Posted by: Dennis Shiao | April 26, 2011

We Are Casting a Wider Net

Introduction

While some have been quoted as “taking their talents to South Beach,” we’re simply casting a wider net.  We’re heading over to our new blog, which is titled “Casting Calls.”  You’ll still get to read about our thoughts on virtual events, hybrid events and virtual business.  It’s just that you’ll need to update your bookmarks and RSS feeds.  Sorry for the inconvenience!

A Taste of What Calls

We’ve already got a bunch of blog postings over at our new location.  Here’s a taste of what’s available there:

How Hybrid Events Are Like Reality Television

5 Ways to Measure Virtual Event Success

How to Integrate Social Media Channels for Your Event

6 Tips for Selling Virtual Event Sponsorships

See you at our new home – come on by and visit, no need to bring housewarming gifts!

Focus Roundtable Summary: Virtual Events and Digital Communities

Introduction

I participated in a Focus Roundtable discussion on the next generation of virtual events and digital communities.  Before the session, I joked on Twitter that the panel had so much insight to share, that if I put them on my roof, their knowledge would power my house. And let me tell you, the panel was electrifying.

Panelists

  1. Moderator: Shannon Ryan, Focus (@brandrelevance)
  2. Michael Doyle, Virtual Edge Institute (@virtualedge)
  3. Paul Salinger, Oracle (@psalinger)
  4. Dennis Shiao, INXPO (@INXPO)
  5. Dannette Veale, Cisco (@dveale)

2011 Trends – Digital Events & Communities

The panelists highlighted three key trends:

  1. Growth and interest in hybrid events
  2. Creation of communities around events
  3. Integration of social networks into events, whether they’re physical, digital or hybrid

Dannette highlighted ways in which Cisco Live and Networkers Virtual leveraged content throughout the year (e.g. Ask The Expert sessions) to drive community interest.  I highlighted the importance of dedicated “community managers” to foster and grow communities, while Michael warned that while communities are great, it can be challenging for corporations to build and scale.

Paul introduced his notion of sequencing (e.g. when the event concludes, what do we want attendees to do next?) and noted that event strategy should be around “total engagement” from “interaction to interaction”, across all channels (e.g. face-to-face, digital, hybrid, etc.).

How to Make Your Event’s Content Relevant

The Twitter audience did a great job capturing some of the key points:

Cece (@csalomonlee) quoted Dannette, “Don’t forget the basic items for your #virtual event – don’t boil the ocean..KISS (keep it simple stupid)” #FocusRT”

Lauren (@LaurenonFocus) quoted Paul, “Relevant content depends on how you’re engaging a remote attendee vs. a live attendee”

Dave (@VelChain) agreed with Dannette, “@dveale Like the recommendation of tagging virtual content to improve relevance. #focusrt”

Conclusion

While we were able to address one or two more questions, my conclusion (as the roundtable drew near) was that the time flew by – and that we could have easily talked for another 3 hours without looking at the clock.  It was great to be part of the roundtable and to see the activity on Twitter as the discussion unfolded. We’ll head over to FOCUS (topic: Focus Marketing RT) to answer questions that we didn’t have time to address.

Posted by: Dennis Shiao | March 10, 2011

My Take on The Cisco Virtual Forum for Education Leaders

My Take on The Cisco Virtual Forum for Education Leaders

This post was authored by Emma King, our VP of Learning & Development.

Introduction

I had the pleasure of joining thousands of learners at Cisco’s 2nd Annual Virtual Forum for Education Leaders, held on the INXPO platform.  The event delivered on its promise to speak about bridging gaps in education and leveraged virtual technology to deliver a global message to participants from over 100 countries.

Great Agenda

A compelling agenda empowered 16 thought leaders to collaborate to deliver a resounding message to school systems worldwide, that it’s time to use technology to connect with students, and that the technology is ready to enable collaboration, resources and metrics to monitor our students effectively. Case Studies were presented on how to use video to deliver theory, how moderated chat rooms can continue the conversation and how live webcasts & forums can draw from the knowledge of the audience to empower the students to be responsible for their own learning.

The Future of Classroom Learning

Unfortunately, today’s classroom structure delivers a stream of theory content to students without evaluating their  knowledge, tracking their skillset or empowering the student to pace their own education. Today’s event highlighted exactly how and why classrooms of the future can be shaped using virtual learning technologies to provide theory delivery, combined with forums for mentoring and further expert advice. The expert advice could be done utilizing virtual collaboration tools or by providing innovative study halls.

