The ABC’s Of Lead Follow-Up For Virtual Events

July 4, 2009

Image Source: flickr (user: k1rsty)

Image Source: flickr (user: k1rsty)

Suggestion to Virtual Event Exhibitors: Don’t treat your lead list like a telemarketing list!

With the wealth of attendee engagement data generated (and stored) at virtual events, exhibitors have unique insights regarding the worthiness of their lead pool, giving them the ability to intelligently segment their leads and generate unique follow-up paths.  All too often, however, exhibitors treat their virtual event leads as a single pool, applying the same follow-up activities to the entire pool.  In a Virtual Edge posting titled “Don’t Overwhelm Your Attendees“, Michael Doyle writes about aggressive email follow-up by virtual event exhibitors.  I’ve observed the same behavior as Michael describes – in addition, I’ve attended a number of virtual events that resulted in follow-up via phone call.

A colleague of mine once received a follow-up phone call from a virtual event exhibitor – the call was placed by a telemarketing staffer, who had no knowledge of the virtual event (that my colleague attended).  The staffer simply had a name and phone number, with a goal of generating interest in the company’s products and services.  In my opinion, virtual event exhibitors will not be effective in handling lead follow-up in this manner.  Virtual event leads should not be treated like a generic lead list!

I recommend that exhibitors segment their leads into A, B and C categories.  Be forewarned – this is going to take some effort, but it will pay off in the long run with stronger ROI.  Here goes:

  1. The “A” leads – typically, your top 10% of leads.  They registered and attended the live virtual event.  They generated numerous touch points with your booth, your booth reps and your content (e.g. 8 booth visits, 20 document downloads, 5 chat sessions with your booth reps).  They generated at least one meaningful chat session with you – whether it was private, 1:1 chat with one of your booth reps – or, a meaningful chat/dialog via group chat in your booth or a lounge.  The “A leads” are requesting a follow-up engagement with your sales team – either implicitly with their level of engagement with you, or explicitly by requesting a sales follow-up via chat or email.
  2. The “B” leads – the bulk of your leads – they registered and attended the live virtual event and had at least one booth visit or one view/download of your content.  So yes, they interacted with you, but didn’t do enough to gain “A lead” status.
  3. The “C” leads – folks who registered but didn’t attend; attended but didn’t visit your booth; or, folks from other exhibitors or from the virtual event show host or vendor.  Note: based on the structure of the virtual event sponsorship tiers, you may or may not gain access to these leads.  Intelligent follow-up is based on intelligent segmentation – exhibitors should certainly review their lead list to identify leads they should not be following up with – and those leads should be removed from the “C lead” pool.  There’s no use in following up with attendees from other exhibitors, attendees from the virtual event host or the platform vendor company.  In fact, doing so only makes your company look disorganized.

Now that the important task of segmentation is complete, follow-up paths can be identified for each pool.  Here are my suggestions:

  1. A leads – schedule immediate sales engagements, via phone, virtual meeting or in-person.  If the “A lead” had extended engagement with a sales rep in the virtual event, have that sales rep present during the engagement, to continue the conversation and carry over the context from the virtual event.  If the “A lead” had great discussions with a product marketer or product manager, invite that person to join your sales rep(s) on that initial call.  For any explicit requests (pricing proposal, additional documents, etc.) – make sure to send the information over in advance of the engagement.  Think of the “A leads” as ROI waiting to happen – so treat them like royalty.
  2. B leads – it’s important to be strategic with the “B leads” – don’t hand them over to telemarketing for a vanilla phone call and don’t start sending them generic email blasts about your products.  Instead, study their behavior at the virtual event – what content interests them?  Then, create communications that deliver value and personalize the content based on their activities – for instance, send them a White Paper that provides additional information to the Case Study that they downloaded from your booth.  Again – this is going to take work on your part, but it’s work that’s well worth it.
  3. C leads – this may sound counterintuitive, but – don’t follow up with the “C leads”.  Instead, build a new profile in your CRM system (or, update the existing profile) and associate the information you learned [e.g. they’re interested in the topic of the virtual event, but did not attend].  Your job as a marketer, then, is to match subsequent interest (from the “C leads”) back to their user record.  What you’re trying to do is assemble an engagement profile over time – perhaps the “C lead” does attend the next virtual event and visits your booth – or, the “C lead” registers for a podcast you’ve syndicated with a tech publisher.  Now, you have so much more data for your sales team.  Don’t feel like the acquisition of a “first time C lead” gives you the right to start bombarding her with phone calls and emails.  Consider the “C leads” as potential – where the value is to be delivered (with subsequent engagements).

