Posted by: Jenn Gibson | February 14, 2011

5 Tips to Spur Technology Adoption

Introduction

Recently, I attended the 2011 EventCamp National Conference in Chicago. The event brought together a small group of event marketing/planning professionals who are interested in learning ways to integrate technology and new media into their meetings, conferences and special events. In addition to the physical attendees, a large group of people attended a virtual platform that we hosted, participating in live Twitter Chat and watching real-time feeds of the on-site presentations.

Session: “Hybrid Events: Choose Your Own Adventure”

During Erica St. Angel’s (@EricaStAngel) session, “Hybrid Events: Choose Your Own Adventure”, Liz King (@lizkingevents) tweeted, “Interesting – when doing a hybrid event, how do you account for people who are low tech?” She then added to that, “what do you do for no-tech participants?”

Those of us immersed in social media, virtual events and webcasting are often lulled into a belief that “everybody’s doing it”, but that’s simply not the case. In recent Pew Institute surveys, it was shown that that of Americans online, only 8% use Twitter, although 73% of adults over 18 have Facebook accounts; in 2009, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration reported that 36% of Americans did not have home based internet access. That leaves a significant portion of the population not hearing our tweets, seeing our status updates, getting our emails or visiting our websites. So what do we do?

As the early adopters, leaders and champions of virtual events, webcasts and business, it is our responsibility to educate, in order to create excitement and buzz around what virtual has to offer.

Here are five tips for turning “no-tech” into “tech-please”:

  1. Build Trust – It is critical that the client knows you have their best interests in mind at every point. Remember, for them, everything is riding on this event and they need you to not only teach them the value of the technology but provide security that it’s not going to damage their credibility.
  2. Educate, Don’t Sell – You’ll need to teach your client not only what the technology is, but what it can do and why it matters to them. The key is to make it personable and relate it to their business needs. Provide examples, testimonials and referrals to people who’ve had successes with virtual events/webcasts.
  3. Start Small – Invite your client to be an attendee of a virtual event/webcast first. Have them attend with you on the phone or by your side, so they can ask questions without feeling frustrated or lost. Then ease them in with only a small portion of their event being online, such as one or two webcasts, rather than a full hybrid event.
  4. Don’t Use Technology for Technology’s Sake – The key, especially in the early stages, is to keep things simple, focused and easy to navigate as this will help your client champion the experience when discussing with their colleagues, clients and friends.
  5. Continue the Conversation – Once the event is over, don’t pack up and move on. Your client is going to need help harvesting the online data, understanding the information and putting it to use. Understanding the feedback will help them see the value in virtual.

Conclusion

The goal is to make believers out of those who haven’t adopted the technology yet. They aren’t just going to take you at your word. It’s going to take hard work, a lot of teaching and, more importantly, patience and time. Even the most staunch technology avoiders will relent if you put in the effort, follow the guidelines and are able to create relevant, measurable success.

If you’d like to view the on-demand  archives from Event Camp National Conference, we invite you to register for our virtual environment, vBIZ:

http://bit.ly/ecncvirtual

About the Author


Jenn Gibson has been with INXPO for over five years, which has allowed her to be an active participant in growing awareness around virtual events, webcasting and shifts in technology. She has held many positions within INXPO, including Associate Producer, Event Director and Webcasting Department Manager; currently, she is a Sales Engineer, where her primary duties are working with new clients to understand their goals and match them with the appropriate solution for their event. Her primary focus over the course of her career has been in webcasting, working with the leading providers in the industry as well as assisting in the development and enhancement of INXPO’s webcasting product, XPOCAST. Follow her on Twitter @JennLGibson.

Posted by: Dennis Shiao | February 11, 2011

Practical Advice for Virtual Event Exhibitors

Introduction

Good news for virtual event exhibitors:

There are a lot of virtual events you can sponsor.

Bad news for virtual event exhibitors:

There are a lot of virtual events you can sponsor.

How do you select which virtual events to sponsor? On Eloqua’s “It’s All About Revenue” blog, Jesse Noyes provides many of the answers in a great piece titled “5 Tips For Sponsoring Virtual Events“.