More Targeted Instruction

Salman Khan of Khan Academy spoke clearly to the benefits of using video to connect with students, with the ability to drive the opportunity for feedback in a formal/virtual classroom setting.  The key message here was that by tracking learning behaviors in the consumption of that learning, teachers can use metrics to pinpoint those students who are struggling and provide focused interventions to them, while not needing to reinforce the therory to those who clearly understand.

Our stereotypical “push form” of learning does not entice our students to learn, and brands schools with the label of “boring”, according to keynote speaker Gregory B. Whitby, Executive Director, Diocese of Parramatta.  Enabling students to consume the facts/theory online prior to a lesson enables the teachers to focus on those students who need intervention, and allow those who ‘get it’ to work at their own pace.,

Similar to that of my own daughter and her dexterity in the use of my iPad on international trips to England, John Chambers, Cisco’s CEO, highlighted  that his granddaughter can use an iPad with such ease that he knows that the device drives our learning, much as the content drives the device.

Conclusion

Virtual innovation has created a dynamic, hybrid space for learning and our schools ought to start using technology to connect with their students. We’ve published a White Paper on Virtual Learning.  Contact me if you’d like a copy.

About the Author

Emma King, VP of Learning, INXPO

Emma, our VP of Learning & Development, is responsible for working with INXPO’s Clients & Partners to build learning centric virtual environments.

Posted by: Dennis Shiao | February 28, 2011

Creating Virtual Events in 6 Easy Steps

Introduction

My colleague Sean Keen recently wrote how virtual event platforms can allow content and brands to take center stage.  Sean’s piece focused on the attendee experience, otherwise known as the “front end”.  I’d like to take you inside the “back end” of our INXPO VX Platform and show you just how easy it is to create new virtual events, and load in your content and branding.  In less than an hour, you can create the foundation of your virtual event via these 6 easy steps.

1) Select Your Event Type.

We’ve packaged up common event types for you: virtual booth, executive briefing center, trade show, conference, product launch center and learning center.  For a virtual trade show, selecting “trade show” provides you with a pre-determined set of spaces and features.  Because we’ve hosted hundreds of virtual trade shows for clients, we have a pretty good sense of the most common spaces and features in a typical trade show.

If you’ve already produced events in the system, you have the option of “cloning” a previous event and customizing it from there. For instance, perhaps you produced a virtual trade show in 2010 and are looking to create the 2011 version – why not start from last year’s event as a foundation?

2) Choose Your Spaces.

We’ve provided you with a pre-determined set of spaces for your event type, but you’re not required to use all of them.  If you choose not to have a Prize Center in your trade show, you can delete it with a single click.

Similarly, if you “cloned” last year’s trade show and decided that this year’s show will have one less Lounge, you can simply delete the extra spaces with a few clicks of the mouse.  If there are new spaces you’d like to enable, you can add spaces just as easily as you deleted the others.

3) Pick Features You Need.

Determine what features you’d like to make available in your event.  For instance, perhaps you want to enable Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn via the INXPO Social Suite.  Enable each service by clicking a check box, add your Twitter ID and hash tag, and away you go.  Enabling and disabling features is as easy as adding and removing spaces.

4) Design Your Own Reporting.

We provide you with a comprehensive set of reports for your event.  You can build your own “data portal” by reviewing the data and metrics important to you and enabling them into your reporting dashboard.  To save on real estate, you only enable the data and reports you want to see.

5) Load Your Content.

You’ll find yourself spending the most time on this step.  “Event content” encompasses quite a lot – it’s everything from branding and signage, to session abstracts, to speaker bios, to exhibitor listings, to event notifications, to email reminder text.  And more!  Take the time to do this step well – I believe your event depends on it.

6) Open Your Event.

You don’t want to open your event to the public until it’s been reviewed, checked and tested, of course, but with INXPO VX Platform, it’s never been easier to review the progress of your event, as it’s being built.  After each step, you can generate a real-time preview, to see the result of the change you just applied.  In addition, your colleagues can be invited in to review the event as well.  You can provide them with “read-write” or “read-only” access, depending on whether you’d like them to make changes as well (or not!).

Conclusion

Building virtual event has never been easier.  View our video to see the 6 Easy Steps in action.


