5 Things Virtual Event Platforms Can Learn from Pinterest

February 13, 2012

View my Pinboard on the Jeremy Lin sensation: http://pinterest.com/dshiao/linboard/


Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that “lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.” (source: Pinterest). While I haven’t created my own Pinterest boards, I’ve been reading about the service. And, I’ve visited the Pinterest pages of a few friends. During the course of learning more about the service, I’ve come to the conclusion that virtual event platforms can learn a lot from Pinterest.

1) Visual appeal.

Let’s face it, the “meta data” surrounding virtual event information is heavy on text. Whether it’s session titles, exhibitors or digital spaces, everything is described via alphanumeric characters. But what if virtual event content could be rendered visually?

For instance, for a selected session, you could “pin” a photo of the speaker. When viewing sessions, isn’t there always that one slide that you’d love to capture and share? Virtual event platforms could utilize “Pinterest-like” boards in lieu of the conventional “user profile page,” which promotes event content via images, rather than text.

2) Make it seamless to take action.

Pinterest would not be where it is today without the “Pin It” Button. Once you add this button to your Bookmarks, it becomes a cinch to add to your pinboard as you find interesting images across the web. There’s also a Pin It button for web site publishers, which “will allow your customers and readers to pin your products onto Pinterest.”

Virtual event platforms need a one-click “pin it button” that enables attendees to post interesting content (e.g. sessions, other users, exhibitors, documents, links, etc.) to a curated space (namely, their profile page).

3) Allow “second order” sharing.

Posting an item to your “pinboard” is a “first order” form of sharing. Pinterest has a “repin” feature, which allows you to take another user’s pinboard entry (e.g. say, a captivating image) and pin it to your own Pinterest page. In virtual events, let’s say a user has pinned her favorite session to her pinboard. Other users who visit her pinboard should be able to add the same session to their own profile page.

4) Brings out the “dorm room decorator” in all of us.

As I visited users’ Pinterest pages, I was reminded of college dorm rooms. College students use their dorm room walls as a means for expressing who they are and what interests them. They have posters of their favorite movies or musicians, photos of family and friends and perhaps a ticket stub from a life-changing concert they attended.

Of course, virtual events won’t inspire the same degree of self-expression, but we may want to display our favorite event content, wouldn’t we?

5) Adds some “user-generated spice.”

Pinterest allows users to include short comments on items they pin. For an image of a dream vacation spot, the user may write, “Wish to get here some day.” For a sought after gift item, perhaps it’s “makes for a great holiday gift.”

In virtual events, content can be a tad “dry,” but adding user-generated content can add some spice to the environment. If a user wrote “best session of the day,” other users are more likely to view the on-demand archive. An exhibitor booth that was tagged “visit them and chat with Donna” may encourage others to visit and seek out Donna.


With interest in Pinterest growing by the day, platforms ought to apply some of its interesting features to virtual event experiences. Use the Comments section below to share your thoughts – or, to list your Pinterest page.

Related Resources

  1. Great article by Mark W. Smith (@markdubya), published at USAToday.com, “How to use Pinterest’s pinboard for the Web.”


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The Biggest Virtual Events Opportunity No One Is Focusing On

January 23, 2012


Let’s talk opportunity, by way of an analogy. Amazon.com. Consider that at this moment in time, Amazon’s users have thousands (if not millions) of items in their shopping carts. Combined, I have to believe that the aggregate (but untapped) value of Amazon users’ shopping carts is in the millions of dollars.

Now, let’s consider virtual events. For public-facing virtual events, the average attendance rate is 35-50%. If a virtual event generates 10,000 registrations, let’s be generous and say that half of those registrants (5,000) attend the live event.

E-tailers like Amazon would love for you to take the contents of your shopping cart and “check out.” Virtual event planners need to focus on the 5,000 users who didn’t attend the live event and get them to “check out” (the on-demand archive of the event).

These “no shows” are an enormous opportunity for every virtual event planner, but I don’t see enough effort around this opportunity. So here are tips to get your registrants to “check out” (your event).

The basics: a follow-up email.