In summary, your sales team should receive only the “A leads”.  The “B and C” lead pool remains under the auspices of Marketing, until a point where any of them reaches an A list eligibility.  This approach should make everyone happy – Marketing, Sales and even the atttendees/leads!


A Second Look At Second Life

June 3, 2009

Source: San Francsisco Business Times

Source: San Francsisco Business Times

“A lot of Silicon Valley has written Second Life off.  The tech world will have to revisit Second Life as a phenomenon in the next six months or so.”

Thus spoke Wagner James Au, noted virtual worlds author and blogger in a San Francisco  Business Times article on Second Life (note: the full article is available to paid subscribers only).  Au, who blogs at New World Notes about Second Life, notes in the article that Linden Lab CEO Mark Kingdon has renewed the Second Life brand that was created by founder Philip Rosedale.

While the revenue model for Twitter is slowly coming clearer (judging by the accounts in the business media), Linden Labs’ strategy under Kingdon is becoming quickly self-evident with the announcements of the past few months.  From my perspective, Kingdon’s growth strategy is around a few core pillars:

  1. Enterprise use of Second Life – makes sense, as enterprises and corporations can be monetized at a higher clip than individuals, artists, hobbyists, etc.  Enterprises (in the former of marketers) were a big portion of Second Life during its initial peak – and it seems the current focus is to bring marketers back into the fold, along with complementary uses in non-marketing disciplines (e.g. training, enablement, collaboration, etc.).  In the past 6 months, Linden Lab has hired 25 marketing and product people as part of their push for enterprise clients.  In addition, the company recently hired Amanda Van Nuys as Executive Director of Enterprise Marketing, signaling a further endorsement of the opportunity in the enterprise.
  2. Nebraska – an on-premises software version of Second Life  (compared to their Software as a Service model), which enterprises can run on their own servers behind the firewall.  IBM has been an active partner with Linden Lab on behind-the-firewall integration – the telltale sign will be how many other large enterprises opt for the Nebraska model.  For “behind the firewall” use, I have to think that we’re talking less about marketing and more about collaboration.
  3. Voice – not mentioned in the Business Times article, but Virtual Worlds News covered it well – Linden Lab is poised to go after the Skype market with capabilities to bridge voice calls and SMS messages between the real world and Second Life.  In the Virtual Worlds News article, Linden Lab Vice President of Platform and Technology Development Joe Miller notes, “The opportunity to monetize at a significant added value for our business is there”, regarding the opportunity in Voice.

IBM marrketing executive Karen Keeter notes in the San Francisco Business Times article that nearly 100 IBM’ers are “working on virtual world tools for commercial sale in Second Life and on other platforms”.  As such, IBM stands to achieve commercial gain from increased use (by enterpises) of Second Life and related virtual worlds.

In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to see IBM leverage virtual worlds to generate services revenue.  Two things come to mind – IBM Global Services and IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative.  IBM Global Services could assist enterprises on their virtual worlds strategy (e.g. build me a virtual world representation of my data center, so that I can run heating and cooling simulations) – or, IBM could go in-world to enterprise’s private virtual worlds to provide traditional consulting services within the virtual world.

So a manufacturer who’s replicated their factory in a 3D world can have Global Services visit (in-world) to optimize their factory floor workflow.  Then, of course, Global Services could help facilitate the parallel action in the real world.  On the Smarter Planet project, IBM might create 3D models of the next generation power plant to show utilities how to become more energy efficient.  In a virutal world, I’m sure the possibilites are limitless.

Finally, Dan Parks of Virtualis is featured in the article.  Virtualis created a compound in Second Life with 34,000 square yards of meeting rooms.  Quite an interesting model – an event producer that leverages a re-usable area (virtually) to host meetings for corporate clients.  Companies who have done events with Virtualis include Deloitte, Oracle and Trend Micro.

I’d be interested in your thoughts – what do you think about the potential of Second Life for enterprises?

