So you’ve decided to move forward with a virtual event. You have your team in place and have established a structure for planning the event. Now you have to design and build it. Since “virtual” event experiences are so new, many event and meeting planners are turning to vendors and suppliers to counsel them through this process.
The challenge is how to avoid “cookie-cutter” virtual event experiences that may not be appropriate for your audience and objectives. Consider these questions under the specific topic areas (* are questions contributed by Donna Sanford of Sanford Project Partners, your outsourcing partner for events, print and digital media). What additional questions do you have?
1. What works best – audio, video or video-only presentations?
2. Presenting virtually is quite different than in-person. What recommendations do you have for designing the presentation? This includes length of preso, use of slides, inclusion of polling questions, etc.
3. What training can you provide my speakers to address a virtual audience?
4. What type of social media integration do you have within the presentation console for virtual audiences?
1. What tools are available to familiarize my audience before they enter the virtual event?
- can these be branded with my logo?
- what if I want something customized for my event? What is the cost and time constraint?
- do you have an attendee guide that people can download? For those who prefer a manual, this document would provide screenshots of the key elements of the event and what each function is.
2. I have to drive audiences to a specific presentation, booth, etc. for my sponsor/exhibitor. What is the best way to do this?
3. How can we create an experience that easily guides my audience through the virtual event?
- How do we map this out before we begin building the event? The purpose of mapping is to ensure that your key objectives are forefront during the planning stages.
- What are the average number of clicks it will take for someone to do activity X? This can include: getting to a presentation, attending a group chat, sending a vcard, engaging in a one-on-one chat, visiting a booth in the exhibit hall, etc.
1. What chat functionalities do you have? These usually include text-based one-on-one, many-to-many, and group chat. Video chat is just emerging and worth asking about.
2. What social media integration do you provide?
- Where/how does one access the social media capabilities?
- Are these consistently available in every area of the virtual event? For example, is twitter available in the group chat area but not in the exhibit hall. Why or why not?
3. Do you have match making capabilities? How does it work? And do they bring in my existing social graph from other social networks?
4. How do you connect speakers with the virtual audience?
5. How do you help exhibitors/sponsors engage with attendees?*
6. What kinds of tools or programs do you have for attendees to engage with one another?*
1. What tools do you have for the in-person and virtual attendees engage with one another?*
2. With regard to the physical event, would you program the virtual event exactly with, separately from or a combo of the two? Based on my event, what would you recommend?
3. Should my virtual event be visually similar to my physical event?
3. Pulse Staging: Tips for Presenting to a Virtual Audience
4. A Wider Net: Why Engagement Matters More for Virtual Events
In this installment of PRMM Interview, I spoke with Dennis Shiao, author of the It’s All Virtual blog and “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events.” This video highlights the motivation behind writing his book, top tips for generating leads via virtual events, and a special offer for his book.
For nearly 3 years, I’ve been writing about PR, marketing, social media, and most recently virtual events. At times, I’ve been very prolific and other times I’ve gone weeks without a post. As a commitment to myself and to you, my readers, I wanted to share some updates for the site in a short video message that I hope will make the blog more useful for you.
Briefly, I am enacting an editorial calendar to help develop a schedule of posts and expectations. My writing schedule will be Mondays (virtual events), Wednesdays (pr, marketing, social media), and Fridays (PRMM interviews with industry experts).
I also want to invite you to submit your ideas for potential blog topics and interview subjects (email or video). Here are some high-level bullet points on what I’m looking for in guest posts, interviewees and/or blog ideas, such as surveys highlighting key trends, case studies that demonstrate ROI, interesting case uses of technology, someone who is truly visionary, etc.
But, most importantly, read my past posts first before connecting with me.
If you’re interested, please drop me a note either in the comments or via email. I look forward to hearing from you and watch here for future announcements.
I will be moderating a Focus.com teleconference on Virtual Events on today, December 15th at 11AM PT/ 2PM ET with Jeff Hurt, Donna Sanford, and Shannon Ryan, where we will discuss best practices for hybrid events.
1) Tips for engaging both physical and virtual audiences
2) Key considerations to keep top of mind
3) Technologies that can enhance the hybrid event experience
Shannon Ryan, Interactive Summit Lead, Focus
Donna Sanford, President , Sanford Project Partners,
Jeff Hurt, Director of Education & Engagement, Velvet Chansaw Consultin
Toll Free United States (866) 951-1151
Toll United States (201) 590-2255
Conference #: 4999006
Submit Questions to:
On Focus.com, use the keyword: FocusRTVE
On Twitter, use hashtag #FocusRTVE
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Every Friday, I try to interview an industry expert to provide insight on their industry. This week on PRMM Interview, I interview Scott Kellner, CMO of 6Connex, regarding what the future holds for virtual events and the best way to keep people engaged virtually.