Imagine that users registered for your virtual events two months prior to the live date. You’ve scheduled reminder emails, but the users missed them. When your live event comes around, users have forgotten about it. This means that they’re also not aware that an “on-demand archive” exists. Sending a “Sorry we missed you” email is easy to do and gets you immediate results. Invite your “no shows” to experience your event “any day, any time.”

Scheduled webcasts.

Plan an editorial calendar in advance, which includes a few presentations after the live date of your event. Did you covet particular speakers, but they weren’t available on your event’s date? If so, plug them in to the post-event schedule. And, make sure you invite not just the “no shows,” but folks who attended your live event as well.

Scheduled chats (Experts).

Re-feature some of your presenters and invite them back for a 2-hour, text-based chat in your environment. Invite attendees to return and promote this opportunity to “no shows” (e.g. “A great opportunity to interact directly with our featured industry expert.”)

Scheduled chats (Sponsors).

Schedule a few dates to allow sponsors to host chats in the on-demand environment. This could be a nice up-sell feature in your sponsor packages. Note that sponsors tend to generate less response (attendance) as your experts, so plan accordingly.

Email Alerts for New Content.

Did sponsors upload fresh content? Or, perhaps a featured presenter provided an updated slide deck from her webinar. Send an email out, alerting users that new content is available in the environment. Don’t do this too often, of course – and, be sure to include an opt-out link, so recipients can be removed from subsequent mailings.

Activate Social Games.

Find some prizes, then activate a few social games. The games require that users login to the environment, engage with content and engage with one another. It creates fun for the users and active engagement for you (and your sponsors).


Just because users took the time to complete your registration page, doesn’t mean they’re “sold” when your event comes around. Utilize your event and its content, however, to “re-sell” the event to non-attendees. If you sell it well, your users will empty their shopping carts … and buy in.

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10 Lead Generation Tips for Digital Events

January 12, 2012


At Virtual Edge Summit / PCMA Convening Leaders in San Diego, I gave a Learning Lounge talk titled “Digital Events: 10 Tips for Generating Leads for Your Exhibitors.”

Ten Lead Generation Tips

My ten tips are:

  1. Content Marketing (You).
  2. Content Marketing (Your Exhibitors).
  3. Social Media (You).
  4. Social Media (Your Exhibitors).
  5. Leverage Speakers for promotion.
  6. Utilize social sharing buttons.
  7. Start promoting early.
  8. Leverage your partners.
  9. Issue a press release.
  10. Supplement with paid media.

The Presentation

Here are the slides from my presentation.

It’s All Virtual: 2011 In Review

January 2, 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 27,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Event Planning Tips Courtesy of the Times Square Ball

December 26, 2011

Image courtesy of “Between a Rock” on flickr.


As we count down to midnight on New Year’s Eve each year, our attention is focused on Times Square in New York City. There, a ball made of Waterford Crystal descends 77 feet in 1 minute. When the ball touches the ground, millions of people, both on-site and watching remotely, cheer, “Happy New Year!”

For every New Year’s Eve growing up, I made sure to stay awake to watch the count-down on television. In college one year, some classmates and I decided to brave the cold and experience the celebration in person. We never did get close enough to see the ball drop, but “just being there” was worth it.

Let’s consider aspects of the Times Square Ball that you can apply to your events.

Create a Focal Point

What is “New Year’s in Times Square” known for? The Times Square Ball, of course. What is your event known for? If there’s no clear answer to that question, then you should create one. Figure out something unique and special to focus attention around. Perhaps it’s the game show that you host or the great evening entertainment you bring in each year. Create a compelling focal point and you make your event memorable.

Build Up to a Compelling Close

The Times Square Ball is 60 seconds of “action,” but people gather in the square 8 or more hours earlier. Having a “compelling close” to your event helps to build up anticipation, which makes the “close” all the more compelling. Make sure your events have that “can’t miss moment.”

Create a Tradition

According to Wikipedia, “The first New Year’s Eve celebration in the area was held in 1904.” If you combine a great event with a compelling focal point, you create a tradition. A tradition helps to build brand recognition around your event. And, it gives people a reason to return to your event next year.