Selecting Virtual Events to Sponsor

The 5 tips from Noyes are:

  1. Examine the Main Sponsor’s Credibility
  2. Mind the Gap Between Theme and Your Business
  3. Mix It Up
  4. Stagger Your Timeline
  5. Track, Track, Track

These are all great tips – and the one that resonates most with me is tip #2 (“Mind the Gap”). Noyes sums it up perfectly when he writes, “If there’s not a relatively direct route from the theme of the conference to the product or service you provide, it will prove harder to convert the leads you collect.”

I’ve seen a number of virtual event exhibitors sponsor “the topic”, rather than sponsoring the “the topic that directly matches the products and services we provide”.  To Noyes’ points, I believe exhibitors need to ask themselves these key questions:

  1. What business problems (or challenges) are attendees looking to solve?
  2. What do attendees need in order to solve the problem?
  3. Do my company’s products and services “fit” within the answers for #1 and #2?

Best Practices for your Virtual Exhibit

Noyes provides a sidebar on virtual exhibit best practices that is as valuable as the main article. He lists the following:

  1. Be On Point
  2. Don’t Be Stingy
  3. Be Noticeable
  4. Buy Stamps
  5. Take A Walk
  6. Follow Up Fast

“Buy Stamps” is something virtual event exhibitors will need to practice more intelligently. If prospects are already “hot leads” in your CRM system and your booth staff are not aware of this, then that’s not a good thing.  Just like customer service reps who pull up your customer record when your call comes in, booth staffers need the right information (and context) before they engage with visitors and prospects.

Here’s a link to the full posting:

http://blog.eloqua.com/5-virtual-event-tips/

Related Content


We have a white paper called “Beyond the Booth: Best Practices in Planning and Executing Virtual Exhibitions and Sponsorships”. Give me a shout-out if you’re interested in receiving a copy.

Posted by: Dennis Shiao | February 4, 2011

PCMA365: An Experience That is Open Year Round

Introduction

MEETINGS:review produced a video highlighting PCMA365, a year-round, virtual experience for the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and its members.  The video is titled “PCMA365: Turning a three-day conference into a year-round experience“.

Highlights

  1. 00:48 Susan Katz, PCMA chair, notes that the association needs to be on the forefront on what’s going on technologically
  2. 01:20 Tony Lorenz, Senior VP, Freeman, explains the components of a hybrid event
  3. 01:47 Steve Boyce, Global Enterprise Manager, INXPO, provides details around the creation of the virtual PCMA community
  4. 02:23 Martin Copeland, Managing Director, Content Management Corporation, explains the many video feeds at PCMA and takes us behind the scenes into the video switching room
  5. 03:18 Carrie Ferenac, President, Convention News Television, discusses the live broadcasts from PCMA, delivered over CNTV
  6. 03:46 Steve Boyce notes how the INXPO VX Platform has made it as simple and easy as ever to create virtual events – and that every face-to-face meeting can have a virtual component
  7. 05:00 An inside look at the PCMA365 virtual partner showcase
  8. 07:30 Kati Quigley, Director, Event Marketing, Microsoft and former PCMA chair, discusses the extended engagement that PCMA365 provides for its members

View the Video

View the video here: http://meetingsreview.com/news/view/52954

Posted by: Dennis Shiao | February 2, 2011

Road Map for a Successful Virtual Event

The following is a guest post by Gary Vlk, Executive Vice President at One Smooth Stone.

Introduction

You’ve heard the buzz, done your research and surveyed your attendees. Now you’re ready to incorporate virtual technology into your overall business strategy.

Before jumping into event development and tactics, you must first lay the groundwork by developing a comprehensive virtual event strategy. Asking the right strategic questions up front will not only help ensure your virtual event is a success, it will also build your brand and your department’s brand within your organization. This is an opportunity for your events department to drive the strategy process before human resources, marketing, training or another internal department redirects.

Analyze the Overall Event Function and Goals

The process for developing a virtual event strategy is similar to that of a live event, and in both cases it is critical to begin with your overarching goals and objectives. What are you trying to accomplish, and what benchmarks will you return to throughout the planning process? Whether you are seeking to reinforce a critical message to your audience, save costs, reach new audiences or launch a product, the basic question is the same: Why are you doing this?

