During the Coachella Music Festival in April 2012, Tupac Shukar, a hip-hop star who passed away in 1996, made a surprise appearance as a hologram, performing “live” along side hip-hop/rap stars Snoop Dog and Dr. Dre. You may be asking yourselves, why is this musical festival relevant to virtual trends, much less the meetings and events industry?
I’m excited to announce the launch of The Virtual Buzz, a new venture that I’m undertaking with Donna Sanford of Sanford Project Partners. I had the pleasure of working with Donna, first as editor of EXPO Magazine and then as part of our work on behalf of the Virtual Edge Summit.
NOTE: I am providing pr/marketing services to the Virtual Edge Summit. This post reflects my personal opinions and is not representative of the Virtual Edge Institute or Virtual Edge Summit.
I previously wrote about some of the efforts we undertook to promote the Virtual Edge Summit. I would like to highlight some of the buzz coming out of the Summit and what this means for marketers. Interestingly, I anticipated hearing some innovations from the key players in the US virtual events market – INXPO (Note: I was previously employed here), 6Connex, and Unisfair.
Rather, for me, I was intrigued by the number of mobile developments by other providers at the show, Altus, Digitell Inc. and Social27. While this was surprising, it fits into my overall predictions about the industry, that newcomers will help push the innovation for virtual and hybrid events. Here’s a quick summary of the announcements. I also had the opportunity to speak briefly with Altus and Social27. Here is a quick overview of the Altus and Social27 news, and I plan to post the videos once I get those completed.
Altus Brings Conferences to the Palm of Your Hand
Altus highlighted their announcement as an extension of physical to provide a “hybrid” experience. The mobile application allows conference organizers to put the conference agenda, sponsor information and even presentations on your mobile device.
Why you should take a look? Since attendees proactively download the app to their device (supports many operating systems), conference organizers can continue pushing updates to attendees long after the conference has ended. If you leverage this as an opportunity to continue a conversation, you can keep members engaged while driving interest for the following conference, as well as open up possible revenue opportunities via sponsorships.
Taking Social Interaction to the Next Level with Social27
Social27 originally started as a service to bring social collaboration to enterprises. Seeing an opportunity, Social27 is moving into events and conferences. The company has a philosophy of “Social, Mobile and Local”, which Ike Singh Kehal, CEO of Social27, explains in his video (coming soon). Like the main U.S. players in the market, Social27 provides an environment with 2D locations for networking, exhibitors and sessions. Since the company comes from the social collaboration space, Social27 provides a simple integration with the key social networks.
Why you should take a look? Social27 does the social collaboration and networking well. I would venture to say that it provides the simplest and most intuitive interface to date. Furthermore, the company leverages the wealth of your social graph to provide “matches” to assist with networking. Currently available on Windows mobile phones, expect Social27 to expand the services to additional mobile OS. By adding the geographic aspect as well, Social27 provides marketers with the ability to search, seek and network with prospects – virtually or in the real world.
The Virtual Edge Summit provided great insight into how marketers can leverage virtual and hybrid events as part of the marketing mix. And an integral part of the experience is extending the event to mobile devices. Do you agree or disagree?
Following previous interviews with key virtual event vendors, I interviewed Dannette Veale, Virtual & Social Technology Strategist, Global Sales Experience (GSX) of Cisco, to get an end-user perspective about virtual events and what technology innovations we can anticipate. Now a member of the Cisco Global Sales Experience team, Dannette previously produced the global Cisco Live and Networkers conferences as hybrid events. She will be speaking at the Virtual Edge Summit on future trends for virtual and hybrid events on January 12, 2011 from 2:15 – 3:00 pm.
In Part 1, we discussed virtual events, the pros and cons of being an innovator, and how Cisco leveraged several technologies for the Cisco Live hybrid events. In part 2, to be published next week, Dannette shared her predictions for events in 2011. Hint: it’s about mobility. Please leave any questions you have for Dannette in the comments.
How are virtual events being leveraged within Cisco?
