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ROI Case Study: Virtual Edge Institute’s Hybrid Event

July 28, 2010

Introduction

Virtual events have enjoyed phenomenal growth in demand and visibility.  Notable brands and associations have hopped aboard the virtual bandwagon, delivering innovative experiences and impactful results.  The first phase of the virtual event industry is what I call the “early dating period”.  As the industry evolves and matures, we are moving from early dating to an era of “meet the parents”.

That is, a phase in which we receive increased visibility and a challenge to prove and justify ourselves.  The parents, in our case, are the company executives who fund our virtual event campaigns (e.g. our bosses, our CFO, CMO, CEO, etc.).  To date, virtual events used for lead generation have been the most effective at demonstrating ROI.

Why? Because lead generation has existing methodologies and metrics on ROI (e.g. “cost per lead”, “cost per inquiry”, “cost per sales engagement”, etc.).  So a virtual trade show investment could simply “plug into” a corporation’s existing ROI methodology.  For other event types, however, ROI, impact and effectiveness have not been explicitly measured to date.

To evolve our industry, it’s crucial that event planners, platform vendors and ROI experts work together to define and implement methodologies to generate quantitative results for our virtual and hybrid event investments.

Michael Doyle of the Virtual Edge Institute (@virtualedge) is a firm believer in event ROI measurement.  The Virtual Edge Institute is “an international organization dedicated to advancing the development and adoption of virtual event and meeting technology and best practices for collaboration and marketing”.  Doyle hosts the Virtual Edge Summit, an annual hybrid event that brings together virtual event practitioners, experts and solutions providers.

For the 2010 Virtual Edge Summit in Santa Clara, CA, Doyle partnered with ROI of Engagement to measure the impact and effectiveness of the event.  The summit was a hybrid event, with on-site and virtual components running simultaneously.  As such, Doyle sought to study and measure feedback from each attendee group.

The study was based on ROI Methodology™, which ROI of Engagement describes as “a step-by-step approach to collecting data, summarizing and processing data, isolating the effects of programs, converting data to monetary value and calculating ROI”.  The methodology studies results along the following five levels:

  1. Level One: Reaction and Satisfaction
  2. Level Two: Learning and Understanding
  3. Level Three: Application
  4. Level Four: Impact
  5. Level Five: ROI

Virtual Edge Summit 2010 measured the first two levels.  The results of the study have been published here:

http://www.virtualedge.org/forum/topics/measuring-and-maximizing-the

On this page, you can download the White Paper, “Measuring and Maximizing the Impact of a Hybrid Event“.

Virtual Edge Summit 2011 is scheduled for January 2011 in Las Vegas and will be co-located with PCMA.  Doyle plans to apply valuable feedback from the 2010 ROI study to improve the experience for the 2011 event.

Doyle is focusing on consolidating the virtual component on a single platform (in 2010, there were several virtual platforms to choose from) and increasing networking opportunities for both on-site and virtual attendees.

In addition, the 2011 event will embark upon another ROI study – this time, the study will take advantage of all five levels in the ROI Methodology™.

Conclusion

It’s a great time to be in the events industry.  Never before has there been so many technology tools at your disposal (e.g. virtual event platforms and much more).  For continued growth in virtual and hybrid events, the industry will need thorough and proven ROI methodologies to demonstrate and quantify ROI, impact and effectiveness.  Event planners: look to the initiative from Virtual Edge Institute and ROI of Engagement and consider how similar methodologies apply to your next event.

international organization dedicated to advancing the development and adoption of virtual event and meeting technology and best practices for collaboration and marketing

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Mid-Year Report Card: 2010 Virtual Events Predictions

June 9, 2010

At the end of 2009, I posted my 2010 predictions for the virtual events industry.  Now that we’re nearly half done with 2010 (can you believe that), I decided to provide a self-assessment for my predictions.

Overall, I’ve decided on a grade of “B” (I’m an easy grader) – which may improve based on the second half of the year.  Let’s review the individual predictions.

