Advertisements
 

Answers To Your Virtual Events Questions

November 23, 2010

Introduction

Got a question about virtual events, virtual trade shows, virtual career fairs, etc.?  Post it to FOCUS.com and a network of FOCUS Experts is here to help.

Focus “provides millions of professionals with the expertise they need to make better business decisions. At the heart of Focus is a network of world class business and technology experts. These experts power the real time Q&A, world class research, and personalized support that so many businesses now depend on”.

Sample Q&A

Below is a sampling of the questions posted, along with their answers:

Virtual Trade Show Best Practices: Best Practices for Exhibiting at a Virtual Trade Show

Should virtual event teams reside on the IT or Business side?

Virtual trade show booths: What are best practices for creating virtual event booths?

What are your top three tips for planning a successful virtual event?

Virtual Trade Show success: What is the ideal number of exhibitors at an event?

What should your content strategy be for your virtual event booth?

Virtual Events: Best practices for determining the success of your virtual event?

Conclusion

Join the conversation! If you need some help with your virtual event strategy, planning or execution, post it on Focus.  If you have thoughts and experiences to share, “come on down”.  Hope to “see you” there.

Related Links

  1. From the INXPO blog, “Interview with The Funnelholic: Virtual Events, FOCUS Expert Network and More
  2. A webinar I did with FOCUS, “How Smart Marketers Succeed with Virtual Trade Shows
Advertisements

2011 Predictions For Virtual Events

October 30, 2010

As we head into the final 2 months of 2010, it’s time for another round of predictions.  First, let’s review my 2010 predictions:

  1. The 2010 Predictions for Virtual Events
  2. The Mid-Year Report Card on the 2010 predictions
  3. A posting on the Future of Virtual Events

I assigned myself a mid-year grade of B.  And now, I’m designating a final grade of B-.  I hope to improve in this year’s predictions.  To assist with my predictions, I invited a few experts from the community to chime in, so I’ll be including their predictions with my own.

Market Expansion

To date, “market expansion” has meant a growing number of “pure play” virtual event platform providers.  In the US, we started with a handful of major vendors and we’ve seen new entrants into the market in 2009 and 2010.  We also saw the emergence of platforms outside the US, notably in Europe – and in 2009, in Asia Pacific as well.

For a large Requests For Proposal (RFP) in 2009 and 2010, the virtual event platforms knew whom they were competing against (each other).  Starting in 2011, it gets cloudier (pun intended), as the blending of virtual, social and Enterprise 2.0 means that a wider set of vendors are vying for the same business that virtual platforms got in 2010.

Consider the following vendors, each of whom has offerings that (in part) look, feel and smell like virtual events or virtual business communities:

Jive Software, Yammer, Pathable, Facebook Groups, Socialtext, SharePoint (Microsoft) and Lotus (IBM).

Virtual event platforms can expect to sell against some of these players in 2011 and some platforms may go the partnership route, to build a combined offering as a competitive advantage.

Service Level Agreements (SLA)

The virtual events industry is at a point in its growth where Service Level Agreements (SLA) make a lot of sense.  With a growing number of vendors, SLA’s help separate the contenders from the pretenders – if you’re offering money back (or a credit) if an event fails, then only the strong will survive.

I predict that one vendor will lead the way and proactively hit the market with an SLA – forcing others to follow suit later in 2011.  Expect SLA’s around availability and simultaneous users.

Later in 2011 (or perhaps in 2012), SLA’s will be defined around “quality”, such as response time.  This development helps the market – the assurance provided behind an event allows the market to expand, attracting new customer growth that exceeds 2010’s figures.

Market Upheaval

Market expansion and SLA’s mean the strong get stronger. But lesser platforms have a challenging year ahead. According to Cece Salomon-Lee, Principal at PR Meets Marketing, “some players will be bought by larger organizations, merging to bring together complimentary strengths or even some disappearing from the industry all together. No matter how, we will begin to see some consolidation within the industry.”

Meanwhile, Miguel Arias of IMASTE believes that US platforms will look abroad for acquisitions.  To “gain presence, customers and market knowledge” in Europe, Latin America and Asia, Arias believes US platforms will look to partner or acquire in-country platforms in those same regions.

In my mind, there is an enormous, (largely) untapped market within the US, which means that US-based platforms will continue to focus domestically in 2011.  Global expansion will occur in 2012 or beyond.  In addition, due to the “strong get stronger” phenomenon, I predict that one of the prominent US-based platforms will cease operations in 2011 – or, be sold at a below-market price.