Cisco leverages virtual in many ways. We have flagship events like Cisco Live, which is annual user event with several points around the world, and Partner Summit event, which is our single point of activity for partner communities. And there are internal events, like the Strategic Leadership Offsite (SLO) and GSX (Global Sales Experience). We see virtual as a way to most cost-effectively take event activities to a mass audience.
For majority, Partner Summit and Cisco Live events around the globe, are physical events that are hybrid to extend the activity to a worldwide audience. There is some unique programming for virtual audiences. We don’t clone or repeat everything at physical event. We look at what will translate to the virtual and opportunities to create an experience that can’t be done at the physical event.
For example, keynotes are always presented at Cisco Live and taken to virtual audience. Virtual provides a unique or intimate experience for a post keynote chat session. Keynote speaker goes into a room to have a dialogue with the audience for questions that came up during the keynote. We leverage a space that the speaker can do an intimate chat with 10K people on site in Las Vegas and 30k+ people attending virtually.
That is where we see how virtual offers opportunities that you can’t facilitate at the physical.And some in the physical won’t translate well into virtual. We have a technical solutions clinic on site at Cisco Live for attendees to visit on an ad hoc basis to work with Cisco support regarding deployment issues. In the technical solutions clinic the primary source for sharing information is a white board, this format is difficult to translate virtually. Therefore we have a modified version for virtual that we call the Ask the Expert Center, providing this on a schedule basis versus intervals. When you have 10-15K onsite, there will be plenty of foot traffic to the technical solutions clinic. In the virtual environment, the open-ended aspect doesn’t work as well and virtual attendees respond better with scheduled activities, such as ask-the-expert activities.
You’re incorporating several innovative technologies, such as augmented reality and QR codes. What are your recommendations for others considering using technology for their events? Pros and cons?
We haven’t rolled out some of the technology you mentioned. We had augmented reality (AR) featured at Cisco Live Europe 2010 with keynote speaker, Prof. Bruce Thomas, and used some AR tools on stage to demo power. But we haven’t done what I feel we can do to integrate this on the tradeshow floor.
We also haven’t done a lot with QR codes, and I have blogged a lot about how to leverage it for an event. Rather, we’ve leveraged more social tools like geo-location with Foursquare and DoubleDutch (white-labeled) for Cisco events. We’ve also used Ustream with Facebook and Twitter.
While we haven’t done much for events yet, we can push the envelope with AR and I would love to see a on site and virtual blended scavenger hunt leveraging QR codes, but not at this time.
What are the pros or cons of doing this?
Pro is that we were first – a trailblazer for virtual event opportunities in general. Use that as the specific pro and con for technology.
As an early adopter, we can have a much more dynamic effect on the evolution of that industry and technology offer. There is something to be said about partnering with the companies on these technologies to evangelize the business prospect regarding what we need from these technologies. The earlier we participate on this, the more influence we can have on their long-term road maps.
Con is that sometimes things don’t work. Once we’ve done it and publicized, we have to be ok with saying that it didn’t work. For example I have some blogs about gaming implementation for CiscoLive 2010. Some goals that were on the scope couldn’t’ be realized within the timeframe of deployment. We had to be ok with saying that we didn’t meet all the objectives and met 50% of them, while pursuing the other later. That can be perceived as a con – I don’t personally see this as a con and think it’s about being a good thought leader in the space.
Dannette Veale’s Bio
As the virtual and social technology strategist for Cisco’s Global Sales Experience (GSX), Dannette Veale lives and breathes new media. Prior to her role on the GSX team Dannette lead the creation and drove the strategy for the award winning Cisco Live and Networkers virtual program. Dannette has also managed global online and virtual programs for a variety of Cisco groups; most notably emerging markets. When she’s not evangelizing the use of virtual environments to extend the reach of an event and broaden the overall audience demographic participating, you’ll find Dannette engaged in such varied hobbies as producing streaming media, designing Web sites, or watching classic films such as Blade Runner. Outside of her daily immersion in the bleeding edge of collaborative media, Dannette’s also been known to partake in such real world activities as gardening, baking, and knitting;while watching cyberpunk anime, of course.
