How Facebook’s Latest Changes Point To The Future of Virtual Event Experiences

October 24, 2011

Photo source: ivanwalsh on flickr.


Have you heard? Facebook announced a set of changes to its service. Some changes are active now, while others will be rolled out in the coming weeks or months. Previously, I wrote about why Facebook is the world’s largest virtual event. Looking at the changes Facebook announced, I think that some of the new features should be adopted by virtual event platforms, to improve the user experience. Let’s take a closer look.

Subscribe (for Personal Pages)

You can now subscribe to a user’s personal page without having that person “friend” you back (a la the “follow” on Twitter). This feature is useful for celebrities who have a personal page, but no associated brand page. Where can this be useful in virtual events? Allowing attendees to subscribe to exhibitors in virtual trade shows.

The “subscribe” action creates a much more valuable “relationship” (to exhibitors) compared to the booth visit, document download or document view. By subscribing to an exhibitor, I see “status updates” that they post during the life of the event. This forces exhibitors to:

  1. Publish content (status updates, special offers, etc.) during the event.
  2. Have an ongoing conversation with you, without the pressure for you to respond back.
  3. Be useful to you.

I “Like” it.

The New Timeline

While not yet rolled out, the Timeline replaces your Profile page. It’s an auto-generated, visual summary of your entire life (on Facebook). It provides you with a “scrapbook on life,” and could be a convenient way for your Facebook friends to quickly check out what you’ve been up to.

Virtual events should create an “Event Timeline” that’s dynamically updated throughout the event. As with the Facebook Timeline, certain events are condensed, especially those that happened in the past. The Event Timeline could include:

  1. A listing of all sessions.
  2. Activity updates (e.g. the 1000th user just logged in; 500 attendees viewed this session; etc.).
  3. Announcements.
  4. Special offers from exhibitors (e.g. sponsored listings).
  5. On-demand content (e.g. a prior session that is now available on-demand).

Top Stories

If something happened a week ago that Facebook deems noteworthy, it wants to keep that event (e.g. a status update from a family member) in the Top Stories section atop your News Feed. Virtual Events can leverage this concept alongside the “Event Timeline” (discussed above). An event’s Top Stories could include:

  1. The most viewed sessions.
  2. The most downloaded documents.
  3. The most popular users (e.g. most connections, most friends).
  4. The most active users (e.g. most chat postings)
  5. The most visited areas of the event.

The Ticker

Facebook’s Ticker resides on the right side of your News Feed and lists interesting things that your friends have done. For a one-day virtual event, it’s not likely that I’m going to build out a significant list of friends or followers. So instead, a virtual event’s Ticker could simply be a updated and scrolling area that displays the Event Timeline and Top Stories (discussed above), as they unfold.

Bonus Item: iPhone 4S Assistant

Apple recently launched its iPhone 4S, which includes an Assistant (Siri). You speak to Siri, it understands what you say and it attempts to perform the actions youv’e asked it to do (e.g. find a restaurant, give me directions, etc.). We need a Siri personal assistant (activated by voice commands) for virtual events. And of course, it needs to work on smartphones and tablets.


Facebook is “always on” to its end users, who use it day and night and all year round. Virtual events tend to be “point in time” occurrences that happen on a single day, or over a few days. While it’s interesting to consider these concepts, their value will surface only if applied correctly. That being said, let’s get to work.

Related Resources

  1. David Pogue of The New York Times writes “Facebook Changes Inspire More Grumbling
  2. Learn more about the iPhone Assistant (Siri).
  3. My thoughts: Why Facebook Is The World’s Largest Virtual Event

#HybridEvents: A Look Back and A Look Ahead via @bXbOnline

October 20, 2011

Read my guest post:


When I attended my first virtual trade show four years ago, I said to myself, “This is the future of online lead generation.” At the time, I was managing webinar programs for technology advertisers. They’d do 60-minute, audio-based webinars and hope to generate leads to fuel their sales pipeline. At this virtual trade show, those same “leads” attended an online event for hours and had the opportunity to have real-time engagements with those same advertisers. The users loved it and the advertisers loved it.

Fast forward to today and we’ve significant growth in virtual trade shows. But we’ve also seen the underlying technology platforms applied to many other uses, including virtual job fairs, virtual product launches and importantly, hybrid events.

While some appear before Congress and state that they’re “not here to talk about the past,” I’d like to quickly look back and enthusiastically look forward. Let’s take it in four year intervals, shall we?

To read the full post, visit the bXb Online blog:

Demand Generation Has Evolved: The Convergence of Lead Generation & Lead Qualification

October 14, 2011

Image source: TechTarget, in a presentation delivered at the TechTarget Online ROI Summit.