Create a Digital Extension to Your Event

According to Wikipedia, one million gather in Times Square (at the face-to-face event), while one billion watch on television. Television creates a digital extension that allows the entire world to catch a glimpse of the Times Square celebration. And just like B2B events, the live broadcast of the Times Square “event” doesn’t cannibalize your audience, it encourages attendance at the face-to-face event the following year.

Create a Programming Channel for Your Event

New Year’s in Times Square has “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” (now Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest) and many other programs. Your event needs a programming channel that on-site and remote attendees can tune in to. In the same way that Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest convey what’s happening in Times Square, your event needs a virtual emcee to connect with your digital audience.


Isn’t New Year’s in Times Square a great “event?” It’s got a focal point, a tradition, a compelling close and a great set of hosts. I’ve been “attending” for years and look forward to this year’s event. Now that I live on the West Coast, however, I’ll have to tune in at 9pm local time. Happy New Year!

My Grown-Up Christmas List for Digital Events

December 19, 2011


Driving in the car during the holiday season, I love it when Amy Grant’s “Grown-Up Christmas List” comes on the radio. Here’s what Ms. Grant wishes for in her song:

“No more lives torn apart,
That wars would never start,
And time would heal all hearts.
And everyone would have a friend,
And right would always win,
And love would never end.”

Sounds about right to me. Now, I’d like to provide a list of my own. It’s certainly not as noble as Ms. Grant’s list. Mine is a grown-up Christmas list for digital events.

A User Experience That’s More Whole

Ms. Grant sings, “no more lives torn apart.” My corresponding lyric would be “no more user experiences torn apart (by new browser windows).” Think of it this way: the more browser instances you see “popping up” in a digital event, the less cohesive the user experience. We need to deliver better and more integrated experiences. How often does Facebook launch a new browser window? Never.

A Consistent User Experience Across Platforms

Ms. Grant hopes “that wars would never start.” Well, we’ll always have “platform wars” (e.g. iOS vs. Android). And as digital event platforms “widen” to meet a growing array of platforms, my wish is that the user experience remains consistent across all of them. My iPhone and Android experiences ought to be the same. And to the extent possible, my iPhone experience should resemble what I see on the desktop. Is that HTML5 I see under the tree?

Driving Adoption by Meeting Expectations

Ms. Grant hopes that “time would heal all hearts.” Digital events have their share of naysayers, who are not convinced on the “return on investment” (ROI). For these naysayers, my wish is that “baby steps” are taken in 2012. Throw ROI out the window for now. Make a small bet and see if digital events (at a small scale) generate a Return On Expectations (ROE). The healing process here is about finding ROE first, then delivering on the ROI as you progressively scale up your bets.

More Discovery and Connecting of People

Ms. Grant hopes that “everyone would have a friend.” Most of us login to a digital event with no pre-existing friends (at that same event). My wish is that digital event platforms prove more effective in helping us discover and find new “connections” (people) as a “side effect” of attending the event. We need to reproduce the serendipity of meeting others at face-to-face events, online.

More Focus on the Attendee Experience

While Ms. Grant sings, “and right would always win,” I shout, “the attendee must always win.” My wish is that digital event planners always put the attendee first – they come before the speakers and the sponsors. Deliver them what they want and need – and you will always win. And they will, too.

Keeping the Lights On (Event Communities)

Ms. Grant sings, “and love would never end,” while I sing, “events don’t need to end.” With digital events, there are no walls to tear down and no stands to ship back to your vendor. Why, then, do so many digital event planners “abandon” the digital event once the schedule of sessions has concluded? Digital events can and should sustain “365 communities.” Attendees stay engaged with one another until the next scheduled activity (when they continue to engage, of course).


Thanks, Amy Grant, for the wonderful song. My hope is that your wish list comes true for all of us. Secondarily, let’s see if my digital event wish list comes true in 2012.

To all of you out there, thanks for reading. And, Happy Holidays.

Why Every Virtual Event Needs a Community Manager (by @LaurenEHarper) #cmgr

December 5, 2011

The following is a guest post by Lauren Harper.


One of the main goals for every community manager is to help build and facilitate engagement. Virtual events are no different. There are many reasons for companies to host a virtual event. Whether trying to promote a product or service, generate leads, or simply showcasing thought leadership, virtual events prove to be an important strategy for businesses of all kinds.

