Events have gone virtual with webcasts – and they aren’t going back. A couple of years ago, as the economy dipped, there was even some concern that face-to-face events would all but disappear in favor of virtual applications. This blogger would like to congratulate herself for going on the record and stating that this would not be the case, but that instead, virtual events would become a highly useful extension of the in-person event – also known as a hybrid event.
Recently, the Event Marketing Institute performed a study showing that 75 percent of marketers planned to participate in a virtual event in 2011, and of those who had the previous year, 75 percent deemed the event a success. That’s good news for virtual technology providers, and a wake-up call for event stakeholders who are not already using the technology, that there are real benefits to getting on the virtual bandwagon.
A virtual event, quite simply, is one that is broadcast over the Internet. It typically has audio of a presenter, and visuals in the format of slides. WebEx and Citrix’s GoToMeeting are familiar icons of this level of virtual meeting. However, the technology and interactivity available in virtual meetings has leapt far beyond this basic virtual approach, to include:
- Live-streaming video of the presenter, sync’d with slides.
- Live audience Q&A.
- Live audience polling.
- 3-D online event experiences, complete with avatars, networking areas and entire trade-show floors.
- Synchronizing with social media to extend the reach of the event.
- On-demand viewing with hosting packages.
Companies that provide many variations of these technologies are springing up every day, but those with a proven track record include Telenect, Sonic Foundry, On24, InXpo, Social27, 6Connex, ICohere, Thomson Reuters and Unisfair, among many others.
With these types of virtual options available, event planners and stakeholders are using virtual events to reach attendees who could not attend for budgetary, scheduling or logistical reasons. The benefits to event sponsors of reaching a larger audience often provides built-in funding for some or all of the additional cost of equipment and storage/hosting.
The greatest challenge with a virtual or hybrid meeting is the preparation required. Last-minute presentation edits are nearly impossible to make and upload for the virtual audience to see – never mind entirely new presentations!
Making the event work effectively for the virtual audience also requires adapting the content to include interaction from both the live and virtual audiences, creating a dynamic, interactive experience that keeps everyone engaged, and feeling connected.
The benefits of dramatically extending a live event’s reach for a nominal additional cost, however, far outweigh the challenges in an increasing number of planner’s minds.
Please share with us at PYM your virtual event successes – or learning “opportunities,” and enjoy this candid blog about PYM’s first experience with a hybrid event: https://planyourmeetings.com/2011/10/01/four-things-to-consider-before-planning-a-hybrid-or-virtual-event/.