Demand generation is evolving. In the days of old, marketers focused primarily on “getting the lead,” whether it was via a banner ad, white paper listing or search ad. And while getting the lead is a critical piece of demand generation, leads become worthless if they’re not qualified well and passed on to the right individuals in your organization.

Lazy marketers put up an offer, generate a lead list and then “dump” those leads into a telemarketing queue. Now, lazy marketers have evolved into smart marketers. Smart marketers engage with leads in real-time – or, if they can’t engage with them directly, they study their leads’ interactions with content to make qualification decisions on:

  1. Where leads are in the buying cycle.
  2. What purchasing authority they have.
  3. Who is the best individual to engage with them, and how.

In my book, “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events,” I called this “accelerated lead generation.” That is, marketers generate and qualify leads in the same step.

Activity Intelligence™ from TechTarget

At the TechTarget Online ROI Summit in San Francisco, Justin Hoskins introduced a concept called Activity Intelligence™. By adding this service to demand generation campaigns, TechTarget not only generates leads for advertisers, but provides them with a wealth of insights on those leads, in the form of this activity intelligence. Let’s take a further look.

Holistic Account View

It seems elementary, but all too often, demand generation campaigns do not group leads from the same company together. As a result, a sales rep may call on the same company multiple times. Or, multiple sales reps place calls into the same company at the same time. Yikes!

With dashboards provided in Activity Intelligence™, I see that Sandra, Joe, Peter and Barry are from the same company. They may all be on the same team, or they may be in different teams, but at least I get a holistic view, allowing me to plan offers and follow-up activities strategically.

Undiscovered Contacts

Next, there’s the concept of “undiscovered contacts.” These are people from the same company – they didn’t view your content, but they looked at similar content. Activity Intelligence™ won’t provide you with the identity of these contacts, but it’ll tell you how active they are in topics related to your content.

Now, you know that there are other influencers in the prospects’ organization. This is useful, as it indicates an active need. And active needs provide you with better leads (rhyme intended).

Account Mindshare

Related to “other” content, Activity Intelligence™ dashboards provide you with insights into “mindshare,” which comprises:

  1. Your content.
  2. Your competitors’ content (in aggregate).
  3. TechTarget editorial content.

If your competitors’ mindshare is higher than your’s and your prospects are not returning phone calls from Sales, perhaps they’re closing in on a decision with your competitor.

And while that’s not a great result, the intelligence provided can help guide you. Perhaps you have your Sales team focus on more qualified prospects. Or, you re-orient your marketing content to focus on competitive assessments or special offers.

How to Apply to Virtual Events

The concepts of Activity Intelligence™ can be applied to virtual event platforms, to enhance online events oriented around demand generation. Consider the following:

  1. Reporting: provide sponsor reports oriented around holistic account views.
  2. Undiscovered contacts: let sponsors know that “undiscovered contacts” attended the virtual event and provide a measure of their activity within the event.
  3. Mindshare: provide “report cards” that show prospects’ engagement with a sponsor’s content, compared to an average of the other sponsors. In other words, “tell me how this prospect interacted with me, in comparison to my competitors.”


TechTarget’s Activity Intelligence™ is powering an evolution in demand generation: the convergence of lead generation and lead qualification.

The closer you can bring the two steps together, the better chance you have on turning leads into opportunities and opportunities into bookings.

For the digital events industry, we need to be thinking about how we can bring “activity intelligence concepts” into our events, to the benefit of sponsors’ demand generation campaigns.

Disclosure: I was formerly employed by TechTarget.

Related Resources

  1. TechTarget’s presentation on Activity Intelligence™.
  2. Buy the book: “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events
  3. Blog posting on Virtual Event Lead Management


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12 Reasons to Consider Hybrid Events

August 26, 2011

Read the full post:


On, I wrote an article titled “12 Most Compelling Reasons to Consider Hybrid Events.” In the introduction, I wrote, “Increasingly, event planners are adding a ‘digital extension’ to their physical events. The digital extension expands the event’s audience reach across the entire web.”

The 12 Reasons to Consider Hybrid Events

My 12 reasons are:

  1. The digital event provides a marketing tool for the physical event.
  2. Extends your audience reach.
  3. Creates events that never end.
  4. Does not cannibalize physical events.
  5. Use virtual booths to follow up with leads from your physical booth.
  6. Creates a DVR of event content.
  7. Gets you a raise or promotion.
  8. More networking for attendees.
  9. More leads for sponsors.
  10. Measure the effectiveness of event content.
  11. Reach a global audience.
  12. Enables localization.