Related Links:

  1. Blog posting on Virtual Offices, with reference to Amanda Van Nuys’ use of Second Life
  2. Blog Posting: Virtualis and Trend Micro Put On Quite A Show
  3. Blog Posting: Philip Rosedale On Building A Business: Practice Extreme Transparency
  4. Blog Posting: IBM’s Second Life ROI: The Headline Beneath The Headline

How Virtual Worlds Technologies Benefit The Real World

April 5, 2009

Source: Hopecam

Source: Hopecam

Let’s play word association.  “Webcam” – for me, the association is about keeping in touch with family or perhaps collaborating with colleagues and partners on business topics.  “Virtual Worlds” – my association here is 3D, fantasy, escapism and gaming.  While those associations will likely remain that way for quite some time, there have been numerous uses of virtual worlds technologies that go beyond the “neat and fun”.  It’s not an overstatement to say that they are helping humanity.

Take, for instance,  Hopecam, whose motto is “Connecting Homebound Children to LIFE”.  Founded in 2003, this Virginia-based non-profit connects children (undergoing treatment for cancer) with their friends at school with nothing more than a laptop, webcam and high speed Internet connection.  Hopecam has brought this “connection” to over 75 homebound children.  Their web site has an “Our Kids” section that profiles some of these children – and on this page, you can make an online donation to the organization.

Note: I did an earlier interview with a similar, Ireland-based non-profit, Vizitant.

The Washington Post published an article titled “Webcams Allow Students to Stay Connected“, which profiles 7-year-old Becky Wilson, who’s able to virtually attend class at Jamestown Elementary School in Arlington County via a webcam.  Becky, who was diagnosed with leukemia, is a full participant in classroom activities, according to her teacher, Lainie Ortiz:

The webcam has exceeded Ortiz’s expectations as an academic tool. When Becky tunes in for class and has a question, she raises her hand and Ortiz calls on her. During story time, Ortiz will bring the book she’s reading up to the computer, so Becky can see the pictures, too.

At the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, researchers are leveraging a grant from the US Department of Education to “develop an intervention program in Second Life® that focuses on self-esteem, a critical element in health and wellness.”  For women with disabilities, virtual world technologies mean that access to rehabilitation services require nothing more than a computer, an Internet connection and a virtual world application:

“Second Life® allows women with disabilities to experience virtual life as an able bodied person,” said Dr. Margaret Nosek, professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at BCM. “They can be who they want to be in the virtual world rather than living by the standards set by others,” said Nosek.

“Second Life® allows them to interact with other women while learning and practicing new self-esteem building skills in the virtual world,” she said.

The program will be available in late 2009 – the Baylor College of Medicine published a news article about this virtual intervention program.

Finally, a BBC News article titled “What it’s like to have schizophrenia” tells the fascinating story of Dr. Peter Yellowlees, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Davis, who is leveraging Second Life to take you inside the mind of someone afflicted with schizophrenia.  Currently on a password-protected island, the purpose of this initiative is to educate people on the condition – there are clear benefits to understanding what it’s like to be afflicted schizophrenia:

“We welcome anything that proposes better understanding.”

“It broadens people’s experiences and narrows the gap between ‘us and them’.”

UPDATE: I published an interview with Professor Yellowlees regarding his use of Second Life.

The next time I login to Skype or Second Life, I’ll be thinking about the wonderful applications of these technologies and how they’re able to deeply improve the human condition.


Interview With Nic Sauriol, Venture Lead on Nortel’s web.alive Platform

March 1, 2009

Nic Sauriol, Venture Lead of web.alive

Nic Sauriol, Venture Lead of web.alive

Related Links:

  1. Lenovo eLounge
  2. Project Chainsaw
  3. My review of Lenovo eLounge

Amidst great fanfare in January at CES 2009, Lenovo unveiled the Lenovo eLounge virtual environment. Powered by Nortel’s web.alive platform, eLounge allowed users to enter a 3D virtual world to learn about Lenovo Thinkpad notebook computers (with an option to purchase), interact with other visitors and “meet” with representatives from Lenovo and Nortel.

Nic Sauriol is the Venture Lead for web.alive (also referred to as Project Chainsaw).  Nic co-founded the project a few years ago with Arn Hyndman, the chief architect.  I sat down (virtually) with Nic to get his thoughts on web.alive, eLounge, enterprise virtual worlds and more.  Here’s the interview.

If you met someone on the street, how would you describe (or explain) the web.alive platform to him/her?

Nic: web.alive is a collaboration platform designed to integrate into an existing website much like flash. When a web site has web.alive and people visit that site, they can experience a rich and immersive environment and interact with other users – including the website’s employees/staff who are also on that site . They can interact in an immersive and fluid way thanks to real world positional audio. Fundamentally, web.alive is about bringing live, immersive and interactive communications to connect people in real-time via the web.

It’s designed to be a very engaging and entertaining experience – great for social networking efforts. A social experience of the web where a group of friends could meet up on Facebook or LinkedIn and then go visit a few stores like the Lenovo eLounge, watch some shows in Hulu and then comment on the news at Yahoo is what web.alive is about in this context.

web.alive also offers tremendous potential as a tool to facilitate collaborative learning.  Gone are the days of an instructor broadcasting content in one direction – today’s learning requirements call for more collaborative work between instructors and students.  web.alive provides engaging and collaborative environments to make this mode of learning a reality.

In the enterprise, web.alive offers a new world of opportunities to change in a positive way how people communicate. Moving away from calendar based meetings and formal phone calls, to a much more dynamic means of interaction. A place where employees from all over the world can go, bump into each other, exchange ideas, grab a meeting room to discuss and collaborate etc. Simply embedding the web.alive client into existing intranet web sites, integrating into a UC [unified communications] solution (visit Nortel if you don’t already have one) and suddenly your employees are collaborating as though they were collocated.

Nortel and Lenovo received quite a bit of buzz regarding Lenovo’s eLounge and its use of Nortel’s web.alive platform – what do you view as the successes of the launch – and, what were some of the challenges that you had to address?

Nic: The beta launch at CES of the Lenovo eLounge was a tremendous success from our perspective. We saw a great opportunity to help Lenovo take their customer service to an entirely new level. Significantly more users than we had expected visited the beta launch (articles and blogs like yours were a significant factor) and most importantly we saw the kinds of metrics we could have only hoped for. I personally assisted a number of customers who toured the eLounge to browse Lenovo’s laptops. What is most important is that these  – for the most part  – were purchases that otherwise may not have happened, at least not on a traditional retail web site. In addition, we have seen excellent retention rates. Even when users don’t make purchases, they spend a lot of time surrounded by Lenovo’s brand – over time this will also help conversions.

Obviously there are customers that go to the Lenovo web site that intend to make a purchase, and various tools facilitate that. While we are excited to help in that regard, what we always hoped would happen was that users would visit the site that did not have a specific intention of making a purchase, and would otherwise have bought from a retail store (likely helping a competitor to Lenovo) and instead they make the purchase from the eLounge as a result of an unplanned/informal conversation with a sales person or some other person like myself who just happens to be there.

In terms of challenges, there have been many. While the majority of users have had a smooth experience, some users encountered a variety of different bugs which we are fixing as they arrive (users send us e-mails at support@projectchainsaw.com with their bugs). Most users were able to get in and navigate without any specific help, but here have been some that required assistance, so we are working to make interaction even more intuitive and fluid. One really notable challenge was that Lenovo sales staff had to adjust their mode of operation. Call centers wait for a customer to call to initiate a dialogue, unlike the real world where we can reach out to shoppers.

We had to spend time honing that skill to get the right balance of support (i.e. not jump in someone’s face when they first arrive, but make certain that they know you are there and available to assist if you need help). The biggest challenge of all is that people want more, a lot more.

Have there been any new developments with eLounge since the time of the CES 2009 launch?

Nic: Yes, there have been a number of new developments, some deployed others coming soon. Most importantly, Lenovo has seen the positive metrics we had hoped for and have committed to coming out of beta and doing a full supported launch (coming soon!). Changes that have been deployed include a large number of bug fixes, a few new features in the client (like notification when new users arrive via a desktop balloon) with many more coming. While there have been a few minor content updates, there will be many more coming when the site launches out of beta.

Tell us about other enterprise use of web.alive?

Nic: There has been a tremendous interest in web.alive from an enterprise perspective. Whether it be as a global water cooler (e.g. as an enterprise, place web.alive on your global internal home page to enable informal/accidental collaboration and discussion between your employees) or as an alternative for internal meetings (in particular those that would require travel). We have been particularly happy with the tremendous support and pull from within Nortel and have slowly been rolling out web.alive for internal use. We have also been building a number of features to better support internal collaboration beyond just positional voice and slides etc.