As CMO of 6Connex, Scott is responsible for all communications activities and initiatives for 6Connex, including corporate, product, and channel marketing. He also supervises the 6Connex Service and Support group. Scott brings more than 20 years of marketing leadership to 6Connex. He has established branding and positioning strategies for a variety of companies, both as an agency executive and as senior, corporate marketer. Scott has also implemented the development and training of international reseller networks, managed direct sales organizations, and developed go-to-market, alliance marketing, advertising and PR strategies for companies in industries ranging from entertainment to professional services to consumer packaged goods.
Can you provide a quick intro to 6Connex?
One of the questions we often get is where our name comes from. I think it’s important to cover this because our name underscores our view of the virtual experience industry. The name comes from a combination of: the six degrees of separation connected at a nexus point. As such, our core mission is to connect people with each other, and with relevant content.
While we formally launched in February of 2009, our beginnings can be traced back to the first, and still the largest, virtual event every produced: AMD’s Virtual Experience (or AVE), which was run on 6Connex technology in 2006, and again in 2007. With just under 1 million unique registrants and statistics like 330,000 video views and more than 600,000 document downloads, it was truly a monumental undertaking. That experience, and the software that powered it, launched the company, though we stayed in stealth mode for two years.
Webinars have become a common lead generation tool for marketers. Can you provide 2-3 reasons why marketers should consider virtual events?
Given the way we’ve architected our platform, we believe marketers should consider virtual experiences for more than just events. That said, webinars are a tremendous tool, but they are usually effective for just a moment in time. While there are varying technologies, their efficacy is brief, and they don’t offer the level of flexibility, measurement, rich media content distribution or social networking that solid virtual platforms do.
We counsel our customers to use webinars as a key part of virtual experiences, but to also to take advantage of the ongoing presence afforded by virtual platforms to continually reach out to target audiences, refresh content, encourage interaction and create networks of professionals that can benefit from one another’s expertise.
Some of the best examples of this go beyond mere “events”. We encourage our customers to think in terms of both short and long term objectives, and to utilize the flexibility of virtual technology systems to continually engage their target constituencies. Cisco’s Data Center of the Future, and Siemens’ Navigating Healthcare virtual experiences are great examples of this. Simply put, webinars can do that.
As virtual events become more prevalent, there is a risk of attendee fatigue. What recommendations do you have to keep the experience fresh for attendees?
As many in your audience know, our heritage is not only in software development, but also award-winning interactive strategy and design. 6Connex has created virtual environments and critically acclaimed Web-based gaming programs for Disney, Universal Pictures and ABC, for example, so we understand, at a deep level, things like how to use video effectively, how to create a user experience that’s engaging and meets business objectives, and how to walk the fine line between attendee length of stay and the ease of finding relevant content.
To avoid fatigue, a virtual environment must be both pleasing and intuitive. It must have best in class information architecture, user interface design and be quick to load. But it must also be designed to allow attendees to chart their own path if they want. We believe you avoid weariness by making a virtual experience pleasing to the eye, by enabling people to connect with one another easily and by allowing attendees to encounter content on their own terms.
There seems to be a lot of developments with virtual events. Where do you see the industry going in 2-3 years?
Well, I have to be careful here. I don’t want to tip my hand in terms of what 6Connex has in alpha and beta stages now, though our customers are all in the loop. I will say this: I think better collaborative tools are on the immediate horizon. Improving the effectiveness of virtual platforms will require that providers enable secure, collaborative workspaces for their customers to use.
Another area of innovation centers on video conferencing, for sure. Creating more lifelike environments that complement physical events will continue to be necessary.
Also, integration with physical event technologies will become more important. One great example of this is “pushing” virtual content into a physical space via digital signage. We’re all familiar with “hybrid” events that take in live feeds from physical venue keynote addresses, for example. But we see no reason it cannot work the other way around.
Last, mobile is an obvious area for innovation. The increasing adoption of tablets and personal consoles like the iPad will drive some of this, but the most innovative virtual software providers will seek to push some envelopes in this arena on their own. Stay tuned!
I attended the WITI Summit earlier this week, recapping the keynotes on the first day. On the second day, I attended three panel sessions on the Applied Cloud, New Opportunities in the Mobile Market, and Social Media Business Solutions. Below is my summary of these sessions:
Applied Cloud Panel Discussion
The panel discussion highlighted the benefits of cloud applications in terms of cost efficiencies, speed to implementation, scalability, and flexibility. Vanessa Alvarez, analyst with Frost & Sullivan, indicated that a hybrid approach (on-premise and cloud) may emerge which may ease issues with integration across multiple vendors and data.