To read the full post:

Got a comment on the 12 reasons? If yes, please click through to the article on and leave your comments there. Thanks!

Related Content

  1. Blog Posting: Use Virtual Booths to Follow Up with Leads from Your Physical Booth
  2. C&IT Article: “Cisco advocates free virtual content to boost live event attendees

How to Generate Registrations and Attendees to Your Virtual Event

August 11, 2011


Successful virtual events start with the ability to generate registrations and attendees that meet or exceed your targets. I presented a webinar at AMA’s Virtual Forum on “Achieving Success with Online Events.”

My webinar was titled “How to Generate Registrations and Attendees to Your Virtual Event.” My presentation was divided into two parts: I first covered how to generate virtual event registrations and followed that with how to convert registrants into attendees.

Top 10 Tips for Generating Virtual Event Registrations

To generate virtual event registrations, I provided the following 10 tips:

  1. Leverage speakers
  2. Leverage exhibitors
  3. “Less is more” on your registration form
  4. Use social sharing buttons
  5. Promote via syndication
  6. Start early
  7. Create a LinkedIn Event
  8. Promote on Twitter
  9. Promote on Facebook
  10. Promote via content marketing

Top 5 Tips for Converting Registrants into Attendees

To convert registrants into attendees, I provided 5 tips:

  1. Spruce up the confirmation page
  2. More content marketing
  3. Game mechanics
  4. Automated email messaging
  5. Facilitate pre-event networking

View My Slides

Feel free to view my slides (below). They’re also available for download, if you visit the presentation directly on


The AMA virtual forum is available on-demand and you can view all of the archived sessions.  You can register for this free event on the AMA web site.

Leave me a comment below if you attended the session – or, if you have questions or comments on this topic. Thanks!

Related Content

  1. Blog Post: Virtual Event Audience Generation via Content Marketing
  2. Blog Post: How to Leverage LinkedIn for Your Virtual Event
  3. Download: Free eBook on Social Media and Virtual Events

This Week: Achieving Success with Online Events (#AMAAdobe)

August 8, 2011


This week, The American Marketing Association (AMA) is hosting a half-day virtual forum on “Achieving Success with Online Events.”

The online event “will explore how to create online events that will attract your target audience, how to utilize online events to further engage your customers, how to measure the success of your online events and most importantly, convert these efforts into top line revenue.”


Date: August 11, 2011

Time: 10AM-2PM CT

Where: Online. Register here:


I’ll be speaking at the virtual forum and will be joined by a great group of speakers:

  1. Carmen Taran, Co-founder of Rexi Media
  2. Ken Molay, President, Webinar Success
  3. Maria Pergolino, Senior Director of Marketing at Marketo

My Session

I’ll be presenting at 11:15AM CT.

The title of my presentation is “How to Generate Registrations and Attendees to Your Virtual Event.” Got a question? Feel free to leave me a comment below. In addition, you can tweet your question to me. Be sure to include the virtual forum’s hash tag, #AMAAdobe.


Hope to “see” you (online) at the virtual forum. Register now:


Virtual Events Q&A

July 27, 2011

Read the full Q&A:


Icon Presentations is “one of the country’s presentation leaders specializing in projection and wide screen video blending.” Jenise Fryatt (@IconPresentsAV) is with Icon Presentations, where she authors the Sound n’ Sight blog.  I had the privilege of doing a Q&A with Jenise on her blog, on the topic of virtual events.


I provided answers to the following questions:

  1. Can you define “virtual event”?
  2. What do you think is the biggest myth about virtual events?
  3. What do event professionals need to learn about them?
  4. Can virtual events help planners to show a measurable return on investment for their clients?
  5. How do you determine which kind of virtual event will best meet your needs?
  6. What resources would you suggest for event professionals who want to learn more about virtual events?

To read my answers, view the full blog posting at Sound n’ Sight.

Share Ideas Across iPads with Idea Flight

July 19, 2011


According to a blog post introducing the service, Idea Flight “is a new tool to share ideas, presentations, documents, designs, and whatever else you can think of easily from one iPad to many. It enables one person, whom we call the Pilot, to control the screens of multiple iPads, whom we call the Passengers.”

The iPad app was developed within Conde Nast, by a small team focused on creating new digital opportunities for the company. “The inability to give controlled design presentations on the iPad” was a business challenge that inspired team member Don Eschenauer (Director of Design) to create the app.

Internal Pre-Launch

Prior to launching the app in the iTunes App Store, Idea Flight underwent a pre-launch beta internally, with users representing Sales, Design and Project Management.