Video Integration (Grade: B)

I wrote:

In 2010, I believe that the virtual event platforms will integrate with third party video conferencing technologies in a big way – stirred largely by client demand for it.

While video conferencing integration has not (yet!) been implemented on a wide scale, we witnessed the first occurrence of telepresence enablement in a virtual event.

The Sustainability Virtual Summit: Smart ICT was produced by G2 Events, “featuring telepresence enablement, allowing roundtable and panel discussions to be broadcast between panelists in remote locations worldwide (first in a virtual event)”.

I attended the event and viewed a number of telepresence-enabled sessions.  While impressive, it should be noted that my prediction was around “incorporation of multi-party, HD video conferencing”, whereas the Sustainability Virtual Summit event enabled telepresence via “simulive” playback of pre-recorded sessions.

Multi-party HD video conferencing over the public Internet is likely a few years away – instead, we’ll likely see multi-party (with virtual event integration) enabled in a corporate setting, with its tighter controls over available bandwidth – and, with the option to distribute the video conferencing streams via IP multicast.

Global Players (Grade: B)

I wrote:

I expect to see another European-based platform emerge in 2010, along with one or more in Asia Pac.

Gensee, based in China, provides a “Web Virtual Events Platform”.  The market for virtual events in China seems to be less developed than in the U.S. and Europe – as such, Gensee may be well positioned to capitalize on any uptick in adoption (in China), as their platform was built to serve a Chinese audience.

“China has more than 400 million internet users, with Flash based virtual games and social network services very popular, although with its own flavors and local providers”, notes Benjamin Chen, CEO of Gensee Technology.

Chen continues, “China has many economic centers and many enterprises have geographically dispersed customers and employees. I already see great demands to complement physical trade shows, expos, events and e-learning with virtual components”.

VisualMente is another European player in the virtual events space – they’re based on Spain and have done virtual event campaigns for BlackBerry, among others.

To be fair, both Gensee and VisualMente were around when my predictions were made, so I didn’t technically predict their emergence.  That being said, I do believe in the trend that more and more players will enter the space, with a growing number of vendors outside of the U.S.  The U.S. is the most developed market to date (relatively speaking) – which means that even larger opportunities lie abroad.

If you’re aware of additional virtual event players (outside of the U.S.), please leave information in the comments section below – thanks.

Source: Cisco Live and Networkers Virtual

Response Rates (Grade: A)

While I can’t provide insight for “relative response rates” on audience generation for virtual events in 2010, I did write the following:

Virtual event show hosts will need to consider the incorporation of gaming, the creation of affinity programs and more.

Cisco Live and Networkers Virtual is incorporating gaming into their upcoming event – Dannette Veale (Cisco) published a post regarding  objectives and considerations behind enabling gaming in that event.  I should disclose that I’m with INXPO, the virtual event platform that’s hosting this event – and we’re big believers in social gaming in virtual events.  So my prediction was a bit self serving.

I do believe in the effectiveness of gaming, especially in a virtual event or virtual business environment (e.g. for learning, retention, sponsor interaction, etc.) – as such, I expect to see an increasing amount of games (especially games with a social component) enabled in virtual events going forward.

Some vendors will integrate them into the core platform, while others will start by creating “one off” games that are loosely coupled with the underlying event platform.

Immersiveness (Grade: A)

In the U.S., the Virtual Edge Summit is the annual face-to-face event in the virtual events industry.  New this year was a “Business 3Di Track”, demonstrating the growing interest in immersiveness [see full program here].  I wrote:

Client interest and demand will drive some platforms to add immersive capabilities in 2010.  I don’t expect a software download, however – it would serve platforms well to support the immersive experience within their existing framework (e.g. Flash, JavaFX, Silverlight).

One of the exhibitors at Virtual Edge was Altadyn, who provides an offering called 3DXplorer – “the first ‘browser-based’ and ‘installation-free’ solution which enables a 3D interactive and fully immersive experience, accessible from any corporate or individual computer”.