For many organizations, event objectives are related to revenue and sales results. According to the Event Marketing Institute’s latest research, 80 percent of marketing executives surveyed say their top business priority is generating new revenue, and more than one-third gave top billing to generating new leads. Increasing event attendance, awareness and reducing costs are also priorities for more than 50 percent of those surveyed. Statistics like these are telling, and may reflect some of your company’s top priorities, as well.

How do these rank among your list of priorities? Identify the goals that are unique to your organization by asking your leadership and executive sponsors important questions.

  • What challenge or problem is your organization trying to solve by gathering people together virtually?
  • What forces, external or internal, are pushing your organization toward a virtual experience?
  • What challenges are facing your target audience, and how could virtual event technology address them?
  • What are the key messages to be communicated? What is going on in your business that will drive the message and goals of your virtual event?

Remember to keep a broad perspective, addressing the immediate goals of your standalone event experience and the objectives of your long-term virtual event strategy. Your first virtual event experience, done well, will lay the foundation for future virtual experiences. How are you preparing and training your audience to interact with your organization through this new medium? How will this training progress from event to event?

This stage of the process will probably take the most time, and it should not be glossed over. The goals and objectives you identify now should be revisited throughout the planning process.

Select a Platform

Virtual event technology is broad and flexible, with new applications and methods of integration popping up continually. How will your organization leverage the technology to its greatest benefit?

In this step, determine the event application. Will your event be fully virtual or a hybrid live-virtual experience? Are you creating a standalone event or an ongoing virtual community where your audience regularly returns? Are you designing a virtual trade show booth or training/educational experience?

If virtual technology is new to your audience, the first virtual experience may be simply helping attendees get their virtual feet wet. Which aspects of the virtual space will you utilize your first time around and how will this grow or expand over time? How will sponsors be incorporated, if at all? As with every step, make sure your decisions are tied back to the business problem you are trying to solve.

 

Build a Strong Team

Attempting to plan and execute your first virtual event without strong partnerships increases your risks. To alleviate this concern, put together an internal team of cross-departmental leaders who have bought into the virtual event concept and who will keep the overarching vision and goals in mind. This group should consist of IT, training, HR and marketing players—as well as your leadership team—and should help determine goals, set up infrastructure, craft content and get the word out.

Your team should also include the right external partners. Search for a technology platform that comes highly recommended and has a proven track record, one that can withstand the demands placed on it by your events. Find an event communications firm to consult on the strategy, marketing and content development. The right firm will lead the process and coach you through the experience of smart execution.

As you are assigning roles and building your team, do not neglect the importance of managing your brand within the virtual space. Which team member will be responsible for monitoring and appropriately handling what is being said about your organization and virtual event online? Who will address questions and concerns with virtual attendees as they arise? Just as you staff your registration desk at a live event, be sure to find the right individuals to take care of your virtual audience’s needs.

Develop a Communications Strategy

Getting the word out about your new virtual event platform and offerings will be especially crucial when your attendees are experiencing the technology for the first time. How will you spread the word, build the buzz and incentivize virtual newbies to participate in the virtual experience? Analyze your audience before developing your marketing tactics and messages. How do they most often consume messages? Where are they interacting and how can you join the conversation? What motivates them? What will hinder them from participating, and how can you overcome those barriers?

The content of your communications strategy should market the overall event, as well as educate and inform your audience on how to use the technology. There will be a learning curve within the virtual world, and staying ahead of the curve will help ensure success. Incorporate all of these pieces into a detailed communications strategy, and determine the medium and message of each piece.

 

Craft the Experience

Now that you have pulled together many of the building blocks for your first virtual event and strategy, you are ready to address the nuances of the attendee experience.

  • What do you want attendees to experience at each stage?
  • How should the experience differ among attendee groups, such as customers, sponsors and/or employees?
  • Should certain attendees be offered exclusivity and special access to content or features?
  • How will the event architecture be structured?
  • How should elements such as fun, gaming, education, networking, white space, trade show access and incentives be prioritized and incorporated?

Depending on the platform you’ve chosen and its suite of features, the options available to you may differ. Educate yourself on what is available, what has been done and what can be tweaked for your audience in order to most appropriately achieve your business goals and objectives.

Measure Your Success

Virtual event technology offers an incredible amount of measurement and data capability. Because attendees enter a virtual environment with a unique username and profile, all their activities can be tracked and monitored. This is music to the ears of event planners who have been searching for the elusive secret to determining event ROI. For sponsors, every booth visit, sales conversation and promotional material viewed can be tracked, offering valuable data for post-event sales follow-ups. For your organization, virtual event data can help you better determine educational content and event structure the next time around, based on the popularity of certain features.