Juliana Stock, Senior Director, Marketing & Product Development, indicates that the pre-launch helped their “discovery and roadmap validation” and that Conde Nast colleagues “tell us they use it in their personal lives to share photos or at their kids’ schools.”

Use Cases

Stock envisions the app being used “anywhere people have a lead who wants to keep everyone on the same page.” Potential users include:

  1. Education
  2. Cultural institutions
  3. Museums
  4. Choirs
  5. Sales teams
  6. Real estate brokers
  7. Event planners
  8. Companies that license computers and tablets
  9. Small businesses

Beyond Sharing

In an insightful post about the technical considerations behind Idea Flight, Robert Tolar Haining, the team’s Technical Architect, described the scenario that led to the app’s LinkedIn integration (i.e. a new employee who, during a meeting, asked Robert whom was speaking). The “passengers” in Idea Flight sign in to their LinkedIn account and the flight “manifest” lists information pulled from passengers’ LinkedIn profiles.

So the app goes beyond sharing to also address connecting. According to Stock, “as more people rely on devices for creation, communication and connecting, this app triangulates all three” [source of quote].

My Take on: Market Fit

Currently, Idea Flight works over WiFi and Bluetooth and supports a maximum of 15 passengers. As such, it’s suited to small, in-person gatherings and is not competitive with online meeting software, such as WebEx or GoToMeeting (both of whom already have iPad apps and allow presenters to share their entire desktop).

Improving small, face-to-face meetings” may be a good niche market to hone in on, with broader aspirations to follow later on. To achieve broader adoption, the team will want to look beyond the iPad, to support Android tablets and perhaps smaller form-factor devices (e.g. smartphones).

My Take on: Additional Use Cases

We’re sure to see many innovative uses of Idea Flight. Here are two that immediately come to mind for me.

College Lectures

For professors who are so inclined (and for schools with a high adoption of iPads among students), the whiteboard/blackboard goes away. Instead, the day’s lecture is prepared on an iPad, which enables the professors to embed hyperlinks to related content.  For instance, on the first day of class, professors often provide the list of required textbooks. These could be embedded in the PDF that is shared with passengers (students).

In addition, future revisions of Idea Flight could allow for the professor to push out exercises (e.g. quizzes, related reading, etc.) that students are asked to participate in. I’ll call this “hands on learning, enabled with a swipe”.

Conferences and Trade Shows

With iPads becoming prevalent at physical conferences and trade shows, Idea Flight could create a virtual event layered on top of the physical event.

First, attendees at the back of the room could view the presentation on their iPad, rather than squinting at faraway display monitors. Next, publishing the “manifest” to all “passengers” could allow attendees to view the LinkedIn identities of everyone else (connected to the service), enabling a stream of comments and connections.

More Efficient Meetings

New features could make all meetings more efficient. For instance, a “feedback loop” could allow passengers to vote up/down a particular slide, giving the pilot real-time feedback on the presentation.

In addition, a “raise hand” indicator could signal questions to the presenters, without having to interrupt them in mid-speech. Finally, a “leave a note” system could allow passengers to leave comment(s) on particular pages, that presenters could review during (or after) the meeting.


I’m interested in watching the adoption of Idea Flight, including the innovative uses that arise. Use the comments section below to let me know if you’ve tried it.

Watch a Short Video on Idea Flight

Related Resources

  1. Blog posting, “Charting the Course” (on Idea Flight)
  2. Blog posting, “Introducing Idea Flight for iPad
  3. The technical approach behind Idea Flight
  4. The team behind Idea Flight
  5. Idea Flight brochure [PDF]


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Why Facebook Is The World’s Largest Virtual Event

July 5, 2011


I define a virtual event as “a web and occasion-based gathering that facilitates information sharing, collaboration and interaction.” Virtual events typically involve hundreds, if not thousands of simultaneous users.

Facebook enables the very same information sharing, collaboration and interaction, but does so on top of a user base of 700+ million registered users and 500 million active users.

Facebook is by far the world’s largest virtual event.  The “Facebook virtual event” is a perpetual motion machine that runs 24x7x365. If Facebook were a city, it would be The Big Apple (the city that never sleeps).

Millions of Simultaneous Users

Of Facebook’s 500 million active users, 50% (250 million) log on during any given day (source: Facebook statistics page). For highly active Facebook users, “being awake” or “being online” equate to “being on Facebook,” whether from their desktop computer at work or the mobile device in their pocket.

Of the 250 million users who login to Facebook, let’s assume that 25% are currently asleep (after all, 70% of Facebook users are outside of the United States). That leaves us with 187.5 million users. Of those, let’s say 50% are not currently on Facebook – perhaps they’re at work, or otherwise occupied. We’ll say the remaining 50% are online and “actively engaged” with Facebook.

