Let’s Collaborate On: Evolution Of Virtual Event Platforms

June 21, 2010

Let’s collaborate on how virtual event platforms (and their associated experiences) should evolve.  I’ve set up a wiki on PBworks that will allow all of you to chime in with your thoughts.  Here’s the link to the wiki – I invite you all in, to add your thoughts and make edits:

Be part of a collaborative blog posting


To edit the wiki page, you’ll need to register for a free account with PBworks.  Suggested ways to participate:

  1. Edit any of the existing material
  2. Add new paragraphs or sections
  3. Delete existing material (although I’d rather you re-write existing material than delete it outright)

Below, I’ve posted the current text of the wiki page.  If you have thoughts on this topic, be sure to visit the wiki and chime in! Based on the amount of activity this week, I may choose the publish the final version of this post here on this blog.  All contributors will be acknowledged.  If you do not wish acknolwedgement, simply skip the inclusion of your name in the list (bel0w).

Lastly, if you’d like to contribute, but would rather not use a wiki, leave a comment below and I’ll apply your comment(s) to the wiki (with proper acknowledgement).

Initial Draft – Visit the wiki to add your thoughts

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.

Make it easier to find

The typical “location” of a virtual event is quickly becomin outdated – microsite with registration page, with no ability to experience the event prior to completing all mandatory registration fields.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 Facebook.com – it has Facebook Connect, Facebook Open Graph and much more.  Virtual events platforms, on the other hand, seem to be restricted to “VirtualEventPlatform.com”

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.

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, 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.

This article was developed collaboratively via PBworks.  Contributors to this article include:

  1. Dennis Shiao, Blogger at “It’s All Virtual”

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How To Leverage LinkedIn For Your Virtual Event

May 26, 2010

With over 65 million registered users worldwide, LinkedIn has become an essential destination where business professionals connect and network.  Make it easy for attendees to connect and engage with their LinkedIn network and virtual event planners have much to gain.

The good news is that LinkedIn provides several convenient integration points – there are LinkedIn Events, LinkedIn Widgets and a full-blown Application Programming Interface (API).  Let’s consider a few possibilities.

LinkedIn Events

To promote your event, create a LinkedIn Event – it’s easy to “Add an Event” once logged in to LinkedIn.  Complete a few input fields and within 5 minutes, your event record is created.  There is a check box for “This is a virtual event” – you’ll obviously want to select that.  Once created, your event will appear at http://events.linkedin.com and be searchable by all LinkedIn members.

Your next step is to generate awareness of your event to LinkedIn members.  On your LinkedIn Event creation confirmation page, you’ll have the option of sharing the Event with selected LinkedIn contacts – and/or advertising the event with LinkedIn’s DirectAds advertising system.  In addition to these options, consider promoting the event to relevant LinkedIn Groups, including those that your company has created – or is active on.

As LinkedIn members find your LinkedIn Event, you’ll begin to generate registrations – members can also denote whether they’re “Attending”, “Interested” or “Not Attending”.  If they’re “Attending”, they can further define their role at the event (e.g. “Attending”, “Presenting” or “Exhibiting”).

Note that a member can denote that they’re “Attending” your virtual event (on LinkedIn), but will still need to complete your event’s registration page, typically hosted on your site or your vendor’s site and separate from LinkedIn.

Once a few members denote that they’re “Attending” your virtual event, LinkedIn’s sharing features kick in – as you see above, I can “Browse Events” and view all upcoming events that a LinkedIn connection (or connections) is attending.  I can click on the LinkedIn Event record to view all attendees – and, I can view which of my connections plans to attend.

This could help in two ways – first, knowing that other like-minded professionals are attending may tip the scales in favor of my own registration and attendance.  Second, I now know (in advance) that one or more of my connections plan to attend, so I’ll be on the look-out for them within the virtual environment.  Or, I may email them on the live event date to ask for their early impressions.

Here’s a useful article: Promote Your Event Using LinkedIn Events Application

LinkedIn as Your Registration Page

Registration page abandonment is a concern for all virtual event hosts – use a form that’s too long and potential registrants may give up and never return.  LinkedIn has a Profile API that can be used to retrieve certain attributes from a LinkedIn member’s profile.

The first step for users, of course, is to authenticate to their LinkedIn account, granting the virtual event platform permission to access their LinkedIn profile.  Once authenticated, the virtual events platform can use the Profile API to obtain some profile attributes.  This should cover 40-50% of a typical event’s registration questions.

By making it convenient for registrants, you’ll see a higher conversion rate and generate more registrations.  You’ll need to balance that by collecting additional information (that exhibitors may need) once registrants login to the event (e.g. email address, which the Profile API does not provide, street address, zip code, qualifying questions, etc.).

LinkedIn Widgets

LinkedIn makes it easy for you to incorporate functionality by way of Javascript-based widgets – LinkedIn provides you with a few lines of Javascript and you embed the code on your web page (or virtual event page).  There are three widgets currently available: Company Insider (see how many connections you have at a particular company), Profile (display a user’s LinkedIn profile) and Share on LinkedIn (share content with your LinkedIn Connections or Groups).

Your virtual event’s registration page is a logical place to embed the “Share on LinkedIn” widget – users registering for your event can share it with their LinkedIn network – or, with particular LinkedIn groups to which they belong.  As shown above, members can share the page via status update (on LinkedIn), via a posting to a selected LinkedIn Group or by emailing selected connections.

The registration page is the one page where sharing makes sense – the rest of the event sits behind the registration page.  Thus, sharing pages from within the event are less useful, since recipients would first need to complete the registration page prior to seeing the “shared content”.

Searching for LinkedIn Connections within the event

I occasionally attend a virtual event where I come across a former colleague in the Networking Lounge or in an exhibitor’s booth.  If not for the random encounter, I would have never known s/he was attending the same event.  The virtual event platform ought to provide me with the ability to search my LinkedIn Connections and then check to see if any of them are registered or online (right now!).

This would be useful for:

  1. Attendees – have the opportunity to connect with a former colleague or business partner, right there in the virtual event.  Additionally, be able to compare notes on exhibitors, sessions, etc. with folks you know.
  2. Exhibitors – invite contacts (connections) to visit you in your virtual booth and get them caught up on your latest product offerings.  Also, be alerted to existing customers and business partners who are attending – whom you may not have known were online in the environment.
  3. Show Hosts – be alerted to business contacts who are attending your event – and be able to check in with them (or connect with them afterwards) to ask about the event experience.


Leveraging LinkedIn can bring many benefits to a virtual event planner – you can generate awareness and additional registrations via LinkedIn Events and the “Share on LinkedIn” widget; you can create an accelerated registration process for your users (and generate additional registrations along the way) and you can create enhanced engagement within the event by allowing attendees to discover their peers and business partners.  Give some of these ideas a try and let me know how they worked out!

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Bringing Virtual Worlds to The Blind

December 30, 2008


IBM alphaWorks Services

Source: IBM alphaWorks Services

According to Wikipedia, approximately 40 million people in the world are blind.  IBM’s alphaWorks Services division has embarked on a noble project aimed to benefit these 40 million.  Called “Virtual Worlds User Interface for the Blind”, an overview can be found here:


And an FAQ document here:


The service currently works with Second Life (only), but IBM may support additional virtual worlds in the future.  If they do add such support, they’ll tie new virtual worlds into the existing client, so that users only need to learn a single application.

With the IBM application, a virtual world is rendered via text (no graphics) and sighted users have the ability to annotate objects of the virtual worlds via text descriptions or recorded audio.

The implementers chose to leverage some open source and off-the-shelf technology:

The user interface is a Web application, a thin client running locally in the Firefox browser that communicates with Second Life through an agent on our server. The application is implemented partly with the JavaScript programming language, and it uses Dojo Toolkit widgets to provide a virtual world user interface that is entirely keyboard-navigable and screen reader-friendly. Nothing is permanently installed on the user’s computer. 

The system also uses Quicktime (to play event sound prompts and verbal annotations) and NVDA (an open source screen reader).  IBM recommends the use of the open source software Audacity for recording the verbal narrations).

I commend IBM for this effort and admire the flexibility and openness they’ve chosen in the implementation.

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