The strategy phase is the time to hone in on the statistics most important for you to track during your virtual event. What benchmarks should be set to enable you to compare ongoing virtual experiences to each other? When your first virtual experience concludes, what will success look like and how can it be measured? What measurement tools should be put in place, if any, to supplement what is already integrated into the virtual platform? The right data from your first virtual experience can be a useful tool in your marketing tool belt, providing content to promote future virtual events to your C-level executives, internal departments, attendees and sponsors.

Don’t Skip the Strategy!

Many meeting and event professionals are action-oriented, type-A personalities who like to check things off our to-do lists. Spending the right amount of time building a strategy can be challenging when all you want to do is jump in and begin the planning process. But do not skip or rush this—developing a robust and comprehensive virtual event strategy will lay the foundation for your first successful virtual event experience. It will provide the framework for many virtual experiences to come and the next time around, it will be that much easier. Taking the right steps now will determine the future success of your virtual events and drive critical growth and revenue generation for your organization. This is a unique opportunity to build your strategic brand and pave the way for future success. It’s time to take the lead!

Posted by: Dennis Shiao | February 1, 2011

How Your Virtual Event Can Be More Like Super Sunday

Introduction

Super Bowl 45 will be played this Sunday in Dallas, Texas.  As we prepare to watch the big game, I want to consider ways in which your virtual events can be more like Super Sunday.

Halftime as a Scheduled Break

Virtual events commonly have a jam-packed session schedule, with virtually no room to catch your breath.  In a football game, there’s a scheduled halftime, which allows coaches to re-group with their teams – and, allows spectators (both on-site and “virtual”) to grab a bite, or get up and stretch.  (Note: at halftime of the Big Game, turn up your television volume, so that you can hear the Black Eyed Peas perform while you venture into the kitchen.)

In a virtual event, a scheduled halftime can be beneficial.  First, it’s an explicit “half way mark”, which helps everyone understand where they are in the “event day”.  Next, like the coaching staff, it allows the event producers some time to take a breath and assess the “first half performance”.  Like a coach in the locker room, the production staff can hold a team meeting to figure out how to adjust their game in the second half.  Finally, it gives attendees a chance to line up their “second half” sessions, do some attendee networking or visit exhibitor booths.  Event producers could even sell a “halftime sponsorship” and direct attendees to a particular sponsor’s booth.

Building up to The Event

While fans of the two teams don’t like it, the NFL has a 2 week period between the Championship Games and The Big Game.  This gives both teams extra time to watch film and plan strategy.  And, it gives the media time to cover, promote and generally hype up the event.  The NFL even has a “media day”, during which coaches and players are made available for media interviews.

For a virtual event, make sure you plan for a similar “2 week period” in which producers, speakers and exhibitors have the time to prepare, learn the technology and get ready for game action.  Use that time to promote the event, both to generate registrations and to sustain a higher attendance rate.  Use media placements, live video interviews, Twitter, Facebook and other tools to engage the community and get them excited for your big show.

Make the Event Bigger than the Event

Super Sunday is no longer just a sporting event – it’s now a global cultural experience.  How can you make your virtual event bigger than “the event”?  Consider a 365 community that’s open year round, which is then “lit up” throughout the year for your scheduled, live events.

The NFL doesn’t simply have “The Super Bowl”.  There’s the pre-season, the regular season and the playoffs.  Then, you have NFL scouting combines, which lead up to the NFL Draft, a major event in its own right [for some].  Training camp then kicks off, covered by programs such as HBO’s “Hard Knocks”.  For some fans, the NFL Experience spans all 12 calendar months.

Give your “fans” reasons to come back to your environment throughout the year.  Complement your big “events” with half-day or even 1-hour live events.  Give your fans access to your executives, industry experts and each other.  If done well, your event, while important, is one step along a continuum of activity throughout the entire year.

Conclusion

Whether you’re interested in the game action or the commercials, enjoy the “experience” on Sunday. For us, we’re not fortunate enough to experience the on-site event, so we’ll enjoy the virtual experience, both on television and online.

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