Virtual Event Email Promotions and Hotmail Active Views

January 14, 2011

Note: Image sourced from a Hotmail YouTube video.


The Hotmail Team has introduced an interactive email technology called Active Views.  The technology allows recipients of Active Views emails (within Hotmail) to interact with the email itself.

Hotmail showed examples of two of their early partners, Orbitz and Monster.  Recipients of the emails could search a flight (in the Orbitz email) or search for jobs (in the Monster email).

Interactive Emails and Virtual Event Promotions

Interactive email technologies present interesting possibilities for virtual event email promotions – and, more broadly, for any email promotion that seeks to elicit a response.  Imagine the following for virtual event email promotions:

  1. Register for the virtual event
  2. Enter your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. identity and see which of your followers, friends, connections, etc. have already registered
  3. Navigate through the session schedule and indicate which sessions you’re interested in attending
  4. Complete your attendee profile – upload your image/photo and add a short bio
  5. Social sharing – let your social networks know that you’re interested in the event – or, that you’ve just registered

The possibilities are endless.


  1. Only Hotmail “trusted parties” can utilize Active Views
  2. The technology is platform-specific (it’s limited to Hotmail)
  3. The technology is new and largely untested (at a large scale)
  4. It remains to be seen how well the technology functions across platforms (e.g. email clients, operating systems, tablet devices, etc.)
  5. While security provisions are in place, it may open a window for providers of phishing and malware

Related Links

  1. Active Views introduction on the Inside Windows Live blog
  2. TechCrunch: “Hotmail Active Views Look To Make Email Interactive
  3. ClickZ: “Hotmail Active Views Revives E-mail Innovation in 2011

How To Effectively Generate Virtual Event Registrations

September 4, 2010

International Freelancers Day is “the biggest ever (FREE) online conference exclusively for solo professionals.”  Want to know how to effectively generate virtual event registrations? Follow this event’s lead.  They make it easy for you to sign up.  And once you do, they provide you with compelling value well before you attend the live event.

Prominently feature of a short video on the event home page

You can’t visit the home page for this event without noticing the prominent video.  It’s short and effectively markets the event (e.g. why should I attend?).  You’ll notice that the home page is not heavy on text that describes this event – instead, the messaging and background is contained within the video.  A well-produced video can describe and promote your event better than any paragraph of text can do.

Make registration easy

Registering for a virtual event typically requires the user to complete a registration page with 10-15 questions (or more!).  Ever wonder why registration counts are down? Could be the complexity of the registration process itself.  With International Freelancers Day, I simply enter my email address.

The event used a “double opt-in”, which means that I received an email, which prompted me to click on a link to confirm my registration.  This is a good protective measure, as a single opt-in would allow anyone to register any other user (email address) for the event, without that user’s knowledge.

In addition to this model, I expect to see virtual events adopt “social registration”, allowing users to register via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. That would also make virtual event registration very easy.

PROVIDE VALUE on your confirmation or welcome page

All too often, a virtual event’s registration confirmation says “thank you” and “see you at the live event.”  That’s it?  Instead, build a page that provides value to the registrant.  These days, attendance rates at virtual events (e.g. free virtual conferences or virtual trade shows) are 50% or lower.  That means that half or your registrants (or more!) never attend.

Your challenge, then, is to demonstrate value to the user as soon as they register.  Consider the confirmation/welcome page a big opportunity.  International Freelancers Day does a great job:

Pre-Event Training Videos

What a great idea – provide content to the registrants, in the form of videos from experts.  Registrants are provided access to 6 training videos.  The first 3 videos had these titles:

  1. A Simple System for Landing More of the Work You Quote
  2. How to Pick the Right Target Niche
  3. Ask Better Questions

Videos #4 through #6 are not yet available, but if you’ve registered for the event, you’ll receive an email when they become available.  Another great tactic – a steady, pre-event flow of content, which keeps you coming back.  That, in turn, keeps the event “top of mind” with registrants.

If users enjoy these videos, they’ll gain confidence in the value of the live conference, which means they’ll be more likely to attend live.  Finally, each video was hosted on a unique URL and allowed comments to be posted.

Video #1 had 17 comments, which means that registrants are viewing the videos – and, they’re already starting a dialog with the event host (and each other) prior to the live event!

Allow registrants to promote the event on your behalf

This event’s welcome page also included the following:

  1. A link to the International Freelancers Day Facebook Page
  2. A “tweet button”, allowing you to share the event with your followers on Twitter – and, a mention of the event’s hash tag (#IFD10)
  3. A snippet of HTML code, so that you can “add the International Freelancers Day badge to your website or blog”
  4. The Twitter ID’s of the event’s co-founders


I’m not a freelancer and yet this event registration process has me sold!  Generating registrations and attendees to your virtual event is a two-tiered process.

You first need to generate registrations.  Then, you need to get those registrants “through the door” (to attend live).  Use effective tactics, like those employed by International Freelancers Day, and you can excel at both.

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Virtual Event Evolution

June 28, 2010

In a prior blog posting, I promoted a wiki that I created that allows us to collaborate on the evolution of virtual event platforms.  The wiki received some very thoughtful contributions.

Miguel Arias (IMASTE) added several insights via the wiki. In the paragraph “Make it easier to experience” he writes:

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 a a mainstream audience. Mainly considering plugin or applets downloads, system performance and learning curve barriers.