Our non-scientific analysis leads us to conclude that there are approximately 93.75 million users online right now on Facebook.

Virtual “Events” for Brands (aka Status-casting)

Facebook isn’t a single virtual event, of course. It’s a collection of ad hoc, “spur of the moment” events that any person (or page) can create.

Brands now leverage their Facebook Pages for real-time engagement with fans, customers and prospects. In the past, brands tried to broadcast their message to the world (e.g. a TV commercial). Today with Facebook, they can status-cast.

I define a Facebook status-cast as a wall post that invites fans/followers to view content and provide input. On a brand page with a large following, a status-cast can generate hundreds of comments and thousands of “Likes” within a few minutes of the original post. Brands who status-cast typically share content that’s “on demand” (e.g. a video highlight from the game), but it’s also possible to stream live video from your brand page, as the Obama administration has done on the White House Facebook Page.

Virtual Events for Users

Beyond viewing friends’ status updates and checking out their photos, look at all of the “tools” at my disposal (above) as a Facebook user. It’s no wonder why users “stay on” Facebook for so long. I can:

  1. Look for upcoming Events
  2. Chat (in real-time) with Friends
  3. Play games
  4. Share my “game status” with Friends, or invite them to help
  5. Ask a Facebook Question
  6. Join new Groups
  7. See what my favorite brands are up to
  8. “Check in” (from my mobile device)
  9. Look for Deals
  10. Find new Apps


The world’s largest virtual event is one that never ends. Facebook started as a way to connect with friends and share status updates and photos. Today, it serves as The World’s Fair, online.


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What Virtual Trade Show Booths Can Learn from The Apple Store

June 18, 2011

Photo credit: The Pug Father on flickr.


Want to create a virtual trade show booth that moves prospects along the sales cycle towards a purchase? Head into an Apple Store and apply a few lessons from your visit.

A recent article in the Mercury News referenced a Yankee Group analyst who “estimated that Apple Stores pull in about $5,000 per square foot in revenue per year, blowing away even Tiffany’s roughly $2,700 per square foot.” While I don’t expect virtual trade show booths to directly sell products, there are many lessons we can learn from The Apple Store.

Make Yourself Indispensable

With the list of services above, Apple transcends beyond a “store” to become a technology adviser, consultant and partner. When you click to reserve a Workshop, the web site asks, “What would you like to learn?” When you click to make a Genius Bar appointment, the web site asks, “How can we help you?

When you have questions or need hands-on technical support for your Apple products, you can get friendly, expert advice at the Genius Bar. Found in every Apple Retail Store, the Genius Bar is home to our resident Geniuses.” (Apple’s description of the Genius Bar.)

While visitors to an Apple Store are predisposed to purchase an Apple product, visitors to your virtual trade show booth are more likely in need of a solution to a business problem.

Every virtual trade show booth should have a Genius Bar – a set of Subject Matter Experts (SME) to help visitors solve their business problems. While Apple’s Genius Bar provides product-specific advice, your Genius Bar should focus first on solutions (for your prospects) and secondarily on your own products and services. Make yourself indispensable to your prospects.

Make Your Products Readily Available

Photo credit: James Cridland on flickr.

Apple Stores are unlike any other retail environment. The entire width (and length) of the stores are all about the products. There’s a nearly endless supply of iPods, iPads and Macs for potential customers to try out. Of course, in a virtual trade show booth, you can’t provide an storage array to touch and feel.

You can, however, build digital representations of your products and invite booth visitors to “touch and feel” (digitally). I mention related technologies (to enable this) in the “Touch and Feel the Products” paragraph of my Virtual Trade Show 2.0 post.

If you’re a software company, you should find ways to allow visitors to interact with your software directly in the booth. If you’re a design agency, your virtual booth should reflect your design principles and capabilities.

Provide a Call Button for Assistance

On a recent visit to an Apple Store in Northern California, I noticed that every product had an iPad 2 next to it. The iPad 2 provided product specs and featured a neat button to “Talk to a Specialist.”

All too often in virtual trade show booths, visitors leave the booth feeling “unloved.” In a prior post, I wrote about a flight attendant call button for virtual events, which could be used to request technical support, among other things.

All virtual booths should have a “Talk to a Specialist” button. Booth visitors who click the button are likely to be your hottest leads, so you’ll need to ensure that your “geniuses” are available to take the call.


First, make yourself indispensable to prospects. Then, give them the product to “try before buying,” while making “geniuses” available to answer the “call button.” That’s the lesson I learned from The Apple Store.

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