Our ultimate goal is to find ways that we can make web.alive collaboration more effective than face to face. The seams ambitious, but there are a number of challenges with face to face communication, let alone current telecommunication technologies that we believe we can address. The simplest example is knowing who you are speaking to or who is talking – this is often a challenge even face to face. More exciting examples include detecting and displaying emotion – there are people who don’t communicate very effectively because they are not skilled at detecting emotion (in the extreme, people with forms of autism) – we believe that over time we can augment and provide that kind of information.

Has there been any existing or planned consumer use of web.alive?

Nic: We are actively working on models to support low-end deployments of web.alive. I have always stated as a goal that my mother in-law should be able to embed web.alive in her personal web site. While technically we support a simple embed tag (in theory she could embed the eLounge on her page), we have yet to deploy a single environment built for this purpose. Most challenging of course if establishing the right business model for this, which is something we are actively working on. We will have something this year that will support small businesses.

What are customers telling you they’d like to see in web.alive?

Nic: This is a really difficult question to answer because we have talked to so many people, whether they be casual users in the eLounge or companies that we have talked with. Common themes would include a higher degree of interaction (e.g. shaking hands, more fluid and realistic animation, taking apart laptops etc.); more audio controls like the ‘cone of silence’ for private discussions; means to invite friends and better ways of staying connected.

What’s on the feature roadmap for web.alive?

Nic: We will be working to further optimize the new user experience (from client optimizations in size and speed to usability etc.), enable small businesses, enhance collaboration and make the whole experience much more immersive and interactive. We are also looking to start rolling out our community (user and developer) in 2009 to enable more contribution and an eco-system of value co-creation.

What does the future hold for enterprise focused virtual environments?

Nic: There is no question in my mind that immersive positional audio will fundamentally transform how we communicate. I believe we will start to see the kind of connectionless (from a user perspective) communications that happen in web.alive that enable “accidental collaboration” to permeate how enterprise users interact with each other, their suppliers and their customers. Eventually, calendar based meetings will become significantly less frequent as issues are resolved on the fly. Ultimately, I am convinced that virtual environments will facilitate this way of communicating by enabling rich immersive and dynamic collaboration. Just consider how an enterprise could use web.alive to improve their brand awareness by letting their customers hold virtual events or get-togethers with their network of friends, family and associates.

The best part if that we have a number of surprises (well, if you’re a techie like me they are surprises 🙂 – features that have not been rolled out but that we have built and are playing with. I won’t expand on what they are just yet, but we will roll some of them out over the coming weeks and months, and I assure you they are exciting. These features will really help incentivize enterprises into taking the leap and jumping into this kind of technology by doing things that can only be done with the kind of architecture.


Real World Meetings In A Virtual Office

February 11, 2009

Amanda Van Nuys, Linden Labs’ Director of Enterprise Marketing (and known in-world as Amanda Linden) has an interesting blog posting titled “Working in the Virtual World“.  Amanda describes her use of Second Life for work-related meetings and collaboration.  A neat physical/virtual tie-in was done with a conference room:

The physical conference room—Isabel—has a virtual counterpart that is an exact replica—Virtual Isabel. A camera in Isabel captures what’s happening in the room and displays it in the virtual space. Simultaneously, the participants in Virtual Isabel are projected on the wall of physical Isabel. The result is a seamless experience—two conference spaces, one real and one virtual, merge into one.

As for Amanda’s use of Second Life for meetings, she describes it as such:

These days, I’m spending at least 2-3 hours a day in Second Life, meeting with my colleagues distributed all over the world—collaborating, brainstorming, learning, and decorating my new office space in LindenWorld.

For companies with a highly distributed workforce, virtual worlds and their associated virtual meeting places can be a win-win scenario. I once met an employee of a Fortune 500 company who noted that he’d never met his manager, nor had he met any member of his entire team — except that he’ “met” them online, in web meetings, conference calls, Skype sessions, etc.

I’m a remote worker – I’m in the Bay Area, while the majority of my company is in the Chicago area.  Fortunately for me, my company provides an internal virtual office platform that serves as an interactive intranet plus meeting and collaboration space.  The virtual office is simply an application that rides on top of same platform that services virtual tradeshows, virtual career fairs and virtual sales meetings.