In addition to Altadyn, one of the “pure play 2D event platforms” (at Virtual Edge) provided a demo of immersive capabilities they’ve incorporated into their platform.  I expect to see more experimentation and deployment in the second half of this year.

Consolidation (Grade: C)

I wrote:

We’ll see the merging or acquiring of virtual event platform companies.

Since neither of these has yet to come true in 2010, this grade really could be an “F” or an “Incomplete”.  I’m still holding firm on this prediction, however, as I do expect some M&A activity in the second half of the year.

Conclusion

The first half of 2010 sure has flown by – on the predictions front, I’m looking decent so far at the half-way mark.  I’m expecting an eventful second half (pun intended).  What are your expectations for the second half of this year in our industry?  Leave your thoughts below in the comments section.

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2010 Trend Watch: Virtual Events

February 25, 2010

Source: flickr (User: b.frahm)

For the virtual events industry, the premier face-to-face event of the year is Virtual Edge Summit, the “summit on virtual events, marketing & communities”.  Virtual Edge 2010 concluded earlier this week – the face-to-face event floored in Santa Clara, CA, while several vendors provided virtual components, allowing remote (virtual) attendees to participate in the experience.  The event saw record crowds from attendees, exhibitors and presenters.

From my observations at this year’s event, the following are a set of emerging trends in the industry.

Beyond Novelty Phase

Judging by the turn-out alone, the virtual event industry has officially “graduated” beyond the novelty phase.  Awareness of virtual events has broadened – now, when I meet someone at a social gathering and describe what I do for a living, the blank stare of years past has become a “oh yes, I’ve attended one of those”.

The increase of awareness (and, perceived importance) could be seen in the amount of coverage that Virtual Edge 2010 received – an increase in the number of publications (on-site), bloggers (both on-site and virtually) and analysts (both on-site and virtually).  Lastly, the volume of tweets (via hash tag: #ve10) was 5-10 times greater than last year – with more tweets per person and many more people tweeting.

With that being said, there are enormous untapped and unexplored markets, which will provide the industry much of its growth in 2010 and beyond.

More Players Emerge

I noticed a near doubling in the number of exhibitors this year, which means that new/emerging vendors significantly developed (or expanded) their virtual event capabilities – or, from a marketing standpoint, they determined it was the right time to get their products and services in front of this audience.

Last year, the exhibitors were fairly homogeneous – they provide apples-to-apples solutions and directly compete with one another.  This year, the breadth of solutions offerings (from the exhibitors) has expanded – some exhibitors do not necessarily compete directly with one another.

In some cases, a client may use one vendor for a particular type of virtual event and a different vendor in another type of event.  The result?  More “burden” on the attendees (buyers) to understand the solutions offered and determine which solution best fits their needs.  This affords some  industry players (agencies, consultants) a great opportunity to help clients and prospects navigate the waters.

Early Adopters Become Industry Thought Leaders

Practitioners (especially some of the early adopters in our industry) are quickly becoming the thought leaders and “go to source” for ideas, expertise and wisdom.  Many of these thought-leading practitioners were on stage this week – they were very generous with their sharing of experiences.  And, more than ever, they know precisely what they want from their vendors (which is a great thing for those in the vendor space).

In the early days, the practitioner would ask the vendor, “show me what you have” or “show me what you can do’.  Today, the tables have been turned.  Practitioners (clients) are now telling the vendors, “let me tell you what I need” or “make this experiential vision come to life for me”. This is an important aspect of the industry’s evolution – vendors crafting innovation via direct input from practitioners (as opposed to creating “innovation in a vacuum”).

3D Immersiveness

Interest in 3D immersiveness is picking up.  In fact, at Virtual Edge this year, roughly 20% of the session content involved 3D / immersiveness and a formal “Business 3Di” track was created.  The 3Di track featured practitioners, along with vendors such as Linden Lab, Teleplace, Altadyn, Digitell and web.alive (Avaya).  Like last year, Digitell provided a simulcast of the event proceedings into their 3D immersive platform (VirtualU).

Those are the “pure play” immersive environments.  In addition, virtual event platforms are coming on board as well.  In my 2010 predictions on virtual events, I wrote, “(virtual event) platforms take first step towards immersiveness”.  This prediction has come true.

It’s interesting, however – some vendors have a clear vision of what immersiveness enables for exhibitors and attendees of virtual events, while others appear to be adding immersiveness for the sake of adding it (i.e. lacking a clear and compelling use case).  It’s in the best interest of virtual event vendors to explore and enable immersiveness via specific client use cases – this way, the capabilities are added to meet a client need – and, serve as a reference (to the rest of the industry) on the true value delivered via immersiveness.

Social Media Integration

2009 was a monumental year in the evolution of both social media and virtual events.  In 2010, there continues to be a lot of talk about both topics – including discussion around how they integrate with one another.  Social media (and related social networks) were central to the discussion in many workshops and breakout sessions.

And of course, social networking was flourishing in and around the event, with a high volume of tweets, a fair number of Facebook status updates and (I’m sure) lots of LinkedIn connections made.  While I am not aware of any groundbreaking announcements from Virtual Edge on social media integration, I’d expect that platforms enable more and more social networking as 2010 unfolds.  I expect to see the platforms themselves becomes more social (natively) and increase the depth of their integration with third party social networks.  Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are commonly mentioned – but expect to see industry-specific, niche networks and communities integrated as well.

Industry Ecosystem Begins to Take Shape

Virtual event platform vendors have established a number of strategic partnerships to extend account/client reach and grow/scale business opportunities.  Most of those partners were present at Virtual Edge – and a number of partners had prominent speaking roles in the sessions.  By this time next year, even more partners will enter the space and appear at the event.

Additionally, smaller businesses (and individuals as well) are seeking to leverage opportunities within virtual events to bring in new business – or sign on for consulting roles.  The list includes video production companies, design agencies, digital signage providers, freelance producers/writers/story-tellers, streaming providers and emerging social network / community sites.  As these “players” look to get a small piece of the industry pie, they serve to grow the overall ecosystem of this industry.

Finally, hands-on practitioners are finding a fluid and welcoming job market, despite the less inviting macro job environment.  Virtual events are still new enough that production staff, developers and strategic consultants have highly specialized knowledge and skills – as such, they’re able to quickly transition from their existing (or past) role to a new vendor, service provider or practitioner (client side).  Most of the vendors in the space are aggressively hiring, which means that savvy job seekers leveraged the conference to generate meaningful employment leads.

Conclusion

It’s an exciting time in our industry – I’m looking forward to seeing how things shape up for Virtual Edge 2011.

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InXpo: Visit Us In-Person Or Virtually at InXpoLive@VirtualEdge

February 10, 2010

Source: flickr (User: santaclaraflickr)

That’s right, even the virtual events industry has a need for an in-person event.  On February 22nd and 23rd, InXpo will be attending Virtual Edge Summit 2010 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.  There’s an All-Star Roster of Virtual Event strategists, practitioners and visionaries on tap, for an impressive 2-day schedule of keynotes, presentations and break-out sessions.

If you’re unable to join us in Santa Clara, InXpo is holding a hybrid event – we’ll have a virtual event running concurrently with the in-person event.  We’ll provide virtual attendees with a means to view the live video broadcasts of the keynotes, presentations, etc. – and, we’ll be utilizing webcams to bridge the in-person event into the virtual event.

You can pre-register for the virtual event (InXpoLive@VirtualEdge) here:

InXpoLive@VirtualEdge pre-registration

How To Find Me

I’d love to meet up and place faces to names – most of the time, I’ll be stationed in the InXpo booth, so feel free to drop on by.  In addition, InXpo is sponsoring lunch on both days, so perhaps we can grab a sandwich together.

