Posted by: Dennis Shiao | April 22, 2009

Demystifying The Top 5 Virtual Event Myths

"magic mickey hat" by miki via Flickr

"magic mickey hat" by miki via Flickr

With my involvement in virtual events the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a wide range of clients and exhibitors. I worked with some exhibitors on their first virtual event – and when they returned for their second and third tries, they became virtual veterans. Working with first-time virtual event exhibitors has provided me with an interesting perspective on myths that pervade some who have never exhibited virtually.

So let’s demystify some myths:

  1. Virtual events are only for the younger generation – I’ve worked with some first-time exhibitors whose kids use instant messaging (e.g. AOL IM, Yahoo Messenger, etc.), but have never sent an “IM” themselves.  When told that virtual events support “IM-like capabilities”, they develop a belief that virtual event technologies are for the younger generation only – and that those more advanced in age would not adopt this technology.  Once they try the technology themselves, however, these skeptics tend to “get it” and often proclaim, “this is cool!”. Also, it should be noted that the Baby Boomer generation is among the fastest growing age group to adopt social networking sites, such as Facebook.  Virtual events are another type of Web 2.0, social networking application.
  2. Virtual events are easy to produce – 100% on the Web.  No problem, right?  This has to be easy and straightforward.  Not true.  A virtual event is still an event – and quality events require significant planning and execution.  Of course, certain logistics of setting up a virtual event are fairly quick, but don’t lose sight of the big picture – things like quality content, recruiting the right audience, leveraging tools to generate engagement, etc.  I’ve learned that there’s a science and methodology to flooring a successful virtual event – and if you cut back on the science and methodology, your event will suffer.
  3. Virtual events can be configured and ready to go in 2 weeks or less – well, in the most literal sense, this is true.  But speaking from experience, if you go with this timeline, you’ll likely fail.  Yes, web technologies mean that you can build a virtual booth in under 1 hour.  But, build out an entire virtual event in a compressed timeframe and you’re bound to make errors – and create an experience that results in degraded user satisfaction.  Just like physical events, virtual events are best produced using a methodical process that begins with event planning and definition of objectives – continues through a timeline of execution steps and concludes with final preparation and QA before the virtual doors open.
  4. I won’t have the time to build out my virtual booth – while I’ll still stress the need to properly plan and leave yourself enough time to do things right, I’ve seen some clients build their virtual booth in less than 1 hour, using a 100% self service tool, such as InXpo’s Booth Builder.  Key point here – while the logistics of assembling the booth took less than 60 minutes, you’ll want to spend a number of hours beforehand with content strategy –  selecting the right booth style; creating the right Flash movie to place in your booth’s front screen image; selecting White Papers, Case Studies and on-demand webinars that are contextual to the theme of the event, etc.  You surely cannot cut back on proper planning.  However, once you have your ducks in a row, going from disparate elements to a fully completed booth is fairly straightforward.
  5. The virtual event will tie me up for the entire day – if you don’t staff your booth adequately and get overwhelmed supporting booth visitor questions, then sure – you’ll be tied up for the day.  However, most exhibitors recruit a team of colleagues to provide booth duty, which usually includes shifts  when booth reps are “on call” vs. “on a break”.  Designated downtime allows you to check email and handle other related work.  In addition, even while doing active booth duty, your virtual event browser tab can be one of several applications that you’re multitasking with.  So, you might answer the boss’ email while you’re awaiting your booth visitor to respond to your latest chat question.

Do you have any virtual event myths that you’d like to dispel?  Let us know by dropping a comment below!

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To make it easier for you, just cut and past the below:

Demystifying the Top Five Virtual Event Myths by @InXpoLive: #eventprofs

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