For me, achieving maximum return on virtual events starts first with the underlying virtual events platform. At InXpo, we use the term “The Power of The Platform” to reinforce the point that the platform provides the foundation – and on top of that, we provide services, knowledge and care. But what makes the platform “powerful”? I think of the following:
- Flexible – platform elements can be tailored and customized for private branding
- Configurable and Self-Configurable – tailoring and customization is enabled by the platform “back end” via full-service (InXpo) or self-service (Client) models – enabling changes to be implemented with a few mouse-clicks by a producer, instead of manual work from a creative developer or web developer
- Extensible – the platform has an open architecture that allows for easy integration of third party technologies
- Scalable – the platform is enabled to comfortably support growth in users (attendees) and growth in event features and complexity
We’ve deployed Release 8.3.1 of our Virtual Events Platform – I’d like to provide details on some new features that touch on The Power of The Platform.
More Powerful Navigation Options
Virtual events with numerous event areas present a challenge – how does one structure the navigational elements in an intuitive manner? In December 2009, I wrote about our extended toolbar options, that provide new options for structuring the navigational elements. We’ve now expanded upon the navigation options, allowing for “pull-down” and “push-up” options to be nested under/above a navigation item.
Consider the case of a virtual trade show in which exhibitors are placed on a number of exhibit halls or meeting rooms, based on the type of solution they sell. A show host could create a toolbar item called “Exhibits” and provide an associated pull-down/push-up list:
- Storage Solutions
- Networking Solutions
- Disaster Recovery Solutions
- Security Solutions
Enabling (or disabling) this feature requires a few mouse clicks in our “back end” and can be implemented by InXpo (full service) or the show host (self service). For self-producing clients, the idea is to place the “power” in your hands – allowing you to configure and select the navigational options best suited to your events’ needs.
Going Global: Chat & Webcasting
In many of our clients’ events, chat (both one-to-one and group chat) is one of the most popular activities. Chat is a primary mechanism by which attendees network with each other – and, in a trade show event, how exhibitors interact with attendees. With the increased demand we’re seeing for localization, we made it a priority to enable on-the-fly translation capability in both one-to-one and group chats (powered by Google Translate).
In the example above, we can now enable a group chat in which three different people are collaborating, each speaking a different language:
While this example involves three chat participants, the platform is enabled for any number of chat participants (in a group chat) in any combination of the numerous languages supported in the platform.
Group Chat occurs in many areas of an event – Auditorium, Lounge, Exhibitor Booths, etc. – and each is now enabled to support translation within that area’s group chat. This capability may be particularly powerful and flexible for end user support – English-speaking staffers can provide support in a Help Booth’s group chat and interact with attendees who speak French, Japanese, Chinese, or any of the many languages enabled in the platform.
While our Webcasting product (XpoCast) has provided multi-language display of the viewing console, we’re excited to announce that the Presentation Console (where webcasts are created and delivered) is fully translated in all of the platform’s supported languages, including Japanese and Simplified Chinese.
Webcast presenters have a Language (Locale) setting that allows them to specify English (default) or any of the other languages we support. If Japanese is selected, then all menus on the XpoCast Presentation Console are displayed in their local language. Similarly, XpoCast audience members (viewers) are able to change their language setting – and if Japanese is selected, all Webcast player controls are displayed in Japanese.
Full-Text Document Search
We believe in the power of search and we’re constantly evaluating ways in which we can make our platform search more powerful and useful. One thing we realized is that virtual events include many documents – help guides, White Papers, Case Studies, product collateral, FAQ’s, etc. What if we could look “inside the document” to make search more relevant to users?
Well, that’s what we’ve now done – the platform now enables full-text indexing of documents, which means that we’re able to return search results based on the content of uploaded documents. Now, when I search on the word “technology”, the platform is matching not only documents with “technology” in the title or abstract, but also inside the document. We believe that increased use of search (within virtual events) will be driven by enhanced relevancy in the search results.
Content Recommendation Engine
We’ve enabled a powerful content recommendation engine that generates automated recommendations based on the attendee’s selected areas of interest. First, the event producer assigns a set of top-level topics for the event – then, keywords are associated with each of the top-level topics. Content is then weighted based on the appearance of those keywords within the content – or, in text that describes that content (e.g. title, abstract, etc.) . “Content” can include Documents, Webcasts, Blog Postings, Job Postings and Exhibitor Booths.
As with many of our platform features, we strive for flexibility, configurability and self-configurability. As such, you (the event host) can enter your own weighting factors to the content – or, the platform can auto-generate content weightings based on the occurrence of the defined keywords.
We constantly strive to evolve The Power of The Platform to drive value to our clients, partners and end users. We’re already hard at work on Release 8.4 – so stay on the look-out for the exciting new features that we have in store.