To be set up for a virtual meeting on our platform, here’s what I do:

  1. Login to the virtual office platform (via the web) – my co-workers and I do this as our first task once the computer boots up
  2. Activate my webcam
  3. Put on earbuds (so that the folks you’re speaking with don’t hear their voices reflect back into their sessions)
  4. Request a meeting with a co-worker within the platform

It’s as simple as that.  I tend to have a few meetings per week in the virtual office, mixed with the more conventional meeting via telephony conference call.  Here are the efficiencies I’ve seen with virtual office meetings:

  1. Lower overhead to start a meeting – since the virtual office provides presence indication, I know when a colleague is logged in.  I can initiate a webcam session with a colleague in the same manner that I’d start up an Instant Messaging session.  Compare this to the typical meeting “set-up”, where emails and Outlook invitations are sent and the meeting organizer awaits replies.
  2. Facilitates ad hoc, spur of the moment collaboration – similar to the gathering at the water cooler – or, the spontaneous brainstorming session around the whiteboard.  But in the virtual office, the spontaneity occurs while you’re still at your desk.  Additionally, requesting a virtual meeting session is very convenient – compare it to walking over to a colleague and tapping her on the shoulder.  Here, your colleague accepts/declines the session with the click of a mouse.  If she’s busy, she goes right back to what she was doing.  It’s like IM’ing a colleague rather than calling her on the phone.
  3. Material related to the meeting is at your fingertips (or a mouse-click away) – my virtual office session is simply a tab in my Firefox browser.  Information I need for a meeting is likely in another browser tab – or, in an application like Excel or Word.  It’s highly convenient to toggle between these apps and have the information I need at my fingertips.
  4. Immediacy – ever attend a face-to-face meeting and  take on an action item to send out a URL to all the meeting participants (when you get back to your desk)? In a virtual meeting, you can find that URL and copy/paste it into your messaging session. Now, your colleague(s) can review the URL in real-time and you can resolve issues (or obtain the necessary feedback) sooner.
  5. True facial expressions – in an avatar-based virtual space, I can emote via gestures or text comments. In a webcam-based virtual meeting, however, my colleagues can read my true facial expression.  The virtual office platform that I use supports multi-user webcam chats (of up to 9 participants), so we can all see one another, as if we all piled into the same conference room.

I haven’t even mentioned the savings in carbon emissions and cost (i.e. the use of IP technologies and the bypass of the telephony network).  I’ll always want to connect with colleagues in person – but, today’s technologies help remote workers get the job done – while increasing efficiency and productivity.  A long day in the (virtual) office never felt so good!


Economic Downturn To Spur Virtual Job Fairs

January 10, 2009

On Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the nation’s unemployment rate hit a 16-year high of 7.2%, with 11.1 million Americans out of work.  Many of the unemployed are turning to sites like Yahoo HotJobs, Monster.com, Dice.com and Linkedin.  With such a wide pool of available talent, companies looking to fill positions will receive no shortage of attention (and job submissions). While this is a good thing for the hiring companies, they’ll be challenged to efficiently filter through the submissions and find the right candidates for the jobs.

Let’s consider today’s dynamic for hiring companies:

  1. Large potential applicant base (11.1 million unemployed)
  2. Applicants are cash-strapped
  3. Hundreds (or thousands) of submissions generated for a given job posting

What’s a good solution to address this combination of factors?  The virtual job fair.  With the unemployed less likely to incur expense to attend a physical job fair, placing the event online means that you’ll attract a larger (and potentially global) audience.  And while you won’t be face-to-face with potential hires, there are plenty of advantages of flooring such an event virtually.

First, let’s consider your job at the job fair. While your ultimate goal is to source attractive candidates, it’s just as important to sell your company (amd the benefits of working there) to these candidates. Some possibilities to consider for the virtual job fair:

  1. Place detailed information about the job (and your company) in your virtual booth – supplement with external links (back to your corporate site)
  2. Invite senior executives to the event (not just the hiring manager, but the hiring manager’s manager) – including your CEO!  Your CEO’s participation is quite possible with a virtual event, but may not be practical at a physical event
  3. Invite employees who hold the same (or similar) position – and have them network with candidates
  4. Host presentations about your company (e.g. webinars)
  5. Include on-demand video in your booth – so that candidates can hear (and see) from your company representatives
  6. Host sesssions in the event that show candidates how your company operates.  For instance, if you’re supplementing your software development team, stage a developer meeting for folks to observe. Virtual worlds like Second Life or web.alive can facilitate such a session. 

As for filtering through the candidates, you’ll want to review the chat transcripts that they had with your company representatives and review activity reports (e.g. booth visits, documents downloaded) to gauge their interest level in your company.  Additionally, work with your platform provider on applications you might leverage, such as surveys or quizzes to differentiate candidates.

On the attendee side, I recommend the following:

  1. Carefully select your avatar, since it’s a representation of you in the virtual world.  You’re sending a signal to your potential employer. Picking an unsuitable avatar is equivalent to attending a physical job fair unshowered and in your pajamas
  2. Take care in all your touchpoints.  Potential employers will be able to pick up on your writing abilities within text chat, for instance. Does your resume claim, “excellent written communication skills”?  Well, be sure to demonstrate them!
  3. Bring useful and relevant resources to supplement your candidacy – e.g. writing samples, code excerpts, etc. Additionally, look up potential employers online (e.g. on Linkedin) for additional context.

TMP Worldwide (parent company of Monster.com) hosted a number of virtual job fairs in Second Life during 2007.  EMC, Accenture, GE and U.S. Cellular exhibited, among other companies.  You can still visit the Network in World site here.

On January 14, 2009, P&G is hosting a U.S. Diversity Virtual Career Fair (full disclosure: my employer [InXpo] is powering this event).  I expect to see several more virtual job fairs in 2009, especially as job openings begin to pick up again from hiring companies.  If you have plans to attend or exhibit at a virtual job fair this year, leave a comment below with some details!


A House Call Via Webcam

January 6, 2009

Flickr (neverland_rose)

Source: Flickr (neverland_rose)

While channel surfing during the holidays, I came across a re-run of House, the excellent medical drama on FOX.  In this particular episode, Dr. Gregory House was performing some patient triage over a webcam.  I thought to myself, “that’s a really neat application of video calling technology”.  Today, I read an article in the New York Times by Claire Cain Miller, “Doctors Will Make Web Calls in Hawaii”.  The company enabling this service is American Well, a Boston-based start-up who is pioneering the “New Healthcare Marketplace”.  The web call service in Hawaii works like this:

Patients use the service by logging on to participating health plans’ Web sites. Doctors hold 10-minute appointments, which can be extended for a fee, and can file prescriptions and view patients’ medical histories through the system. American Well is working with HealthVault, Microsoft’s electronic medical records service, and ActiveHealth Management, a subsidiary of Aetna, which scans patients’ medical history for gaps in their previous care and alerts doctors during their American Well appointment.

For patients insured by Hawaii Medical Service Association (American Well’s customer), the cost is $10 to use the service.  How affordable.  Back when gas prices were sky high, one might spend this same amount just to make the drive to the doctor’s office!  And in Hawaii, as the article notes, the islands are remote, which means that getting to see one’s physician may truly be a journey.

There are concerns, however, with such an approach:

However, some critics of doctor visits via webcam worry that doctors will miss important symptoms if they do not see patients in person. Others doubt that the poor and uninsured will have the broadband connection and webcams to use the service. .

“It’s a tool to help doctors do better, the way a stethoscope is a tool,” said Robert Sussman, a family practice doctor on Oahu. “You still have to use your common sense, your medical knowledge.”

I agree with Dr. Sussman – this technology does not replace the house call or doctor’s visit, but it does create a convenient, cost effective and carbon friendly “tool” for receiving health care.

Perhaps some medical insurers will create a network of Telepresence centers, where residents in certain locations (e.g. who live far from their physician) can travel a shorter distance to receive a “web call” via a high-tech, high definition solution. Of course, the doctor would need to use a Telepresence station on her end as well (so, some details need to be worked out!).

Or some day, perhaps you’ll beam a 3D representation of yourself into a virtual world and ask Dr. House to meet you there (for your check-up).  The possibilities await!


Interview with Vizitant Founder James Corbett on Video Communications

January 5, 2009

Vizitant Founder James Corbett (on left)

Vizitant Founder James Corbett (on left)

Q&A with James Corbett, founder of the not-for-profit organization Vizitant.

