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What The @NFL Can Teach You About Virtual Events

April 20, 2012

Introduction

News flash: The National Football League (NFL) is an event planning organization. And they happen to be among the best in the universe. The NFL runs a year-long series of events, from mini-events, to large scale events to mega events (e.g. The Super Bowl).

Recently, the release of the NFL’s 2012 schedule coincided with 3-hour, prime time specials on both ESPN and NFL Network. Wow. Unlike any other major sport, the NFL is top of mind (in their fans’ minds) 365 days a year, 24×7.

While I’m not suggesting that your virtual event become a year-round, round-the-clock sort of thing, I do think the NFL can teach you some things. Instead of your annual virtual event being a “one and done” experience, steal some ideas from the NFL to extend your event’s livelihood. Let’s take a further look.

The Ecosystem

While the NFL is the arbiter of its brand, it relies on an ecosystem of partners to extend and reinforce that brand. The ecosystem includes:

  1. Individual teams
  2. Broadcast partners
  3. The Press
  4. Related content providers
  5. Merchandise retailers

The point here is that the NFL can’t do it alone. Where would it be without CBS, FOX and ESPN? Similarly, consider your virtual event. Your ecosystem includes:

  1. Exhibitors and sponsors
  2. Speakers and presenters
  3. Content providers
  4. Service providers

Be sure to fully leverage your own ecosystem in areas like monetization, audience generation, buzz building and media coverage.

Owned Media

The NFL, over the past several years, concluded that it needed to beef up its owned media, to complement its ecosystem. Have you visited NFL.com recently? It has as much original content as its ecosystem partners (e.g. ESPN.com, SI.com, SportingNews.com, etc.), written by a growing team of writers.

And of course, there’s NFL Network, which launched in 2003 and is carried on cable and satellite TV systems. With its talented team of analysts, I often find myself tuning in to NFL Network before and after games, when I’d formerly watch ESPN.

As a virtual event planner, you need to consider owned media, too. This could take the form of an event web site, a related blog and social media channels. If you run an annual, mid/large scale virtual event, realize that you’re now in the publishing business. Devise an Editorial calendar and start banging out content. Start by linking to and commenting on existing articles, then consider developing content of your own.

Generate Online Chatter

Is there any other sports league where the release of the season schedule is an event in and of itself? That’s the genius of the NFL. For an organization where most of the action takes place on the field, the NFL finds ways to create action (and generate related commentary and discussion) off the field.

The release of the 2012 schedule is an example of using its ecosystem (e.g. ESPN) and its owned media (e.g. NFL Network) to create an event (“2012 Schedule Prime Time Special!”). The prime time specials were the “main event” and it generated a wealth of discussion and commentary online, in the form of social networks, blogs and web coverage.

Think of similar ways to create news about your event that results in online chatter.

Select and Announce Speakers

Speaking of which, how about generating buzz around the selection of speakers for your virtual event? Madden NFL (from EA Sports), a key partner in the NFL’s ecosystem, runs an online tournament to select the player to appear on the game’s cover.

This not only puts the power in the hands of its fans, but generates buzz and chatter about the upcoming season’s game. Why not do the same for your virtual event? Allow your attendees to vote for the speakers they’d like to see and build some buzz at the same time. You could generate additional registrations, while creating a loyal attendee base at the same time (which will help your attendance rate).

Create an Off-Season Schedule

If your virtual event makes up your season, consider how you engage with your audience during the remaining 11+ months of the year. The NFL loves to generate online chatter, but it also knows that it needs to connect directly with fans via off-season events. Consider the following “mini events,” which occur after The Super Bowl:

  1. NFL Combine
  2. NFL Draft
  3. Training Camp
  4. Pre-season Games

Fans are invited to attend each of these events and all build up quite nicely to opening day. Like I said, with the NFL, it’s a year-round schedule that doesn’t have an end. Consider ways in which your virtual event can be complemented with off-season events. Speaking of which..

Re-broadcast (i.e. re-purpose) key content

Ever notice how NFL Network re-broadcasts a selected game from the prior week’s action? They don’t re-broadcast the entire game, mind you. They edit out the “between play” action, where players stand up, walk back to the huddle, etc. If you missed the game, this makes it quite convenient to view the action you missed.

In virtual events, you can provide access to all sessions for on-demand viewing, but why not take it a step further? Create abridged versions of the sessions (e.g. the top 10 slides from the presentation), then schedule a mini event during which the presenters appear (online) to engage with the audience.

Further Monetize Your Audience

The NFL has numerous ways to monetize its audience, in the form of ticket sales, merchandise sales and corporate sponsorships. There’s also TV commercials, the content of which has nothing to do with football.

According to Wikipedia, NBC generated $75MM in advertising sales for the Super Bowl XLVI broadcast (2012). The NFL benefited in the form of broadcast rights paid by NBC. Consider ways in which you can leverage your ecosystem to generate additional revenue from your audience. Hint: it could be in the form of unrelated content!

Conclusion: This takes work.

I can hear you already: you’ll tell me that your organization has nowhere near the resources to pull any of this off. And I’ll agree, somewhat. All of this takes work, which involves resources. You must first analyze how much you’re willing to invest (dollars, head count, etc.) and whether the anticipated ROI is there.

The NFL decided it was. It now employs writers, analysts, broadcast engineers (and more) – but, it continues to wisely tap into its ecosystem to widen its reach. Leverage your ecosystem to make this year’s Super Bowl your best ever.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .

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5 Ways, Tips, Things and Reasons on Virtual Events and Social Media

March 26, 2012

Introduction

Regular readers (and pattern matchers) know that many of my 2012 posts have been lists of five. Continuing with my fondness for lists, I thought I’d make a list of lists. So without further ado, here are assorted “lists of five” posts that I recently published.

Google+

5 Ways to Get Started with Google Plus.
5 Tips for Organizing Your Google+ Circles.
5 Tips for Hosting Google+ Hangouts.
5 Reasons Google Plus May Be the Social Network of the Future.

As a special bonus, I’ve organized the four posts (above) into an eBook, which you can download here.

Events

Top 5 Ways Virtual Events Are Like Football Games.
5 Ways Face-to-Face Events Are Like Family Reunions.
5 Hybrid Event Tips for Trade Associations.

Social Media

5 Things I’ve Learned About Pinterest.
5 Things Virtual Event Platforms Can Learn from Pinterest.
5 Reasons I’m Breaking Up With You, TweetDeck.
5 Reasons “Words With Friends” Is Awesome.


What Virtual Event Platforms Can Learn

March 12, 2012

Introduction

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then virtual event platforms may be well served by sending some flattery to social networks. This post is a compilation of past posts and looks at areas from which virtual event platforms can learn.

Social Networks

What virtual event platforms can learn from Pinterest.

What virtual event platforms can learn from Twitter

What virtual event platforms can learn from Facebook.

What virtual event platforms can learn from Quora, Groupon and FarmVille.

Miscellaneous

What virtual event platforms can learn from physical events.

What virtual event platforms can learn from the airline industry.

Virtual Exhibits

Photo credit: The Pug Father on flickr.

What virtual exhibits can learn from the Apple Store.

What virtual exhibits can learn from farmers markets.

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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/

Introduction

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.

Conclusion

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

Introduction

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).

Conclusion

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.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


10 Lead Generation Tips for Digital Events

January 12, 2012

Introduction

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.


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