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?
A common thought is that the existing physical event team can “add” virtual as an additional responsibility. But in a recent post, Dannette Veale of Cisco refuted this approach, advocating that a virtual team be in place to manage your virtual event. Another misconception is that your virtual event vendor will provide the necessary tools to smoothly proceed with your event.
Also, don’t estimate the amount of collaboration that will take place. Have a systematic approach to capture these conversations, collaborations and decisions is key to minimizing misunderstandings and mistakes for your event. Consider using a centralized location for this. If the vendor doesn’t have an intranet/extranet, consider using something like Google Docs (share documents) or PBWiki (share docs and track changes with wiki functionality).
In the second in a series of posts, here are questions to consider when working with your vendor:
- 1. Do you have a handbook outlining all the steps for planning my event?
- 2. What is the typical timeline and milestones that I need to be aware of for this event?
- 3. Do you have a project timeline that we can mark our progress against?
- 4. What is the process for collaborating and documenting changes/decisions for the virtual event?
- 5. Is there a central place for our respective teams to collaborate?
- 6. I have never done a virtual event before. What are the key differences between planning a similar event virtually versus in person?
- 7. What team are you putting in place to help me with my virtual event? What are their roles and responsibilities?
- 8. What is the ideal virtual team that I should have in place? What are the roles and responsibilities for each person?
Other Posts In the Series:
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?
I recently completed a webinar with MPI on “Dispelling the 5 Myths of Going Virtual.” One of the questions asked was if I could provide a list of relevant case studies in this arena. I thought this would be a great resource to provide and I will add new case studies as I find them to this list.
For now, I purposely looked at case studies from 2009-2010. These were based on articles, blog postings and case studies from vendors, including Imaste and Unisfair. Unfortunately, 6Connex and Inxpo required registration, On24 and Ubivent case studies were outdated, and VisualMente didn’t provide full details regarding objectives and results. If there are relevant case studies, please include them in the comments below.
Corporate Virtual Events Case Studies
- * HP goes virtual – Technology – Event Marketer: Overview of HP’s use of virtual event technology
- * Physical to Virtual Event Transformation – An Interview with SAP’s …: Interview with Scott Schenker of SAP regarding SAPPHIRE – looks at strategy and results.
- * Cisco Blog ” Blog Archive ” Virtual Event Key Learnings – Part Two: Key stats regarding CiscoLive 2009
- * Event Marketer: Cisco GSX Goes Virtual: Overview of Cisco GSX in Event Marketer Magazine
- * Cisco GSX 2009 Case Study on Vimeo: Cisco GSX case study.
- * Cisco Blog ” Blog Archive ” Analysis of a Virtual Event: Cisco Live case study – provides details of post-event survey between physical and virtual audiences
- * Avatars Rising in the Enterprise: GE Healthcare’s virtual exhibit highlighted.
- * KPMG Job Fair Attracts 10,000: Case study overview
- * Ariba Curbs Spending Virtually: Case study overview
- * CA’s Virtual Product Launch: Case study overview
- * Planview Grows Attendance at Virtual User Conference: Case study overview
- * ACS Drives Innovation with Virtual Training: Case study overview
- * Intuit Builds Community in the Virtual Classroom: Case study overview
- * Monster eDays: Case study overview
- * Virtual Job Fair in Brazil: Case study overview
- * Deloitte Spain Virtual Career Fair: Case study overview
Associations – Virtual Events Case Studies
- * Measuring and Maximizing the Impact of a Hybrid Event – The Virtual …: Case study on Virtual Edge Summit 2010 – look at physical and virtual attendees
- * American Payroll Association Trains Members Virtually: Case study overview
- * Grease, Gears, and Geo-location: IMTS Gets Its Social Media Groove On: IMTS case study on using social media
Publishing Virtual Events Case Studies
- * Hybrid Events: The Live/Virtual Combo – emedia and Technology …: UBM Studios discusses virtual for revenue
- * Virtual Events Come Into Their Own: Folio Magazine article that included information from Watt Publishing, Forbes, Nielsen, Futures nd Haymarket Media.
Higher Education/Government Virtual Events Case Studies
- * Virtual Environment Lab for Universidad Politécnica Madrid: Case study overview
- * On Campus Job Fair for Madrid regional government: Case study overview
- * Tour del Empleo Virtual: Case study overview of 25 Spanish Universities
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 recently presented a webinar on “Dispelling the 5 Myths of Going Virtual.” My presentation slides are included below and an archived version of the webinar will be available on the MPI website shortly. Free to MPI webinars, the on-demand will be available for $20. The webinar covered these top myths, accompanying case studies and relevant industry stats:
1. Virtual Will Cannibalize My Audience: Case study of American Payroll Association
2. Virtual Will Cannibalize My Exhibitors/Sponsors: Case study of GE Healthcare
3. Co$t$ Too Much: Case study of IMTS
4. Only for the Technically Savvy: Look at technology pace of technology adoption
5. Not as Good as F2F: Case study of CiscoLive Virtual
6. BONUS Myth: No One is Doing It
I have the pleasure of presenting two webinars for the MPI: Dispelling the Myths about “Going Virtual” on November 17 and Making Virtual Profitable: Steal These Business Ideason December 9, 2010. Free to MPI members, the webinars are $20 for non members. If you can’t make it to the live webinar, they will also be available on-demand and I will post the slides after each webinar. Hope you can join me and please forward me any questions or comments.
Dispelling the Myths about “Going Virtual”
WHEN: Wednesday, November 17th, 11am – 12pm CDT
WHAT: The recent economic situation has provided a catalyst for companies to look at cost-effective alternatives to scheduling and executing face-to-face meetings and events. This situation combined with reduced travel and marketing budgets, has given rise to virtual events. A successful virtual strategy reduces costs, increases productivity, extends reach, provides rich data intelligence, and benefits the environment. Yet, meeting professionals are hesitant to incorporate virtual elements into their meetings and event portfolios. Leveraging real-world case studies, this session will dispel several myths about “going virtual”. Get answers to your theories like:
• Virtual will cannibalize my physical audience.
• Virtual will be a costly element for me to include in my budget.
• Virtual will only be used by my most technically savvy members.
• Virtual is only for larger corporations.
Making Virtual Profitable: Steal These Business Ideas
WHEN: Thursday, December 9th, 11am – 12pm CDT
WHAT: According to FutureWatch 2010, 12% of meeting professionals are expecting virtual meetings to be a continuing trend. The question meeting professionals have now is how do they create a virtual strategy that serves their audience’s educational and networking needs while expanding their own revenue opportunities. This session with explore four business models for virtual options:
• Freemium Registration: Free registration for basic content vs. charging for premium content
• Exhibitor Driven: Tiered programs and services for exhibitors
• Sponsorship: Advertising and brand awareness associated with the virtual component
• Hybrid Opportunities: Prizes, games and sponsorships that span the physical and virtual event.
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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