With my sub focus on virtual events, I’ve been receiving media pitches to attend these type of events. Inviting media and bloggers to attend your event – whether virtual or physical – is a great way to drive awareness of your event.
The challenge? Attending any event takes time out of a busy schedule and away from billable work. Like any media pitch, you have to clearly outline the benefits to entice the blogger or reporter to take time out to attend. This can be a keynote from a industry expert who rarely speaks, details of a research report being revealed for the first time or seeing how producers are using these solutions in innovative ways. Continue reading »
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.
On Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 1 pm PT, I am moderating a Focus roundtable discussion on how marketers can develop and implement marketing campaigns that can drive awareness for their virtual events and attract audiences. Michelle Bruno, Bruno Group Signature Events, and Shannon Ryan, Adviser, Virtual Events, Focus, will also participate on this roundtable.
We’ll address topics such as:
1) When, why and how to leverage social media for your virtual event
2) Strategies to convert registrants into audience members on the day of the virtual event
3) Collaborate with partners, customers and employees to spread the word of mouth
Here are ways you can join the conversation before or during the roundtable:
Toll-free Dial-In Number: (866) 951-1151
International Dial-In Number: (201) 590-2255
Conference # : 4999006
A recent discussion on The Virtual Events & Meeting Technology group on LinkedIn (must join to see the thread) caught my attention recently. It asked what the “highest recorded attendance figure” was for a virtual exhibition.
Unfortunately, many numbers cited in case studies or media articles are all self-reporter. My concern is the use of self-reported numbers doesn’t help our industry. By focusing on the largest number of registrants and attendees, highest number of leads per exhibitor, or longest time spent within the event, the conversation centers around who has the biggest and largest event.
At the end of February, the Virtual Edge Institute (VEI) announced a new certification program for digital event strategists (Disclosure: I do some consulting for VEI). While webinars and webcasts are an integral part of the marketing mix, digital events are fairly new for marketers and event practitioners. Besides those who experiment with the new medium, there are not many professionals experienced planning, building and implementing virtual events.
The timing of this new program is just another indicator of the momentum that virtual environments is gaining within organizations – both as a marketing tool and for event marketers. Until now, one of the main obstacles for organizations is to find and employ people with the appropriate expertise to manage virtual event programs. By training people on the ins and outs of digital events, this will further spur the growth within this industry. Here are a couple of responses to date:
Jessica L. Levin, Seven Degrees Communications, “I really like this idea. I think this is an area that is new, technical and requires a lot of education. I love that they use ‘Strategist’ in the designation. This tells me that the learning goes beyond mechanics and it a deeper, higher-level approach. All certifications should be taken with a grain of salt, but I appreciate the opportunity to get some formal education.”
Todd Hanson, ROI of Engagement, Catalyst Performance Group, “This is going to be an excellent thing for the industry! I applaud the efforts.”
What do you think? Leave your thoughts below.
I highlighted three basic types of virtual events. In subsequent posts, I plan to highlight key questions you should ask as you evaluate your virtual event technology provider under the following categories:
1. Event Support & Experience
2. Virtual Event Planning Tools
3. Engagement & Experience
5. Metrics and Analysis
6. Product Roadmap/Innovation
This first part focuses on overall virtual event support and experience.
Number of Events Does Not Equate Experience
Many vendors cite the number of events they’ve developed as testament to their support and experience in creating successful virtual events. However, the number of events produced demonstrates only a company’s ability to, well, produce events. Would you select someone who did 1,000 poorly designed events or one who did 200 very well-conceived and implemented events? I argue you would select the latter.
So how do you get beyond the “number of events produced” response to delve into the characteristics you need to plan, build, design and implement a successful virtual event?
1. This is my first virtual event. What is your process with customers like me? What documentation do you provide to help me understand the steps and questions for a virtual event?
2. How many events do your event directors manage at any one time?
3. What is the event director’s experience in planning, building and implementing virtual or physical events like mine? Can you give me sample events s/he has been involved in?
4. How quickly does your team respond to clients? What is the average time elapsed for responses? 30 minutes, 1 hour, 1 day?
5. Do you survey your customers on their satisfaction? If so, what were the results? If not, why not and how do you know if you’re doing a good job with your customers?
6. Can you provide me with 3 customer references similar to my association, corporation or industry?
7. What is your recommended timeline for an event like mine?
What additional questions are there? Share them below in the comments.
While attending the Virtual Edge Summit 2011 last week, one question asked by attendees is “how do I create an engaging experience.” I would argue that the experience relies not on the platform you select but rather how involved you are in planning, designing, building and implementing the environment. However, many are new to going virtual and are unsure of how to proceed.
As such, I plan to write a series of posts to help meeting/event planners and marketers understand the process for going virtual. Please feel free to forward me your questions.
First, there are many types of “virtual events.” Let me highlight three flavors of virtual events that include multiple locations, such as an exhibit hall and auditorium, chat functionality and presentations.
Virtual Event “Out-of-the-Box”
A couple of the vendors are touting that they can build an event in one day. This is possible as certain features have already been pre-selected for you, such as presentation window and chat. While you can add a logo and some other basic branding, there is not much more to this. What you see is what you get with this virtual event.
Pro: Quick and easy set up with minimal monetary outlay (estimate of $5,000-10,000). Once created, you can reuse over and over again as a central library for your archived content and future events.
Con: You get a standard “virtual” event as defined by the vendor with minimal customization. This may or may not work for your particular audience with regard to providing an “engaging” experience. If you plan to use more than once, there may be additional charges for each new “event/presentation” with in the environment.
“Template-Based” Virtual Events
The next level is adding some customization options in terms of the location look-and-feel (usually selecting from a vendor’s library of themes) and adding/taking away certain features such as group chat, locations (i.e. an exhibitor space) and social media with a click of the mouse.
Pro: You have more control over the look-and-feel and how attendees interact with the environment. Like the “virtual event out-of-the box,” once you’ve created it, you can reuse the set-up for future virtual events you hold.
Con: Increased price tag to about $30-60K depending on the features, limited to stock library of images or providing images that fit a specific criteria, and requires more time and effort to design and implement. Furthermore, if using the same format repeatedly, you have to consider additional charges to light-up the environment, as well as if the look-and-feel will become dated.
Fully Customized Virtual Event
The high-end is working with the vendor to develop a fully customized environment from a branded look-and-feel to adding features beyond chat and social media, such as games and quizzes.
Pro: You are intimately involved in the building of the virtual environment that is customized to your event, brand and audience. This provides you with the best option for engaging your audience. Once built, you can add new features to further customize the experience.
Con: This takes a lot of time (recommend at least 6 months to plan, design, build and implement) and can be six figures or more. If you decide to add onto the environment, the challenge is how to integrate any new functionality seamlessly into the overall experience.
In the end, you need to find the right partner based on your budget, expectations and overall experience requirements. In my next post, I’ll highlight the types of questions you should ask when evaluating a virtual events platform provider.
What other pros and cons are there with the above three virtual event scenarios?
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.
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