How Virtual Event Platforms Can Allow Content and Brands to Take Center Stage

Introduction

We recently announced the launch of the new INXPO VX Platform. With VX, we made a deliberate and decisive shift in the visual language used for virtual events.  These changes are a result of listening to the market.  The industry has evolved rapidly and so has our clients’ approaches towards building virtual events.

A Brief History of Virtual Events

Traditional virtual environments are designed to evoke the look of physical events.  Areas such as “show floors,” “booths” and “auditoriums” are rendered as “3D-like” representations of their real-world counterparts.  Events created within our VX platform take a more streamlined approach.  While an individual “space” may still include a graphical treatment inspired by its physical event analog, navigational elements and content now take center stage.

In my mind, these two different approaches perfectly encapsulate the past and the future of the virtual events industry.

The physical event metaphors became the standard during the genesis of our industry.  Back in the early days, our greatest challenge was not only communicating the value of virtual events, but explaining the new concept of virtual events to an audience that was accustomed to static, flat websites.

Three-dimensional show floors and booths made the new concept of virtual events more comprehensible to users by leveraging their familiarity with physical events.  In addition, early adopters of virtual event technology often struggled to determine what content would create an engaging user experience.

As a result, many sponsors would repurpose static documents and pages from their websites, rather than making use of rich media.  Graphical flourishes often served as a means to create a visually appealing experience in the absence of consistently compelling content.

Where the Industry is Headed

The climate of virtual events software has changed dramatically, and the new visual language used by our VX platform was created in response to these changes.

Virtual events are quickly gaining mainstream acceptance. With hybrid events, physical and virtual are no longer seen as mutually exclusive. Many physical event producers view virtual “extensions” as a means to expand their reach and keep their audience engaged long after a physical event has ended.

Most importantly, we are witnessing a shift in the attitudes toward content in virtual events.  Event hosts are no longer satisfied with using virtual events as a platform to house static content, and are embracing the use of live video, interactive forums and user-generated content.  This content-centric approach to programming enables organizations to better connect with their audience and maintain their interest for a far greater period of time.

Virtual event producers are beginning to realize the value of streaming live content from their physical events into their virtual environments.  Audiences find these unrepeatable moments to be the most compelling type of content.  Creating a real-time conversation between the physical and virtual audience helps the virtual audience feel that they are active participants in an event, rather than viewers of a small subset of event content.

Content and Brands Take Center Stage

VX environments are designed to showcase this kind of rich multimedia content.  Graphical flourishes such as booths and show floors no longer take center stage.  Navigation has been simplified and made more intuitive, empowering users to access content more easily, without training or support documents.  In early virtual events, attendees would spend a great deal of time navigating and exploring the environment.  VX environments place a greater emphasis on the consumption of content and social interaction.

The new visual language employed by VX is better suited to reinforce a brand’s identity.  In the traditional model for virtual events, environment configuration began by selecting graphical booths from a pre-defined library. These assets, while visually appealing, did not always lend themselves for use within branding guidelines.  VX “spaces” were designed with “brand maximization” in mind, with a cleaner, more neutral appearance that does not compete for attention with branding elements.

Our central goal in developing the VX platform was to streamline the event creation process and facilitate the rapid deployment of events.  In the past, event producers would spend a great deal of time designing booths and show floors.  The VX platform allows producers to launch events faster, freeing producers to focus on the key element of any event: its content!

Conclusion: Evolution to a Revolution

I don’t mean to suggest that the booth/show floor analogies are completely outmoded, or that they are no longer supported by our virtual event platform.  In fact, we will continue to fully support this model, along with the ability to create custom environments.  The VX platform provides tools for quickly and efficiently creating events that use this new visual language, but the underlying technology is the proven INXPO platform, which provides unparalleled scalability, versatility and extensibility.

The new visual language employed by VX not only represents an evolution in our platform, but a revolution in our industry, where engaging rich media content and social interaction will serve as the focal points of engaging experiences.

About the Author


Sean Patrick Keen is a Webcasting Product Manager at INXPO. He is responsible for working with the Development and Creative teams on new product developments, and for introducing clients to new features.  Sean has extensive experiencing in webcasting and has produced over 100 webcasts.  Prior to INXPO, Sean spent several years working with new media companies and creative agencies, specializing in project management and web design.

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