Lastly, I’ll be presenting in a Day 2 session titled “Prevent Virtual Event Nightmares: How Producers Prepare Speakers, Exhibitors and Attendees” – it starts nice and early, at 8AM PT.  I’ll be joined in the presentation by Susan Friedmann, The Tradeshow Coach (@Tradeshowcoach).

Hope to see you there, whether it’s in-person or virtually!

Prevent Virtual Event Nightmares How Producers Prepare Speakers, Exhibitors and Attendees

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Virtual Events: Available In Many Flavors

August 25, 2009

Source: flickr (User: rkeohane)

Source: flickr (User: rkeohane)

In my Virtual Events Year In Review: 2009, I summarized key trends that I witnessed in the virtual events industry this year.  The trends for 2009 included global adoption, emergence of new industries (as virtual event show hosts), emergence of hybrid (virtual/physical) events, the shift to ongoing communities and the shift to multi-day events.  There was one trend I neglected to include – and it may be the number one trend for 2009: virtual events in many flavors (aka virtual events take on many shapes and sizes).

Virtual tradeshows still constitute the majority of virtual events in 2009 – however, new flavors emerged (or generated strong growth) in 2009.  Here’s how they’re different from virtual tradeshows:

  1. Virtual Job Fairs – first off, virtual job fairs are quite similar to virtual tradeshows, especially in structure.  There are exhibitor booths, lounges, presentations (live Webcasts or live Video), prize giveaways, a document Resource Center, etc.  Here’s a big difference with the job fair, however – attendees pursue the exhibitors more than the exhibitors pursue the attendees.  The virtual job fair brings a rather engaged attendee, who’s more keen to visit booths and interact with exhibitors (hiring companies) than typical virtual tradeshows.  Hosts of virtual job fairs will want to work with their virtual event platform provider to create unique tools/applications within the show – for instance, a resume wizard (builder), resume submission tools, attendee<->exhibitor match-making (i.e. find the right job for you – find the right candidate for the hiring company), etc.
  2. Virtual Sales Kickoff – that’s right, the annual sales meeting (for some companies) is moving 100% virtual.  Michael Doyle of Virtual Edge published an interesting article on Cisco’s Global Sales Experience.  For most companies, the goal of an annual sales meeting is to bring the entire salesforce together, reflect back on the past year (acknowledging and rewarding sales reps for their efforts) and talk about the year ahead (set priorities and goals).  Similar to a virtual tradeshow, education (e.g. live sessions) is a focus for this type of event.  Unlike a virtual tradeshow, however, there’s less pitching and selling (from exhibitors to attendees) and the need to network (e.g. find new contacts) is lessened.  It’s incumbent on show hosts to make the virtual sales meeting fun and engaging, as attendees are used to going out for dinner, drinks and parties after physical sales meetings.  Virtual cocktails don’t work too well, so be sure to make the virtual experience memorable and fun.
  3. Virtual Partner Summits – a virtual event platform makes perfect sense for a b-to-b vendor’s partner / reseller network – gather the network of partners virtually, give them the training and tools on your products and services and allow them to network with one another.  You improve relations between you and your partners – and, you encourage resellers to partner together to create joint solutions for the market.  Cisco Virtual Partner Summit ran concurrently with a Boston-based physical Partner Summit (June 2009).  Oracle has similar plans for a virtual partner summit.  PartnerPoint has created a 24×7 virtual community “to help connect Microsoft Customers with qualified Microsoft  Partners from around the globe”.  While virtual tradeshows tend to be “lead focused”, virtual partner summits revolve around networking among exhibitors [peers] – they’re unique in that the exhibitors and attendees are one and the same.

My prediction for 2010 – these three flavors will gain further adoption.  Virtual tradeshows will still carry the majority – however, we’ll be seeing more and more off these flavors, in the following order:

  1. Virtual Sales Kick-off
  2. Virtual Partner Summit
  3. Virtual Job Fair

Virtual Event ROI

May 31, 2009

Virtual Edge 2009 Panel on Measurement & ROI

Virtual Edge 2009 Panel on Measurement & ROI

What’s a hot topic on the minds of virtual event marketers? I’ll give you a hint – it’s spelled R-O-I. At Virtual Edge 2009 in Santa Clara, CA, I participated in a panel discussion on the topic of virtual event ROI.  It’s pretty clear that virtual events are driving significant ROI today – signified by the interest in last week’s conference, the keen interest from marketers and the growth of the virtual event industry.  However, the audience questions from this panel discussion make it quite clear that ROI discussions and analysis need to advance to the next level.