Technology A La Carte


Today, virtual event platforms are “monolithic” – you enter an event and all of the functionality provided by the platform sits within that event.  You can’t experience the platform’s features outside of an “event”.  In my futures column, I predicted that virtual events “move closer to the end user”.

Driven by market demand, platforms will “break out” pieces of their technology platform in a la carte fashion. Customers who do not need a five course meal may opt just for an appetizer and coffee.  This may surface in a number of ways, including:

Thin desktop clients, mobile apps, browser toolbars, virtual booths embedded in banner ads, group chat embedded on a web page, etc.

Hybrid Innovation & The Year of the Hybrid

In 2009, some INXPO colleagues and I predicted that 2010 would be The Year of the Hybrid.  This was partially true – in fact, Cisco received the 2010 Grand Ex Award for their hybrid approach to Cisco Live and Networkers. However, the mass adoption of hybrid events (that we predicted) did not ring true.  But that’s OK, it’s always better to be a year early than a year late.

Event and experience marketing agencies have adopted virtual in varying degrees – 2011 is the year where they demonstrate the most aggressive push to date.  You’ll see strong adoption from the “big brands” in 2011 and it will come by way of these channel partners to the virtual event platforms.  2011 will set the foundation for growth – with “hockey stick growth” coming in 2012.

Another major adopter in 2011 will be associations. They’ve done a number of virtual events to date – in 2011, you’ll see 200%+ growth.  Local chapter meetings will continue to occur at physical locations, while the annual, national chapter meeting of the association will move to a hybrid event, with the virtual component serving those members who were not able to make it to the physical gathering.

More generally, 2011 will see innovative technologies that blend the virtual/online world with the real world.  And these same technologies will be integrated into hybrid event experiences, blurring the lines between physical and virtual.  I’m referring to location based services (LBS), mobile, augmented reality and QR codes.  Expect to see a lot of hybrid events innovation, which benefits everyone.

Miscellaneous Predictions

From Miguel Arias, “After some virtual events vendors, marketers and event organisers have shown in 2010 with successful case studies what are the benefits of virtual events we will see much more events and movements in Europe and South America specially.  I expect a 250-300% growth of the total market size in those regions.”

From Cece Salomon-Lee, “I believe the players that will remain on the landscape will begin building out an ecosystem of services to plug-and-play on the platforms.”

From Miguel on vendor specialization, “With more vendors in the space and more clients asking for more tailored solutions we will probably see a leader in the corporate events environment, a leader in the generic trade show market, other for hybrid events, for virtual career fairs, etc.”

Conclusion

I’ll sum up this piece by using a number of nouns to describe what I expect to see in 2011: innovation, shake-out, growth, change, adaptation, expansion, excitement.  Check back here in 6-8 months for my mid-year report card!


Virtual Events 101: What Is A Virtual Event?

May 12, 2010

Definitions, definitions.  Terms can be best explained by breaking them down into their component parts.

“Virtual event” – let’s cover the second part first, the “event”.  An “event” can mean many things to many people; however, I like the following definition from Dictionary.com:

Source: Dictionary.com

An event is “something that occurs in a certain place during a particular interval of time”.  With a virtual event, the same definition applies – however, the “certain place” happens to be “online” or “on the web”.  For “virtual event”, the Dictionary.com definition could be re-worded to:

something that occurs in a certain web destination during a particular interval of time

Of course, like any loosely worded definition, many “things” fit this description, which you and I typically would not consider a virtual event (e.g. a multi-party instant messenger chat qualifies, but isn’t typically considered a virtual event).  In my mind, a virtual event is

a web and occasion-based gathering that facilitates information sharing, collaboration and interaction.

To date, the look and feel of virtual events have been modeled after a physical counterpart (e.g. a trade show, user conference, sales meeting or job fair).  As the industry evolves, the experience will evolve as well – and unique, web-based experiences will emerge.  For instance, expect to see virtual trade shows that look and feel nothing like their physical counterpart (hence the power of the web).

There are no “bare minimum requirements” for a virtual event (e.g. Auditorium, Exhibit Hall, Networking Lounge, Booth) – an experience with no Auditorium and no booths can still qualify.  Virtual events come in many flavors – with many more on the way.  There are a variety of use cases and objectives that can be achieved virtually.

Virtual events are known for the following benefits:

  1. Green technology that minimizes carbon emissions
  2. Supports a global audience
  3. Convenience – participate from your home, office, beach
  4. Ongoing showcase – the event is not required to be “torn down” at the conclusion of the live date(s)
  5. Granular engagement tracking – activity is recorded an deep engagement profiles generated

Variations

While virtual events occur on the web without a physical (face-to-face) component, some event planners are creating hybrid event experiences, whereby a face-to-face event is combined with a virtual component.  The virtual component can occur before, during or after the face-to-face event – when done concurrent to the physical event, interesting opportunities arise for blending the physical and virtual experiences.