It is important to have goals outlined ahead of time for each virtual event, and having a community manager on your virtual event can only help to attain those goals. Virtual events need community managers to generate excitement, facilitate engagement, grow the community, employ any and all social business initiatives and strengthen overall brand recognition.

The following are some important areas to focus on:


Regardless of the reasons for hosting a virtual event, one of the main goals should always be to connect with all attendees. Community managers can help pave that path of collaboration by reaching out to attendees one-on-one.

They can also take charge of all social activity surrounding an event in order to help achieve goals of engagement and knowledge sharing before, during, and after the event. Depending upon what kind of platform is being used, community managers can also help inspire conversation among attendees by asking questions and replying to comments. Similarly, community managers can help direct people back to the actual company website to ask questions, or download relevant research.

Even if the goal isn’t to have the attendees interact with each other, it is still important that they engage with the topic, speaker, and the company as a whole, and community managers can help facilitate that. Also, having a community manager present offers a great chance to have a “face” for the company and help humanize the brand.

Platform Assistance

Virtual events have grown exponentially in popularity over the last few years. Due to the overwhelming demand for them, many event platform vendors have emerged. It’s important to have a community manager present to help visitors not only figure out how to log on, dial in, or sign in to the event, but to also help with any other difficulties that attendees may have.

By having the community manager troubleshoot simple issues, the event producers are able to focus on ensuring that the speakers have everything they need, and to sort out any technical issues they may have.

Collect Feedback

Allowing the community manager to engage with attendees creates an easy way to collect feedback that can be disseminated to the speakers and host company, post-event. Customer feedback is an essential element to a company’s success.

Having an actual human listen in to your community’s feedback and take note of any new or inventive ideas helps to make virtual events a more enjoyable experience for the participant. This will ultimately lead to better attendance rates for future events. It also helps the audience feel as though it is are being listened to and valued, again, leading to a better overall experience for the broader community.


Community managers are also a great source of free promotion for your events. Virtual events present a great opportunity for them to promote any other upcoming live or virtual event that the company is hosting. They presumably know the community better than anyone and would know how best to promote an event to reach the target audience. Better yet, they could reach out to people individually and invite them to attend the event.

Community managers can help combine virtual events with their company’s social business initiatives by leveraging all the social media sites the company has a presence on. Posting to social media networks during events in real time can help to reach a broader audience, and boost brand recognition.

Distributing content from the event, e.g.: tweets with quotes, slide URLs, etc., will attract a lot of attention from the social sphere. Companies may find that people will join in mid-event to hear what the speakers have to say.


No matter what type of virtual event you host, there is a real need for a community manager. Community managers are invaluable for event promotion, feedback collection, user experience and audience engagement initiatives.

They also help to retain a consistent audience as companies continue to host events. Virtual events are a great tool to showcase a company’s vibrant community, which inevitably is the thing that will keep people coming back.

About The Author

Lauren Harper is the Sales and Marketing Community Manager at Focus.com. Follow Lauren on Twitter at @LaurenEHarper.

Provide Answers to Virtual Events Questions (#engage365 Twitter Chat)

December 3, 2011


Recently, I joined an #engage365 Twitter chat and answered virtual events questions posed by host Jenise Fryatt (@JeniseFryatt). I’m posting the chat questions here and inviting you to provide answers.

Question List

  1. What do you see as the biggest obstacles to virtual events right now?
  2. Would you please define a “virtual event?”
  3. What are some of the ways that planners are funding their virtual events?
  4. With hybrid events on the rise, are you seeing more organizations offering free remote attendance, or charging?
  5. With more free remote attendance, it would seem more organizations are understanding the marketing value, agree?
  6. When people do charge for remote access, what types of events still get good remote attendance?
  7. How can organizations best prepare for the growth of virtual events in the future?
  8. Do you think a new position that combines IT knowledge with event knowledge will evolve to meet virtual event needs?
  9. Do you see websites of events transform into virtual events year round? Examples maybe?
  10. What part of a virtual events team should have a dedicated person? I see content and experience as labor intensive. You?

