be able to access the site and figure things out.  On Facebook, grandmothers can update their profile, read their “friends” posts and write updates to their Walls.  Can a grandmother login to a virtual event, update her profile and participate in a group chat?  We’re not so sure.  Similarly, navigation and interactions need to be easier.  Most virtual events are intuitive to navigate (e.g. Lobby, Auditorium,  Lounge, etc.) – but may not be so intuitive with regard to message boards, chat, blogging, rating, etc.

Along with a simplification of interfaces and the use of usability and navigation conventions, many customers and users seem to be demanding more immersive environments. While presenting a brand and hosting an interactive experience in a convention centre, it seems an interesting field to add some real-time rendered environments using engines like papervision3D or Unity3D. This said, it is unlikely that avatar-based real time rendered environments will make it to a mainstream audience. Key considerations (or obstacles) are plugins or applets downloads, system performance and learning curve barriers.

Make it easier to find

The typical “location” of a virtual event is quickly becoming outdated – microsite with registration page, with no ability to experience the event prior to completing all mandatory registration fields. The registration page serves as a “wall” not only to potential attendees, but to search engines as well.  Virtual event platforms need to move “outside the wall” and expose their technology on Facebook, on blogs and on publisher web sites.  Platforms should widen their distribution via widgets, embed code and application programming interfaces (API’s).  Facebook is not limited to – it has Facebook Connect, Facebook Open Graph and much more.  Virtual events platforms, on the other hand, seem to be restricted to “”

Make it easier to access

The most relevant virtual event platforms will introduce, or already have, Facebook Connect and Twitter API, and they will need to move to even wider standards like OpenID.  For public events, ease of registration is a must.  Using open methods for registering and/or connecting social networks have three-fold benefits:

  1. Registration is faster because basic information can be provided by services like LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.  Shorter registration forms increase completion, period.
  2. Intelligence gathered by the platform about the user’s existing social graph can enhance the experience within the event by automatically creating connections with other attendees based on that user’s connection outside the platform.  This will lead to more networking and awareness of actual people within the environment.
  3. Users opting into connections at the point of registration allows platforms to create publishable actions that can be spit out to twitter and facebook news feeds that can increase viral awareness of the event.  Marketing automation at its best.

On the other hand, desktop or mobile widgets to control your stand usage, statistics and reporting will be a must. Lastly, the platforms will have extensive APIs to manage their integration with various social networks, corporate databases, physical event managing software, etc.

Make the experience available on more devices

Most virtual event platforms support Windows, Mac and Linux.  They need to support more platforms, especially mobile.  On the mobile front, it’s important to consider iPhone/iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Symbian, Windows 7 Phone and WebOS (listed in our order of importance).  To start, we don’t believe the entire virrual event experience needs to be “ported” to mobile devices -rather, vendors should determine the most critical features for attendees and exhibitors – and prioritize based on importance.  For instance, chat is an important element of virtual events, so why not make a mobile app that allows exhibitors to staff their booth via their smartphone.

The entire 3D environment does not need to be supported on a mobile device, but the networking tools (visit card managing, real time conversation, etc) and the reporting tools certainly do. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see what happens with Flash and Apple, and see which vendors will try to develop their platforms using HTML5.

One of the key areas where mobile can play a huge role is the “reminder” needs that come from tons of scheduled activities within virtual events.  If attendees have the ability to build out a personalized agenda before the event and opt-in to either SMS reminders or download some kind of app that will push notifications at them throughout the day, it would be much easier to create a flexible agenda.  Currently we’re cramming so much into the shortest amount of time because we’re afraid of losing people.  If only we had better planning and reminding tools, driven by devices that never leave our pocket!

Make the platform more adaptable and flexible

Related to our point about mobile support, platform vendors have important decisions to make regarding the development platforms.  Virtual event platforms today are based on Flash, Flex, Silverlight, Java and JavaFX.  Are those the “right” platform technologies for the future – or, should platforms move in the direction of HTML5?  Does a combination off HTML5, Javascript and Ajax create a more adaptable and flexible platform?  What do we “lose” by shifting away from Flash, Silverlight, etc.?  And what are the mobile implications with the chosen direction?  All good questions for the platform vendors to consider.

Make the platform more adaptable for different customer needs and different usage

There are so many different kind of virtual events: trade shows, conferences, job fairs, corporate events, webinars, congresses… that vendors should decide in which market niche they are going to play. We will see generic platforms and other vendors delivering a tailored solution for one or many of the previous choices. It will become more and more complex to provide physical event managers with the features they need to handle their hybrid events at the same time as the platform is able to cope with the extensive data handling of the virtual job fair, or the networking tools of a professional tradeshow.

Take a hint from Apple and FaceTime

Video chat will, without a doubt, increase the effectiveness of networking.  It is the one key element that can be introduced that will get critics to come around to the idea that networking in an online environment can be as effective as the cocktail hour of a physical event.

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