Here were the 3 hot buttons raised by the audience:

  1. Tracking ROI via closed sales – yes, I know that virtual events will drive awareness, engagement and great overall statistics.  But at the end of the day, I need to know that my investment drove product sales.  And I’m just not sure I can quantify that today.
  2. Understanding user/activity profiles – my company wants to produce a virtual event for the C-level, but we just don’t know whether C-level employees will attend virtual events – and if they do, we certainly don’t know the typical activity profile of a C-level employee within a virtual event.  As such, we’re not sure we can recommend the investment to produce one.
  3. More meaningful engagement statistics – it’s great that I had 200 private chat sessions with attendees – but there’s a difference between a “I can’t find the auditorium” chat and a “can you provide me with pricing information” chat.  How do I make the distinction when analyzing my ROI?

Let’s address each of these hot buttons.

ROI via Closed Sales

Here’s where the platform provider needs to work hand in hand with the client.  First, the provider and client need to develop certain engagement patterns that are meaningful for the client.  One pattern may be as simple as, “attendee initiated a private chat with one of my booth reps”.  Another pattern might be, “attendee downloaded more than 5 documents from my booth and had more than 2 return visits”.  Once these patterns are defined, the following should occur:

  1. Platform provider – upon detection of a pattern match, insert (or update) a record in the client’s CRM system (e.g. Salesforce.com, Siebel, etc.).
  2. Client – have the processes and technologies in place for a timely response.  Then, have a secondary process to accurately track and measure the actions/outcome that result from the sales inquiry.

The job of the platform provider is to detect the engagement pattern and seamlessly update the client’s CRM system.  By handling the CRM import automatically, the platform provider is significantly accelerating the potential payoff (ROI) – since a marketer or sales rep is no longer required to manually import the sales opportunity from an Excel spreadsheet.

The client, then, needs a process to have the right person respond in a timely manner to the sales inquiry (e.g. Inside Sales, direct sales rep, etc.) and be able to track the eventual outcome.  The outcome then needs to be mapped back to the source (e.g. virtual event) – to complete the equation.  If these pieces work together, you’ll be able to track closed sales to your virtual event investment.

Activity Profiles

As noted during the Virtual Edge panel discussion, platform providers and clients will need to agree on the use of aggregate event data.  Today’s contracts specify that the client (event producer) owns all data on registrant profiles, activity data, etc.  To publish industry-wide data, it will be important for the lion’s share of clients and vendors to participate.

The data will not be as meaningful if large players (clients or vendors) are not part of the effort.  In addition, vendors and clients will need to agree on standard definitions – for instance, what is “C-level employee” defined as – and how do we map that definition back to registration fields?  A single vendor may have 10 clients – and 10 unique registration forms (with unique registration fields).

Unique registration fields make data aggregation challenging.  In addition, both clients and vendors will want to disclose (to virtual event attendees) that their activities will be utilized in reporting and analysis (at an aggregate level).  This discussion, in my mind, leads me to believe that an industry wide standards body is needed – an Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) for virtual events.

More meaningful engagement tracking

On the specific topic of deciphering chat content, technology is beginning to emerge to perform natural language recognition.  In child-based virtual worlds, I’ve read that technology can attempt to detect the presence of child predators within virtual world environments (where text chat is occuring).  I believe this technology can be applied to the business setting of a virtual event – whereby the sales worthiness of a chat session can be rated.

Have a look at this very interesting article from The New York Times – Software That Guards Virtual Playgrounds.

On the disclosure side, I think we need to make attendees aware of the use of this technology – so that they understand that the private chat they engage in may be read by a computer.

