Tag Archives: virtual

Virtual is BETTER than in-person for events

Heh, OK…..After reading that title, I can imagine chips being installed on reader shoulders all around the world. ¬†ūüôā ¬†I am not saying virtual is better in EVERY way, just in some ways.

Have you noticed that people who oppose virtual events often focus only on the ways that in-person events are irreplaceable?  I believe they are right, but that does not mean in-person is the ONLY solution to EVERY collaborative/networking need.  Just because A is better than B in some ways does not mean that B is not better than A in others.

This post examines all the ways that virtual events are better than in-person ones.

1. Multi-threading

In a virtual event or even in an in-person event with a virtual channel, there is the opportunity to multi-thread. ¬†Think about it this way, verbally we can only watch/listen to one person at a time. ¬†This is called single threading. ¬†Everybody listens to that one thread. ¬†In a virtual environment though, the technology allows for multiple people to communicate at the same time. ¬†“Listeners” can then jump from one thread to another as they find something interesting. ¬†I am not talking about different presentations here, I am talking about different conversations about the SAME presentation.

Twitter Chats are a great example of this.   Each Twitter Chat normally has a moderator who announces the topic.  From there different people submit ideas and different people reply or build on those ideas.  It is a free for all.  The most interesting ideas/threads get the most interaction.  The less interesting ones drop off.

2. Ease of switching

If I am at a conference and I don’t like the session, I have to make a visible show of walking out. ¬†Perhaps there are other sessions, perhaps not. ¬†I may have to wander into the lobby and see if the other few people milling around might want to engage in a discussion.

Online, if I lose interest, there are a myriad of other information sources to which I can turn for more interesting, educational, stimulating content.

3. Greater volume of content

This is obviously related to switching, but the sheer amount of content that can be made available via a virtual environment vastly eclipses what can be brought together into one physical location.  This allow much more choice and much better match with time spent vs. information sought.

4. Greater geographical diversity

Travelling costs money and takes up time. ¬†The further people have to travel, the more of both required. ¬†Thus, US events tend to attract US participants, European events tend to attract Europeans, etc… ¬† Having spent some time working abroad, I have experienced first hand the value of opinions from different cultural perspectives.

While there are still timezone issues even online, we are much more likely to get an international crowd to our meetings

5. Niche topics

In order to maximize attendance, conferences often create a very broad topic.  The sessions then need to appeal to a broad range of the different types of people who are attending. Thus, niche topics are challenging.  Online, attendee costs are lower and they are not need to spend travel time.  Thus, our attendee pool is significantly larger.  This economy of scale can make more niche sessions viable.

We should be seeking ways to combine in-person and virtual experiences to best meet the needs of our audiences. ¬†It is not “either/or”. ¬† In person events should not feel threatened, they should be excited about new ways that they can provide value to their attendees.

This post was inspired by reading a Jeff Hurt blog post called “Since When Did Virtual Not Become A Live Experience?


twebevent – video and Twitter

twebevent_faviconEvents have been hit hard.  The perfect storm of the down economy, the stigma of business meeting travel, and the advance of technology have led to a sudden change in the events industry.   Less expensive unconferences and virtual conferences are booming.  Virtual components are being added to in-person conferences to help reach those who cannot travel.

Thanks to many great online tools, it is possible to collaborate and contribute in meaningful ways without attending in-person.  There are higher-end tools like The Social Collective, Pathable, and Crowdvine that have a nice feature set, but also an accompanying price tag.  Twitter is free and can be used without those tools, but takes some organizing:

  • A¬†blog post about a study of how¬†Twitter is being used at conferences
  • A¬†paper:¬†comprehensive academic view of Twitter use for conferences
  • A¬†great post from Travolution Summit 2009 about their Twitter use experience)

If you want to provide a virtual audience with content richer than Twitter’s 140 character information nuggets, there are new products emerging. ¬†They not¬†only harness the power of Twitter, but also combine a video/audio feed so that everyone can discuss the same content from wherever they are. ¬†Your virtual audience will have a much stronger “feel” for your conference content.

twebevent_logo twebevent.com is one such product. ¬†It allows you to present your brand as the host, stream the live or recorded video, and combine it with a Twitter Chat using whatever¬†Hashtag you prefer…..all for FREE. ¬† twebevent is a new start-up so you may encounter some blips, but if you use the customer feedback (blue button on the right edge of their page), you can give your opinions for product direction.

twebevent provides the :mashup” environment, but a host still need to find a way to video capture and stream. Companies like¬†Speaker Interactive can help with those logistics. ¬†Products like¬†ustream.tv and¬†livestream.com can handle the live streaming. ¬†Qik will even live stream from your phone. ¬†YouTube and Vimeo are two good options for uploading recorded video. ¬†In any of those cases, just copy the embed code to a twebevent and it will appear for your audience.

If you prefer to keep things really simple, avoid the complexities of video and just open up a phone bridge through providers like talkshoe or blogcastradio and connect the audio stream embed into the twebevent.

If anyone has any questions or comments, I am happy to connect. ¬†If you want to read more, check out the lessons learned from the first twebevent live trial or try my previous blog posts re: “Future Conferences” ¬†part 1 and¬†part 2.