While the benefits of cloud applications was discussed, the issue of data integration was present. According to R. Ray Wong, analyst with the Altimeter Group: ” Integration is very hard. Going backwards to best of breed … People are going out to procure apps themselves. Integration has to come back to have same reports. Everything is coming back as have to have a good data architecture and how the business processes get tied back for reporting. Then can talk about data integration.”
In the end, the possibility of SaaS suites will emerge.
Mobile is becoming an integral part of our lives. The panel clarified that there are six types of mobile applications: 1. Communications, 2. Games, 3. Multimedia, 4. Productivity (email, calendaring, etc.), 5. Travel, and 6. Utilities (address book, task manager, etc.).
Considering that the US has double the number of smartphones than China, which is second worldwide, there is ample opportunity for marketers to leverage mobile. The key takeaway was to provide your audience with useful applications that address their needs. For example, applications for new mothers would be an interesting opportunity for Johnson & Johnson or other company targeting new moms.
Social Media Business Solutions
The panel consisted of representatives from Meebo, Paypal, and IBM. For me, I found how Paypal and IBM leveraged social business very interesting:
Paypal Leverages Social for Community Forum and Customer Service
Paypal is leveraging social media as part of the service’s web self-service. The goal is to provide a long-term community to better understand the needs of their audience. For Paypal, the value is understanding the cost of product development and launch. With web analytics, they are also able to track customers and determine the path for communications help.
IBM Connects with Partners with Virtual Event
For IBM, they built a robust virtual event to learn from partners and provide them the information they need from IBM. 5,000 partners attended the virtual event live with 2,500 accessing the archive. IBM’s goal was not to replace its physical event with virtual. Rather, they can be selective with face-to-face events, using virtual to supplement the face-to-face.
In terms of value, they reviewed the analytics to measure against their objectives, such as engagement, did the conversations continue beyond the event, or was the conversation at a deeper level.
I asked my former colleague, Dennis Shiao, to share his insights on how virtual events can augment PR and marketing. Briefly, Dennis is an evangelist, strategist and practitioner of virtual events. Dennis provides strategic consulting to clients on their virtual events and has managed virtual event campaigns for Cisco, HP, Oracle and Microsoft, among others. Dennis blogs about virtual events and virtual worlds at “It’s All Virtual” and is a frequent author and speaker. Dennis can be found on Twitter at @dshiao.
Virtual events are seeing strong adoption. It all started with the virtual trade show, a 2.5D representation of a physical trade show, complete with a lobby, auditorium, exhibit hall, networking lounge and more. A number of formats soon followed, including the virtual career fair, virtual sales meeting, virtual product launch and virtual partner summit. In addition, we’re now seeing businesses leverage virtual platforms for “corporate university” or e-Learning.
It will be exciting to see the new and innovative formats that marketers, publishers, event managers and business owners develop in 2010 and beyond. I have a format that is well suited for virtual: the press event.
In many ways, the benefits of a virtual press event are the same as a virtual trade show. The host, along with attendees, presenters, etc. participate via the web and save on travel costs, lodging costs, shipping costs and “out of office time.” In addition, all activities within the environment are tracked. And, the environment can remain available long after the live “event” concludes.
Additional benefits of producing your press event virtually:
In the past, press events were planned in “road show” fashion, in which you visited major cities that had the highest concentration of your target media publications. With virtual, you can host a single event and capture a global audience. Alternatively, you can leverage a single virtual platform and stage live events based on regional timezones, to target business hours in North America, then EMEA, then Asia Pac. Your PR efforts can now have a wider reach at a lower cost.
Convenient Access to Your Executives
In a physical setting, it can be a logistical challenge to schedule and coordinate access from press members to your executive team. With virtual, executives can interact with larger audiences more efficiently. For instance, you might place your CMO in a moderated chat room and take questions from an audience of 1,500. Imagine doing that in a physical setting!
Invite Customers and Prospects
Increase your ROI by also inviting customers and prospects to the event. Do your require press credentials to gain access to certain materials? No problem. Virtual event platforms provide role-based access, which means that an access profile can be applied to your customers and prospects that are different from press members. Any PR that you do affects your customers, too, so include them when sharing the news.
Use Activity Paths to Follow Up Appropriately
Whether customer, prospect or press member, study activity paths in the virtual event to determine effective follow-up plans. Did a reporter visit your booth ten times, then ask numerous questions in the group chat area? Schedule a one-on-one conference call with your Senior Product Manager, to ensure that the reporter has all the info she needs. Similarly, follow up with prospects to move them further along in the sales cycle.
I believe virtual events can be the definition of “PR meets Marketing”. As PR and Marketing look to Web 2.0 to broaden reach and engagement, consider virtual events as one more tool in your arsenal.
Interested in being a guest author? Send me an email with your proposed topic and how it relates to PR Meets Marketing. Self-promotional content will not be considered.
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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