These are all interesting topics for the industry to address – I believe that in doing so, we’ll advance the industry significantly – and generate even stronger growth than we’re already seeing.

Related Links

  1. Blog posting: Increase Your Virtual Event ROI
  2. Blog posting: Virtual Event Adoption by the C-Suite
  3. Blog posting: What CPL Should I Pay For VTS?

Day 1 Recap: Virtual Edge 2009

May 29, 2009

The ABC's of Virtual Events (Virtual Edge Session)

The ABC's of Virtual Events (with Kenny Lauer, GPJ & Kelly Graham, Cisco)

That’s right, even the Virtual Events industry has a need to meet face-to-face.  Thursday (05/28/09) marked Day 1 of Virtual Edge 2009 – a 2-day face-to-face “summit on virtual events, meetings and communities”, held at the Santa Clara Convention Center.  By my estimation, the event had over 150 attendees and approximately 50 exhibitors.

Most of the presentations and panel discussions had “standing room only” crowds.  Two of the noted presentations of Day 1 were “The ABC’s of Virtual Events, Meetings & Marketing” (featuring Kenny Lauer of GPJ and Kelly Graham of Cisco) and the keynote presentation, featuring Paul Salinger or Oracle and Sandy Carter of IBM.

The sessions were streamed live into the virtual world – a combination of live video (via Stream57) and live video in a 3D immersive world (via VirtualU from Digitell).  A physical event on virtual events, which was then simulcast virtually – neat!  The “concurrent virtual”  allowed global access to event, for folks who were not able to attend in person – and that included some speakers, who (of course!) presented their sessions virtually.

In the afternoon, I participated in a panel discussion titled  “Measurement, Tracking & ROI”.  Two of the main themes we heard from the audience were:

  1. Better measuring event engagement – sure, we know about registration-to-attendance ratio, number of live attendees, average session time, etc. And Stu Schmidt of Unisfair introduced the notion of a “virtual engagement index”.  The calculation of that index (or score), however, may need to get “smarter” – for instance with a chat session.  Dannette Veale of Cisco noted the difference between a “where’s the Auditorium” and a “can you send me pricing information” comment – whereby the latter should carry a higher score from an engagement or “prospect worthiness” point of view.
  2. Aggregate profiles by user type – customers are in the need for published profiles by user type, so that they can better plan targeted virtual events.  For instance, if an enterprise is interested in a virtual event for C-level employees, they need to see a published profile (e.g. what does the C-level do in a virtual event), to determine whether the event is worth pursuing (aka what’s the expected ROI).  The panel responded that there are data privacy issues that need to be worked out – since all data is “owned” by customers – and NOT by the virtual event platform vendors.

While I was able to sneak out to attend a session or two, I spent most of the day in the InXpo booth.  I had the pleasure of meeting (face-to-face!) with many colleagues in the industry and also spoke to countless attendees who are considering their first virtual event.  For attendees from corporations, many had already executed virtual events – and were there to learn best practices and refine their game.  On the other hand, I met several folks from the event marketing industry, who were looking to leverage virtual events to complement their clients’ physical event strategy.

For me, Day 1 marked a momentous occasion for the virtual events industry – the creation of a physical event speaks to the legitimacy of the industry – while the turnout speaks to the timeliness and interest in virtual events.  Today, our industry is like the TV sitcom Cheers (“Where everybody knows your name”).  I imagine that this industry will grow quickly enough that it will be challenging to remember everyone’s name – and in a few years, the venue will have to shift to the Moscone Center in San Francisco! Looking forward to Day 2 today.

Related links

  1. Virtual Edge 2009 program: http://www.virtualedgesummit.com/program.php
  2. Virtual Edge 2009 program – to attend virtually: http://www.virtualedgesummit.com/virtual-event-schedule.php
  3. Dean Takahashi covered Day 1 for VentureBeat: http://venturebeat.com/2009/05/28/virtual-events-draw-a-live-in-person-crowd/

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