While events occur “during a particular interval of time”, some virtual event planners are creating 365 day/year virtual communities, which have a focus around periodic “events”.  So rather than create a virtual event that’s live for a single day, event planners create an evergreen (and virtual) business community that sees consistent activity throughout the year, with spikes of activity during scheduled days of “live event activity”.

Conclusion

Virtual events are here to stay – the broad definition of a virtual event will hold – however, more specific definitions will morph over time, as the industry and experience grow and evolve.  Tomorrow’s virtual events may look (and feel) nothing like today’s.

Related Links

  1. Browse the Virtual Events 101 Index Page
  2. Download the eBook, “Virtual Events: Ready, Set, Go

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


2009 Year In Review: Virtual Events

December 24, 2009

2009 was a landmark year for the virtual events industry – early adopters expanded their virtual event initiatives and leveraged the technology in innovative ways.  Many industries (and associated corporations) entered the mix, producing their first ever virtual event in 2009.  Despite the economy (or perhaps aided by the downturn), virtual event platform providers enjoyed healthy growth in client demand, event volume and revenue.  The platform market expanded beyond the U.S., with the emergence of new platforms in Europe and New Zealand.  We even had the industry’s first ever face-to-face event, the Virtual Edge Summit (U.S. – Santa Clara, CA).

To get a better sense of how 2009 unfolded, I reviewed the past 12 months of postings on this blog and sought to categorize the trends and patterns.

Source: flickr (User: Linzi's Cakes)

Assorted Shapes and Sizes

In the early days, the industry was all about virtual tradeshows.  During 2007-2008, new event types were spawned – and in 2009, we saw many more instances of non-tradeshow events: virtual job fairs, virtual sales meetings, virtual partner summits.  In addition, we saw innovative concepts applied in hybrid events – where event planners staged concurrent physical and virtual events.  I wrote about learnings and observations from Cisco Live and Networkers Virtual, in which virtual and physical blended together.  In 2010, I expect to see many more hybrid events, with event planners leveraging creative ways to tie virtual together with physical.  In fact, I believe 2010 will be The Year of The Hybrid Event.

In addition to the assorted event types – we’re starting to see the use of virtual event technology to support ongoing business communities.  The community concept makes a lot of sense in conjunction with physical or virtual events – instead of “going dark” between live event dates, event planners can leverage the “platform” to keep the community interaction and dialog going – where the events serve as “momentum points” to drive continued activity within the online business community.  I brainstormed about tactics that could be applied to sustain virtual business community loyalty.

Social Media and Twitter

With all due respect to Facebook and other services, I believe 2009 was The Year of Twitter.  There are many ways in which Twitter can be leveraged for virtual events – here are a few ideas that I blogged about:

  1. Leverage Twitter for Virtual Tradeshow Outreach
  2. How to Promote Your Virtual Event on Twitter
  3. Leverage Twitter Lists for your Physical or Virtual Event

Virtual event platforms have integrated with Twitter and other social networks – in 2010, I see the breadth and depth of integration expanding.  The expansion will be fueled both by interest (from the virtual event platforms and from clients) as well as richer interfaces (APIs) from the social network sites.  For instance, LinkedIn recently announced an open API for their platform.

In parallel to virtual events, 2009 was a watershed year for social gaming (e.g. Zynga, Playdom and other sites).  In 2010, we’ll see virtual event platforms leverage gaming for a mix of fun and business use.  I wrote about the reasons that virtual events should incorporate gaming.  Lastly, I believe the tried and true webinar needs to become more social – webinars need to encourage and support more participation from the audience.

The market extends beyond the U.S.

In 2009, virtual events platform vendors emerged globally – in order of appearance in this blog:

  1. ExpoNZ – New Zealand
  2. IMASTE – Spain
  3. Ubivent – Germany

I expect to see a few more virtual event platforms emerge in Europe in 2010 – Asia Pac is sure to see local entrants as well.

Virtual Event Best Practices

I wrote a lot about virtual event best practices in the past 12 months. Here’s a selection of the more popular postings:

  1. Virtual Event Best Practices
  2. How to Market your Virtual Event
  3. Best Practices for Virtual Tradeshow Exhibitors
  4. Lead Follow-Up for Virtual Events
  5. Assemble the Right Team for your Virtual Event
  6. Increase Your Virtual Event ROI
  7. Think Outside the Inbox for Virtual Event Promotion
  8. How to Run a Virtual Event Command Center

Happy Holidays to all.  2009 was a great year for virtual events.  And I have news for you – 2010 will be even better!