  1. Tell us a little bit about Vizitant? Sure. Vizitant is a project which aims to bring virtual presence services to socially marginalized groups of people like the elderly, carers, disabled and so on. By virtual presence I mean video-calling and other means of conveying the illusion that one is in the company of others.
  2. How do you facilitate technology use by the elderly or disabled?  We find the most user-friendly devices (e.g. Asus AiGuru SV1 and Eee Top) and configure them to be as simple to use as possible. That can be as basic as setting Skype to auto-answer and auto-start video. Or as complex as making hardware and software modifications.
  3. What would you like to see in video calling technologies that’s not yet available today? I think most of what we need is available today, but in the very high-end or corporate systems like Cisco Telepresence 3000. Which of course is totally beyond the budget of our target community. So what we need to see is the economies of scale in the marketplace that can push this quality of system, or something approaching it, into the consumer space. And of course that’s what Cisco is planning to do within the next couple of years. However, in the meantime, Skype and other low-end solutions are improving the level of experience dramatically for those with high quality webcams and dual core processors. Beyond that we need integrate more of the ‘virtual’ into the ‘presence’. While it’s great to feel like you’re in the same room as a remote relative imagine being able to feel like you’re both at a table together in a Parisian cafe. Or on a Caribbean beach. This is the kind of idea that might remind you of the ‘Holodeck’ on ‘Star Trek’ and that’s where, I believe, this technology can ultimately take us.
  4. Any plans to support multi-party sessions, sort of like a “town hall” meeting? Yes, we are in early discussions with an Irish company called OnlineMeetingRooms.com about using their multi-seat videoconferencing solutions for “town halls”.
  5. Do you envision applications of this technology for medical diagnosis and triage? Absolutely. There are trials ongoing at a hospital in Dublin, Ireland for a ‘robot doctor’, which is something like Skype Video on wheels, used in the early assessment and treatment of stroke victims.  Read more about it here: http://www.vizitant.com/2008/07/remote-presence.html.  And at the high-end there is HealthPresence – a specialized adaptation of Cisco’s high-end Telepresence system outfitted with medical diagnostic equipment and configured in a self-contained pod.  More info can be found here.
  6. Prior to Vizitant, what sorts of projects or technologies did you work on?  I spent a number of years with American multinationals in Ireland, such as Apple, Motorola and Analog Devices. There I worked in Software Test and System Administration roles. So I had varied exposure to a range of operating systems, network systems and so on. Experience which has taught me to look for the correct solution to a problem and not just “what we’ve always used here”.
  7. What’s it like running a business in Ireland?  In general it’s very good. Ireland made No. 2 in Forbes recent list of Best Countries for Business and that’s fairly well borne out in reality. However we are somewhat lacking in terms of Venture Capital and Angel funding options.

More Meetings From Your Desk

December 23, 2008

It’s a growing trend.  In 2009, you’ll be attending more and more meetings.  From your desk and desktop, that is.  In a Travel Procurement article titled “The Next Best Thing To Being There: Virtual Meetings Earn Their Rightful Place In Strategic Meetings Management”, surveyed travel buyers confirm that the trend is real:

Faced with an economic downturn and increased airfares, three-quarters of 230 U.S. travel buyers responding to a recent National Business Travel Association poll reported increased use of teleconferencing and Web-based meetings. Nearly 57 percent cited increased use of videoconferencing. More than 80 percent said the technology replaced actual trips.

Consider the travel policy at P&G:

“Our policy is set up so that virtual media must be considered if business objectives can be achieved,” said Diana Johantgen, service manager for Procter & Gamble’s new meeting, event and convention management team, who helped incorporate a virtual meetings program into that company’s strategic meetings management program.

This shift towards virtual meetings means good things for Cisco (Telepresence and WebEx), Nortel and HP (Telepresence), Citrix (GoToMeeting), Microsoft (Live Meeting) and many others.  While virtual meetings and telepresence may never reproduce 100% of in-person meetings, you can’t beat the cost efficiency and convenience.

Additionally, online meetings provide unique benefits, such as the meeting archive.   Ever need to schedule a series of information sessions or training presentations?  Why not do a virtual meeting (live) and record it – take the archive, edit it down (if needed) and then allow all reamining groups to view the session on-demand, on their schedule.  If the presentation is mandatory, the online meeting can be tracked to ensure that all required users end up viewing it.

OK, gotta go now.  A virtual meeting awaits!


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