In the paragraph “Make it easier to experience” he writes:

The most relevant virtual event platforms will introduce or already have Facebook connect and twitter connect, and they will need to move to even wider standards like OpenID. On the other hand, deskopt or mobile widgets to control your stand usage, statistics and reporting will be a must. Lastly, the platforms will have extense APIs to manage their integration with various social networks, corporate databases, physical event managing software, etc.

Miguel then added a new paragraph:

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.

Steve Gogolak  (Cramer) also added several insights via the wiki. In the paragraph “Make it easier to access” he writes:

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.

In the paragraph “Make the experience available on more devices” he writes:

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!

In the paragraph “Make the platform more adaptable for different customer needs and different usage” that Miguel created, Steve writes:

Take a hint from Apple’s “face time”. 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.

To view the fruits of our collaboration, you can read the wiki page here:

By default, you’ll be taken to the “VIEW” tab – to contribute, click on the “EDIT” tab. We’d love to hear (read) your thoughts!

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Improving The Virtual Event User Experience

January 20, 2010

Source: flickr (User: kamomebird)

The Airport Experience

To get to your flight, one embarks on a journey through the airport.  First, you park your car (or arrive via mass transportation).  Then you take an elevator, walkway or escalator and arrive at your terminal.  From there, you use a self service kiosk to check in to your flight and receive your boarding pass.  Perhaps you check in an item of luggage or two.  Then, you enter the security checkpoint line and have your carry-on items (and yourself) screened.

Once through, you walk towards your assigned gate, while stopping (if needed) to use the restroom, purchase a snack or pick up some reading material for the flight.  Once that’s all done, you may sit at the gate and relax for a bit before your flight takes off.  All in all, quite a complex journey – and, you’re no closer to your destination!  Believe it or not, however, the airport has provided subtle “tools” to make this journey a bit more efficient.

In the midst of one such journey (on a recent business trip), I drew comparisons between the airport experience and the virtual event experience.  Here are some tactics used at the airport that may improve the user experience for virtual events:


Bookmarks for frequently visited locations in the virtual event – after I park my car in the airport parking garage, there are a stack of reminder cards by the elevator.  The cards list the garage that I’m in (e.g. Domestic Flights) and allow me to make a small tear mark (on the card itself) to indicate what floor and section I’ve parked in (e.g. 7th Floor, Section F).

Virtual event platforms should support a bookmarking capability to allow me to flag preferred areas of the event – and get me directly there.  Exhibitors could use this capability to find their way back to their booth in one click.  Attendees could leverage this to get them back to the Lounge or Auditorium – or whatever area of the event they frequent the most.

Source: flickr (User: trektheusa)

Auto-generated bookmarks for quicker navigation – at the airport, I use the “moving walkway”.  And I’m not one to stand there for the ride – I like to walk on the moving walkway to double my speed (like most people).  The basic idea is, “get me where I need to go – and fast”.  In a virtual event, the attendee wants to get where they need to go – and they don’t want to “figure it out”, nor are they interested in multiple clicks to get there.

Expanding upon the bookmarking concept, a virtual event platform could use data from the current session and past sessions (for that attendee), to auto-generate a set of recommended bookmarks.  If presented in an unobtrusive manner to the attendee (and, if the recommendations are on the mark), users would perform the one click and be taken directly where they want to go.  And, they’ll be much happier about their experience.


When I pass through the security line at the airport, I usually view the monitors to confirm the Gate Number for my flight.  On my recent trip, I noticed prominently placed display monitors in the walk-way that had visual paging notifications (e.g. “John Doe, please meet your party at Gate 4”).  These notifications are typically communicated via audio announcements on the airport loud speakers – but for me, I’ve been trained to tune out those announcements.  The visual cue was much more effective.

At a virtual event, wouldn’t it be neat to have the show host leave notifications for attendees – and, for attendees to leave notifications to others.  If you’re expecting a colleague to attend the live event but don’t see her online, you can leave her a notification – then, when she logs in, she sees notification pop-ups from the show host – along with your’s.

Affinity Programs

Once through the security checkpoint, passengers are free to roam as they wish in the (secure) boarding area.  Passengers who belong to an airline affinity program, however, can show their credentials (e.g. frequent flyer membership card) to gain entrance into a Frequent Flyer Lounge.  I wrote about this previously – the notion of a virtual event affinity program to increase audience, engagement and “event loyalty”.

Source: flickr (User: tombihninc)


The airport experience can introduce a lot of inconvenience, which means that any little thing (to create convenience for travelers) helps. Even though I had already packed properly, it was nice to see a pile of clear Ziploc bags available in the security check line – travelers who forgot to place their toiletries in a clear bag could grab one to become compliant.

In a virtual event, there are a number of system requirements (or plug-ins) that are needed for an optimal experience.  For convenience, perhaps the platform performs a check during the registration.  While the registration is being processed, the user is informed that a silent background check is being performed.  Then, upon successful completion of registration, the registration confirmation page provides the outcome of the system check, including links to install required software/plug-ins that were not found.  This way, the registrant has the opportunity to “get what she needs” prior to her arrival on the live event date.


With virtual events now beyond the “infancy” stage, I think a key for 2010 will be improving and enhancing the user experience.

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