Brent Arslaner Using Virtual Events to Deliver More Value

Virtual Events Deliver an Excellent Buzz—And Results!


June 15, 2007

By Brent Arslaner, VP of Marketing, Unisfair

In my last article, I promised a case study on Virtual Events. Well, the timing couldn’t be better. Unisfair was one of the sponsors of Marketing Profs’ B-to-B Marketing Conference 2007 Virtual event held on June 13, 2007. It is still accessible on-demand at: http://events.unisfair.com/mktprofs/microsite/index.asp?code=Direct%20Access. Please stop by and check it out.

Marketing Profs is an online publishing company that serves marketing professionals at both large and small companies. Marketing professionals from IBM, HP, Cisco, FedEx, Kodak, Siemens, Volkswagen, Coldwell Banker, Intel, Sun Microsystems, Best Buy and the Houston Rockets were among the over 500 visitors of our booth during the live event.

I can’t speak for Marketing Profs or the other sponsors (although a few did come into our booth and thanked us for a successful event – booth reps in the virtual world swap stories just as they do in the physical world), but I can share our story.

This was a one-day, six-hour event. Keynotes and presentations by people from the likes of IBM and Google brought in fantastic crowds – easily in the thousands. We were one of many sponsors with virtual exhibition booths.

I was able to customize our virtual booth with our colors, signage, logos and much of the collateral in about an hour. We loaded up the booth with PDFs of our collateral, flash demos of our products and links to other external virtual “marketing collateral.”

The show started 7am pacific time. After making some coffee, I simply went into my home office and logged into my booth rep admin console. With the booth admin console I am able to see who comes into my booth and key details like their company and title. We proactively engaged visitors with greetings and offers of help, and attendees could approach us directly with questions.

By 7:10 am, ten minutes after the start, I was very sorry I only had two of my colleagues staffing the booth. We were overwhelmed with booth visitors. By the time the first session started at 8am the show and the booth visits reached an ideal rhythm.

The net for us was that well over 500 people came into our booth (and I have the names and contact info for each one). We set a half a dozen meetings in real-time for the following days with some very impressive prospects and are following up on well over 100 direct requests for further information.

As a Marketer, you recognize the “buzz” of a successful physical event—this was quintupled. I will have our inside sales and major account reps busy for the rest of the summer!

Virtual Events Checklist


June 13, 2007

By Brent Arslaner, VP of Marketing, Unisfair

I promised more information on what a virtual event solution should deliver today. A virtual event solution should provide the following:

1. Ease of Accessibility – your attendees must have instant access. Register; click on a link; enter the virtual event; and use the mouse to get around.

If an attendee has to download an application, dress up an avatar, and learn new commands – your registration-to-attendee ratio will suffer miserably.

2. Professional Networking – as you know the top two reasons people attend events is to gather information and to network.

Your virtual event solution should take all the business-applicable aspects of web 2.0 and “social networking” and apply them to fit the needs of today’s busy businessperson.

3.Unified Experience – a virtual event environment should include a conference hall that supports multiple sessions, an exhibition hall with exhibitor booths that support a variety of rich media that attendees can download, and there must be live interaction between attendees, sponsors and presenters.

Most importantly, it should all occur in a unified environment. If the virtual environment is cobbled together with disparate applications, it appears very clunky to the attendees and results in poor user experience.

4.Marketing Intelligence – for events used for lead generation purposes, marketing intelligence is especially critical. Unified virtual events should be able to supply the organizer and its sponsors with the richest marketing data available from any marketing vehicle.

It should track and report on all attendee activity and then rank this data so the organizer and sponsor can identify the hottest leads, at the push of the button.

5.Best Practices – this is critical for those event planners entering the virtual world for the first time. Find a solution provider that can offer you the best practices for content creation, audience generation, event management and post event reporting in the virtual world.

In an upcoming article, we can review a couple of case studies for various lead generation, sales training and user group virtual events.

Use Virtual Events to Deliver More Value


June 11, 2007

By Brent Arslaner

The truth is I have not talked to an event planner that is actually “afraid” of the growing use of virtual events, but it seems others are afraid that you are afraid.

Quite to the contrary, the events professionals I have spoken with are embracing the idea of virtual events. Admittedly, this is because Unisfair is in the business of delivering virtual event solutions for our clients and the professionals that we encounter are coming to us to use these services.

An events “expert” (not an actual events professional) I was speaking with one morning about this very article said, “be careful, you don’t want to scare them with virtual events.”

After I heard that again—yet having never heard it from an actual events professional—I changed the title of this article.

Use Virtual Events to Deliver More Value
Virtual Events will never replace face-to-face or physical events (even if they did, you still need event professionals to plan, produce and execute the virtual events, but I digress).

Event professionals are increasingly using Virtual events to augment f2f events. They are easy and fast to pull together; they conveniently pull in geographically dispersed audiences; they can augment the physical event by forward promoting and extending the value of a physical event; and the technology has advanced to such a state that you will most likely be “wow-ed” when you see what a virtual event delivers.

Here are some of examples of events that take place within a virtual environment:
Sales Training – especially for geographically dispersed sales force
User Groups – increase your customer loyalty from the hundreds of people that can afford to attend, to several thousand people
Conferences/Seminars – either for educational or lead gen purposes
Job Fairs – gives companies with a competitive job market a global edge
Lead Generation – virtual events are ideal for marketing lead generation activities

Any event you can conduct physically you can hold virtually. There is a time and a place for each, and when you use them together, you greatly increase the value delivered to all audiences.

Virtual Events Defined
We both know that you are not afraid of virtual events, but I would be willing to bet that many of you have yet to see the recent advances in the world of virtual events. I will take some time in a future article to detail what virtual events can deliver today.

Until then I will leave you with this one thought since I know you all read the cover story about Second Life in the March edition of Successful Meetings. There is a distinct difference between Second Life, designed for gamers, and virtual events designed for the business world.

Reading the online story by Don Salkain “Behind the Cover” (http://www.mimegasite.com/mimegasite/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003564137) highlights the difference.

To sum it up, access to a virtual event for business people must be quick, easy, painless and scalable. It must be a place to quickly share and gain information, and it must facilitate networking with other professionals.

Look for a detailed definition and explanation of what virtual events can and should deliver in a soon-to-come article.

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