How to Participate

Use the Comments area to provide your answers. In addition, feel free to provide comments to the existing answers. Thanks!


Ask Me a Question on Virtual Events (#engage365 Twitter Chat)

December 1, 2011

Join the chat now via tweetchat: http://tweetchat.com/room/engage365


Are you ready for a Twitter chat? I’ll be answering questions on virtual events during an #engage365 “Water Cooler Chat” hosted by Jenise Fryatt (@JeniseFryatt) of Icon Presentations (@IconPresentsAV).

Date: Friday, December 2, 2011

Time: 1PM EST

Location: On Twitter.

How to Participate

If you’re using a Twitter client, simply add a column that pulls in tweets with the tweetchat’s hash tag: #engage365. Here’s a look at how I’ve done it in TweetDeck:

There’s also a neat (and free) service called tweetchat (@tweetchat). I plan to use this service for the Twitter Chat. You can use this URL to take you directly in to the chat:


Finally, you can find more information on the Engage365 “Water Cooler Chats” here:


Hope to “tweet you” there!


Top 5 Ways Virtual Events Are Like Football Games

October 31, 2011


The 2011 World Series was simply amazing. But now that baseball is over, it’s time to turn my sporting attention entirely to football (American football, that is). After watching a weekend’s worth of football, it occurred to me that there are similarities between winning football games and producing successful virtual events. Let’s consider 5 ways they’re similar.

1) The Importance of the Game Plan

In the NFL, head coaches spend the entire week preparing for the upcoming game. They’ll put in 16 hour days and sleep on the sofa in their office. They plan the offensive schemes, the defensive schemes and they’ll even map out the play calls for their first drive.

Once they’ve done all their preparation, execution on the field becomes secondary. Yes, it’s important, but without a solid game plan, teams are less likely to claim victory. With virtual events, the game plan and preparation are equally important. As in football, make sure you script out your plays ahead of time.

2) Games Are Won and Lost on Turnovers

Interceptions and lost fumbles often dictate the outcome of football games. In virtual events, a “turnover” is anything that doesn’t occur as expected. It may be a technical glitch or a speaker who never shows up.

When a turnover happens in a football game, your defense must step up to the plate to limit the damage. In a virtual event, you’ll want contingency plans documented (in your pre-game planning) so that you have a “set of plays” to use for each possible turnover.

3) Delegate Important Tasks to Your Team

In football, wins and losses rest on the shoulders of the Head Coach. The coach, however, has an entire staff behind him, much in the same way that the President of The United States has a cabinet. Football teams have coaches for the offense, the defense, the offensive line, the quarterback and much more.

Are you the “Head Coach” of your virtual event? The first step will be to identify all the staff positions you need (e.g. marketing, operations, speaker coordination, sponsorship sales, etc.). Then, fill those positions with competent coaches, then delegate.

4) In-game Analysis and Adjustments

Ever see a quarterback on the sidelines, viewing a photograph with his coaches? By viewing a snapshot of that play’s formations, the quarterback is able to analyze what he did (or did not do) correctly on the given play.

In your virtual event, pause and take “snap shots” throughout the event. You’ll want to analyze things like number of attendees, attendance rate, average session time, number of chats, viewers per session, etc. Just as the quarterback may use photo analysis to make adjustments, learn from what your event snap shots tell you and make the appropriate in-game adjustments.

5) The Importance of Clock Management

Clock management, especially at the end of the two halves, is critical in football. You can’t score if you’ve run out of time.

In virtual events, clock management is first about mapping out the right schedule. For one thing, make sure you provide enough “down time” between scheduled activities so that everyone (e.g. staffers, attendees, presenters) can properly transition from one activity to the next.

Next, clock management in a virtual event is about sticking to your published schedule. If a session is scheduled to run 30 minutes, make sure you begin the “wrap-up” with 5 minutes remaining. Or better yet, go with football’s “two minute warning.”


Here’s to your success on the field. Remember that it all starts in your coaches’ office and practice facility. If you execute well in your virtual event, you can go home a hero on Friday’s and spend the weekends watching football. If you’re so inclined, that is!

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