As part of the PRMM Interview series, I am interviewing thought leaders in PR, marketing, social media, and virtual events to hear about innovations, trends and technologies impacting our industry. This week, I asked virtual events vetaran, John Grosshandler is Director of Virtual Engagement with Maritz, to provide insight on the evolution of virtual events, challenges facing the industry and future trends. Here is a brief bio (Note: I was previously employed by Inxpo):
In 2004, John launched a first of its kind virtual trade show called eComXpo which became the highest-grossing, longest-running virtual trade show ever held. In 2005, after initially being their first customer, John joined InXpo, the virtual event platform provider that powered eComXpo. While there, he was the Virtual Event Strategist on hundreds of virtual events for associations (e.g. HIMSS, National Association of Realtors), corporations (e.g. Cisco, ATT) and publishers (e.g. UBM, Ziff Davis). While at InXpo, John authored the virtual event industry’s first Best Practices Guide. In his role at Maritz, John is responsible for their virtual event offerings, including supporting their channel partner Freeman.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got into virtual events?
My background has been in sales and marketing roles for cutting edge technology solutions. After a successful 8 year run at a software firm pre/during/post the tech bubble, I had the opportunity to start my own business. In 2004, I launched a start-up around the idea of a virtual trade show aimed at eCommerce marketers. While there had been a number of attempts at virtual trade shows before mine, most of them were quite boring and I thought a business could be built around a more engaging type of virtual event.
How has the industry changed since you’ve started?
The evolution in this space has been extraordinary on many fronts. First has been the realization that the technology is only one component of a successful event, and that you need to spend at least as much time on the strategy, content and marketing. As a result, agencies like Maritz, Freeman and others are building practices to help event organizers put on higher quality events with less effort. Another evolution has been around the types of events held. From 2004-2008, almost all the action was publishers putting on virtual trade shows to replace lost revenue from their declining print ad sales and subscriber base. In 2009, you started to see associations more effectively creating hybrid extensions to their physical conventions. 2009 is also when more and more corporations starting leveraging virtual for a variety of events, ranging from sales meetings to user groups. A welcome change has been the technology platforms themselves, which increasingly have very robust functionality and can handle ever-increasing numbers of virtual attendees. Finally, there’s less talk these days about purely virtual events, and more about hybrid and blended events which I believe is the future.
Adoption of virtual events & meetings technology has increased significantly due to the recession. What challenges do you see for mainstream adoption of this technology?
Although the adoption has increased significantly, we’re still only scratching the surface. One report suggests the virtual event space will grow to $18 billion in five years, so we’re still in the “early adopter” phase. To cross the chasm to mass adoption, I think three things need to happen a) the technology needs to become more self-service and less expensive; b) virtual event platforms need to be effectively ported to mobile devices and c) events funded by virtual exhibitors need to deliver more value to those sponsors.
2011 is just around the corner and it’s the time of year for future predictions. What do you see happening for the industry in 2011?
I see 2011 as the “Year of the Hybrid”. The idea that more and more physical events will have virtual extensions, either as pre, during or post the physical event. Whether those virtual extensions are focused on driving more attendees to the physical event, or helping you reach others who weren’t able to make it to the physical event, these extensions are the “killer app” for virtual technology.
Any additional thoughts that you would like to share?
An exciting new use of the technology allows corporations to create virtual extensions to their physical trade show booths. Even if the show organizer doesn’t have a virtual extension to the event as a whole, top tier sponsors are realizing that their own virtual extension can help build buzz, drive attendance to their physical booth and provide a more effective follow-up mechanism for booth visitors, as well as those that didn’t make it to the physical event.
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Cece Salomon-Lee is director of marketing for ACTIVE Network, Business Solutions division, and author of PR Meets Marketing, which explores the intersection of public relations, marketing, and social media.
This blog contains Cece's personal opinions and are not representative of her company's.