Video: Virtual Events With IMASTE

December 11, 2009

Miguel Arias (@mike_arias), Co-Founder and Director-Partner of IMASTE, visited Silicon Valley (Northern California) this week.  IMASTE, the leading virtual events provider in Europe, was 1 of 10 Spanish technology companies selected to visit Silicon Valley to meet with the likes of Google, Yahoo and venture capitalists.

In 2009, IMASTE produced a number of virtual career fairs, including a large scale job fair for Monster Worldwide.  In addition to virtual career fairs, IMASTE produced virtual tradeshows, including hybrid (physical + virtual) events.  IMASTE serviced clients in Europe and Brazil, including a virtual event in Croatian, for a client based in Croatia.

Looking ahead to 2010, Arias sees strong growth in the European market, as awareness of virtual events is growing – in addition, Arias believes hybrid events will be a large growth area in Europe.

View this video for more details about IMASTE – the video includes a brief demo of the Monster virtual career fair that IMASTE powered.


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

A Look Inside Virtual Job Fairs With IMASTE

July 28, 2009

IMASTE Co-Founders: Miguel Fernandez Lapique, Aitor Zabala, Miguel Arias

IMASTE Co-Founders: Miguel Fernandez Lapique, Aitor Zabala, Miguel Arias

Founded in 2003 and headquartered in Madrid, Spain, IMASTE has a mission statement that reads, “We create innovative contact platforms for our customers and their potential users”.  According to Miguel Arias, Director-Partner at IMASTE, “We founded IMASTE with the purpose of enabling a bridge between companies and university graduates. We first started organizing real events and after two years we became the Spanish leader in university recruitment events in Spain.”  As technologies began to emerge, IMASTE found it natural to leverage the web to complement their physical recruitment events with virtual job fairs.

Today, IMASTE has three primary product categories:

  1. Virtual Fairs – Virtual Job Fairs have been produced in Spain, France, UK, Brazil and Portugal – and IMASTE is working on a sustainability virtual fair in France.
  2. Virtual Environments Lab – based on Adobe Flex, IMASTE builds rich internet applications for clients.  Arias notes, “We have developed the virtual corporate office for Deloitte, the virtual campus for Everis, a virtual music festival for Universia and a virtual petrol station for CEPSA.”
  3. On-Campus (Physical) Job Fairs – IMASTE organizes more than ten Spanish university job fairs, a primary source for Spanish employers to tap into a pool of young graduates.
Monster Edays Event, Powered by IMASTE

Monster Edays Event, Powered by IMASTE

IMASTE worked with Monster to produce Monster Edays, a 2-week virtual job fair that leveraged instant messaging and video chat and enabled more than 90 online company presentations.  IMASTE leveraged Adobe Flex for 3D renderings and animations, as well as the Red5 video conferencing application.  With the event targeting the French market, IMASTE enabled French language support in their platform and coordinated video production activities from Paris.

According to a Case Study posted on the IMASTE web site:

With more than 35 participating companies, over 100,000 unique visitors and over 8,000 collected CVs, the project was a huge success. The media buzz generated more than 350 referring sites and great blogger reviews.  Thus increasing heavily the brand awareness among jobseekers.

Like many providers of virtual events and virtual event technology, IMASTE has a fairly healthy schedule of events.  In the Fall of 2009 alone, they have virtual fairs planned in Croatia, France, Spain, UK and Ireland – with a second edition of a Brazilian virtual job fair scheduled as well.

Speaking of the European market, Arias notes that Europe encompasses many countries, languages and cultures – for virtual event success, “one needs to take into account the cultural differences of each country and localize your platform to each specific need.”  Sprinkling in a bit of humor, Arias concludes, “Therefore, you need to be very flexible and code a lot.”

Arias believes that vast growth opportunities lie ahead, since the European market has not yet fully embraced virtual events – “corporate and marketing executives are not so keen of web innovations and there is a very strong culture of the importance of physical events to enable networking.”

Perhaps IMASTE should leverage their physical job fair business – and prove the ROI and benefits to the European market by turning them into hybrid (phyical+virtual) events.  This way, European exhibitors/sponsors still experience a comfort level (with the physical event sponsorship) and begin to experience the corresponding benefits of the virtual experience.

Related links

  1. A list of IMASTE’s products
  2. The IMASTE blog
  3. The IMASTE Team
  4. IMASTE blog posting on SEO and social networks
  5. Blog posting: For Virtual Events, Globalization Means Localization

%d bloggers like this: