Advertisements
 

2011 Predictions For Virtual Events

October 30, 2010

As we head into the final 2 months of 2010, it’s time for another round of predictions.  First, let’s review my 2010 predictions:

  1. The 2010 Predictions for Virtual Events
  2. The Mid-Year Report Card on the 2010 predictions
  3. A posting on the Future of Virtual Events

I assigned myself a mid-year grade of B.  And now, I’m designating a final grade of B-.  I hope to improve in this year’s predictions.  To assist with my predictions, I invited a few experts from the community to chime in, so I’ll be including their predictions with my own.

Market Expansion

To date, “market expansion” has meant a growing number of “pure play” virtual event platform providers.  In the US, we started with a handful of major vendors and we’ve seen new entrants into the market in 2009 and 2010.  We also saw the emergence of platforms outside the US, notably in Europe – and in 2009, in Asia Pacific as well.

For a large Requests For Proposal (RFP) in 2009 and 2010, the virtual event platforms knew whom they were competing against (each other).  Starting in 2011, it gets cloudier (pun intended), as the blending of virtual, social and Enterprise 2.0 means that a wider set of vendors are vying for the same business that virtual platforms got in 2010.

Consider the following vendors, each of whom has offerings that (in part) look, feel and smell like virtual events or virtual business communities:

Jive Software, Yammer, Pathable, Facebook Groups, Socialtext, SharePoint (Microsoft) and Lotus (IBM).

Virtual event platforms can expect to sell against some of these players in 2011 and some platforms may go the partnership route, to build a combined offering as a competitive advantage.

Service Level Agreements (SLA)

The virtual events industry is at a point in its growth where Service Level Agreements (SLA) make a lot of sense.  With a growing number of vendors, SLA’s help separate the contenders from the pretenders – if you’re offering money back (or a credit) if an event fails, then only the strong will survive.

I predict that one vendor will lead the way and proactively hit the market with an SLA – forcing others to follow suit later in 2011.  Expect SLA’s around availability and simultaneous users.

Later in 2011 (or perhaps in 2012), SLA’s will be defined around “quality”, such as response time.  This development helps the market – the assurance provided behind an event allows the market to expand, attracting new customer growth that exceeds 2010’s figures.

Market Upheaval

Market expansion and SLA’s mean the strong get stronger. But lesser platforms have a challenging year ahead. According to Cece Salomon-Lee, Principal at PR Meets Marketing, “some players will be bought by larger organizations, merging to bring together complimentary strengths or even some disappearing from the industry all together. No matter how, we will begin to see some consolidation within the industry.”

Meanwhile, Miguel Arias of IMASTE believes that US platforms will look abroad for acquisitions.  To “gain presence, customers and market knowledge” in Europe, Latin America and Asia, Arias believes US platforms will look to partner or acquire in-country platforms in those same regions.

In my mind, there is an enormous, (largely) untapped market within the US, which means that US-based platforms will continue to focus domestically in 2011.  Global expansion will occur in 2012 or beyond.  In addition, due to the “strong get stronger” phenomenon, I predict that one of the prominent US-based platforms will cease operations in 2011 – or, be sold at a below-market price.

Technology A La Carte


Today, virtual event platforms are “monolithic” – you enter an event and all of the functionality provided by the platform sits within that event.  You can’t experience the platform’s features outside of an “event”.  In my futures column, I predicted that virtual events “move closer to the end user”.

Driven by market demand, platforms will “break out” pieces of their technology platform in a la carte fashion. Customers who do not need a five course meal may opt just for an appetizer and coffee.  This may surface in a number of ways, including:

Thin desktop clients, mobile apps, browser toolbars, virtual booths embedded in banner ads, group chat embedded on a web page, etc.

Hybrid Innovation & The Year of the Hybrid

In 2009, some INXPO colleagues and I predicted that 2010 would be The Year of the Hybrid.  This was partially true – in fact, Cisco received the 2010 Grand Ex Award for their hybrid approach to Cisco Live and Networkers. However, the mass adoption of hybrid events (that we predicted) did not ring true.  But that’s OK, it’s always better to be a year early than a year late.

Event and experience marketing agencies have adopted virtual in varying degrees – 2011 is the year where they demonstrate the most aggressive push to date.  You’ll see strong adoption from the “big brands” in 2011 and it will come by way of these channel partners to the virtual event platforms.  2011 will set the foundation for growth – with “hockey stick growth” coming in 2012.

Another major adopter in 2011 will be associations. They’ve done a number of virtual events to date – in 2011, you’ll see 200%+ growth.  Local chapter meetings will continue to occur at physical locations, while the annual, national chapter meeting of the association will move to a hybrid event, with the virtual component serving those members who were not able to make it to the physical gathering.

More generally, 2011 will see innovative technologies that blend the virtual/online world with the real world.  And these same technologies will be integrated into hybrid event experiences, blurring the lines between physical and virtual.  I’m referring to location based services (LBS), mobile, augmented reality and QR codes.  Expect to see a lot of hybrid events innovation, which benefits everyone.

Miscellaneous Predictions

From Miguel Arias, “After some virtual events vendors, marketers and event organisers have shown in 2010 with successful case studies what are the benefits of virtual events we will see much more events and movements in Europe and South America specially.  I expect a 250-300% growth of the total market size in those regions.”

From Cece Salomon-Lee, “I believe the players that will remain on the landscape will begin building out an ecosystem of services to plug-and-play on the platforms.”

From Miguel on vendor specialization, “With more vendors in the space and more clients asking for more tailored solutions we will probably see a leader in the corporate events environment, a leader in the generic trade show market, other for hybrid events, for virtual career fairs, etc.”

Conclusion

I’ll sum up this piece by using a number of nouns to describe what I expect to see in 2011: innovation, shake-out, growth, change, adaptation, expansion, excitement.  Check back here in 6-8 months for my mid-year report card!

Advertisements

Event Planners “Check In” To Location Based Services

July 26, 2010

Introduction

Due to the rising popularity of Foursquare, Gowalla and related apps, location based services (LBS) is quite the buzzword both in consumer and technology circles.  Logically, the ability to “check in” at venues, connect with friends/associates and make new contacts has relevance to events and event planners.

Let’s highlight some of last week’s articles and blog postings on this topic.

Trade Show News Network

Michelle Bruno (@michellebruno) wrote an article in Trade Show News Network (@TSNN_com_US) titled “Checking Out ‘Checking In’ for Events“.  The article references Foursquare and Gowalla and then profiles a technology provider named Double Dutch.  According to its web site, Double Dutch provides “White label geolocation apps for your brand”.

Michelle references a key point regarding hybrid events, in which event planners support both physical and virtual venues.  Michelle writes, “If a virtual event is also taking place, live attendees can check in at the online and offline events for more recognition”.

Tracking and supporting check-ins across physical and virtual locations can build a more cohesive and compelling hybrid event.  In fact, it can serve to bridge the physical and virtual venues.

Virtual event platforms should look into this.  In fact, I blogged about location based services and virtual events previously.

Cisco Live

In Cisco’s Virtual Environments blog, Dannette Veale (@dveale) writes about virtual technologies that Cisco has incorporated into their Cisco Live (@CiscoLive) annual conference.  The 2010 Cisco Live event concluded recently – the physical component was hosted in Las Vegas, while a virtual component ran concurrently.

Disclosure: My employer (@INXPO) provided the virtual platform for Cisco Live

Dannette describes an innovative use  of Foursquare by Cisco Live’s event planners – a type of scavenger hunt, in which conference attendees received a clue (via social media channels) about a check-in location.  The first 75 attendees to check in at that location (and complete an additional task) would receive buttons, which could be used to redeem a daily prize at the Cisco Store.

The contest generated 802 checkins and allowed conference attendees to network and make connections with one another.

SCVNGR (Mashable)

SCVNGR, “a game about doing challenges at places”, this week announced the social check-in.  Two or more users can bump phones (or, wave them at each other in close proximity) and check in at the same time and place.  There are many ways event planners can leverage this technology.

In a trade show, attendees could be encouraged to perform social check-ins with each other – or, with exhibitors.  In a user conference, the social check-in could be used as a back-drop to a game that encouraged attendees to network with one another.  In a corporate setting, social check-ins could be used to encourage team building.

Conclusion

The concepts of “check ins”, location awareness and location tracking have natural uses for events.  While they’re a great fit for physical events, think about tie-ins between physical and virtual for your hybrid event.  And, think about ways in which “location tracking” (in a virtual event) can create connections, engagement and interaction.

Tweet this posting:


How Virtual Events Can Adopt Location Based Services

January 28, 2010

These days, it seems the social web is like real estate – it’s all about location, location, location.  Foursquare, Gowalla and Loopt are gaining popularity as location based, mobile social services.  Yelp has rolled out Yelp Check-ins, which mirror a popular activity on the aforementioned services.  Twitter added location awareness to its API in 2009.  Facebook, some speculate, may enter the fray with their own location based services.

So how would it be possible to enable Location Based Services in a virtual event?  Well, consider that location tracking is inherent to the virtual event platform – in other words, it has a built-in GPS for all users!  I wrote previously about gaming in virtual events – that gaming can generate  retention, engagement, enjoyment and loyalty.  Location Based Services, in the form of competition and gaming, can achieve all of these benefits.  Let’s take a look at how.

Source: flickr (User: dvxfilmerdoug)

It Starts With The Buddy List

Users first need to build their social graph.  This can be accomplished with a virtual event platform’s “buddy list” feature – all users in your buddy list would receive status notifications from the location system.  The notifications would be sent to users within the virtual event (if you’re logged in).  Once you log out, you can opt to receive status notifications via email.  This way, even if you’re no longer in the event, you can receive updates (via email) on what your buddies are up to.

Build A Reward System

Next, a reward system serves as an incentive for users to participate.  The concept is similar to the becoming “mayor” of a location on Foursquare.  In a virtual event, perhaps you allow privileged users (who have achieved a certain status) to obtain a badge – whereby the badge can superimposed on their avatar image – or, listed on their profile page.  In addition to the badge system, a master leaderboard (and perhaps segmented leaderboards) should be utilized, allowing users to track their performance relative to other users.

The Virtual Trade Show

First, the notion of a social graph in a virtual trade show may be an upfront challenge.  At most trade shows, you may know a handful of colleagues or associates who are also attending – but for the most part, everyone else is a stranger (to start).  Thus, a system may need to be in place first to encourage users to add other users to their buddy list.

Assuming you can achieve decent-sized buddy lists, then the “check-in” becomes quite relevant in a virtual trade show.  Each visit that I make to an event area can be tracked (by the platform) as a check-in – allowing my buddies to know what areas I visited – and, where I am right now.  Secondly, I might leave a review or comment about a particular area – perhaps I enjoyed the content in an exhibitor’s booth – or, I didn’t find a Webcast to be all that useful.  When my buddies enter those same areas, they can then view the comments I left them from my prior check-ins.  Thus, when a buddy enters the same exhibitor booth, she knows that I visited earlier and enjoyed the content there.

Exhibitors could then sponsor areas of the event (besides their own booth) – the Lounge, Auditorium, Resource Center, etc.  Then, attendees can vie to become the “mayor” of a given area.  At the end of the live event, perhaps the mayor of the Lounge receives a prize that’s awarded by the Lounge’s sponsor – and to receive the prize, agrees to have a short conversation with that sponsor.  Already, you can begin to see how this location “app” can generate additional activity and engagement.

Source: flickr (User: Live Solutions)

The Virtual Sales Conference

In a virtual sales conference (and related corporate events), attendees naturally have a large list of potential buddies – the trick is to incent the attendees to populate that list within the virtual event.  Alternatively, management may choose to pre-select the buddy lists by organizing the sales force into teams – whereby your buddy list is pre-seeded with your fellow team members.  The location app is all about checking in (with each other) and sharing information towards gaining points for your team.  In this manner, the location app helps encourage learning and collaboration, making the virtual sales conference more effective.

Social Networks

For certain types of events (e.g. virtual trade shows), integrating the location system with users’ social networks can be powerful.  For instance, a check-in to the keynote presentation can auto-generate a tweet out to the attendee’s Twitter followers – providing a registration link to the event.  Similarly, a check-in at an exhibitor’s booth may prompt the user whether she wants to post an update to her Facebook wall.  In summary, the location service should facilitate sharing not just within the virtual event, but to external social networks as well.

Prevent Gaming (of the System)

The virtual events platform will need to carefully build the measurement and scoring methodologies to ensure that the “game is not gamed”.  In the real world, there is overhead involved in becoming the mayor of a watering hole – in the virtual world, clicking 50 times to enter an exhibitor’s booth is quite easy.  The scoring system ought to consider rate limits, as well as threshold values around selected activities.  Additionally, becoming “mayor” should factor in actions that are not as “game-able” as mouse clicks or visits.

Conclusion

There’s  probably a lot of work to enable the underlying platform to accomplish this – however, such a system can go a long way to achieving retention, engagement, enjoyment and loyalty.

Tweet this posting:


%d bloggers like this: