Virtual Conferences and Events – Does the Hybrid Model Work?

4 10 2011

We’ve spoken previously about the value of virtual events – you may remember we weren’t keen. However, the conference landscape trundles on and, like it or not, virtual events are here to stay.

While many seem dead set on reproducing the ‘real world’ event experience online, with avatars and mocked up convention centres – a business Second Life, if you will – we’re now seeing the market begin to mature, with better, hybrid approaches appearing.

Particularly successful approaches we’ve seen are live physical events with sophisticated digital platforms behind them, that run beyond the event itself, and ‘live’ virtual events, which run on a set date, with all sessions following a traditional agenda (but remaining online after the event). Both styles generally share the sophisticated online element, which lasts beyond the event and no doubt adds value – a place to find information, speak to experts and review content; but take a different approach to the ‘live’ element.

In all honesty, attending an event in the flesh is still a much more valuable than watching it on a computer screen. If you can attend the conference, network with the delegates and alter your speech as you go (based on the room’s reactions), you’ll generate more leads and have a more successful day. Being able to follow this up by viewing footage from the event and downloading reports and whitepapers over the next few days definitely adds value, allowing you to see the session you really wanted to that conflicted with your own, upload the whitepapers you referenced in your session and generally increase and improve upon your event presence.

If you’re invited to speak at a virtual event think carefully about what value this event will add to your speaking program. It’s easy to be seduced by large ‘delegate’ numbers and the promise that your content will remain live for months to be viewed by thousands – but you need to consider whether the output from a virtual event will align with your objectives, and whether you will be able to connect and engage with the delegates. A dedicated speaker bureau will be able to help you weigh these pros and cons on a per-event basis, helping ensure that your senior executives are only speaking where there’s real value to be gained.

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Inaugural conferences – should you speak?

22 04 2011

In the current conference landscape there are a lot of new events emerging, catering to specific niches and addressing the latest topics and trends. Some are extensions of existing events (like D’s Dive into Mobile) and others are entirely new events.

However, not all of these events are of the same quality and it can be hard to decide which invitations for your CEO you accept, which you repurpose for one of your VPs or Directors and which you politely decline. Even when the organiser has successfully run a ‘rock star’ event for a number of years you can’t guarantee that your CEO will be amongst his peers on a highly visible platform.

We always recommend erring on the side of caution for inaugural events. Even if you’re hoping to get your speakers out to ‘cool’ and upcoming events, you need to be certain that the right speaker takes the stage. If the organiser asks for your CEO for their inaugural event but can’t name any confirmed speakers, give you proof points about who’ll show up and which media will cover the event, then the alarm bells should be ringing.

All conference producers have ‘pressing deadlines’ – brochures need to be printed, agendas finalized and so forth, but the truth is you can usually wait until the event fleshes out a little more before confirming your speaker. Try giving the organiser some time to confirm other senior speakers and take some time to check for any buzz around the event. If the organiser has only managed to name a few directors and managers as confirmed speakers politely decline to speak this year, but signal your interest for next year’s event (when there’ll be ample proof points for you to pore over).

Of course, there’ll always be those events that are simply guaranteed to succeed due to the strength of the organisers brand and those will be no brainers. But where there’s doubt, don’t be afraid to substitute a lower level speaker in the inaugural year to scope out the event… You can always send your CEO to steal the show next year.

Finally, where these opportunities are not clear-cut a trusted third party speaker bureau consultancy will be able to help evaluate events and invitations and recommend the best course of action.





Hot conference topics and themes for 2011: healthcare

4 03 2011

Healthcare is another topic which will continue to grow and see success throughout 2011 as many trials using healthcare IT and telehealth mature and technology improves. This is also likely to be driven by new models of healthcare, with smart connected devices monitoring our health, providing diagnoses and healthcare as a game (such as mobile apps like cardiotrainer which challenge your friends to burn as many calories as you).

Alongside the established healthcare IT and telehealth events like WoHIT and Wonca, these topics will also find their way into cloud and telecoms events at an increasing rate as the prevalence and utility of connected devices and new ways of gathering and storing health data develop. This convergence has already led to events like the Mobile Healthcare Industry Summit and is likely to see further growth.
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Hot conference topics and themes for 2011: content

1 03 2011

Thanks to many of the innovations we’ve already covered, content and the way we access, monetise and distribute it has also become increasingly important beyond traditional broadcasters, developers and publishers.

While many of these topics have been key fixtures on agendas for a number of years now, increasing awareness and rapid industry change is making this issue more important. Social media as a driver of user generated content, HD content, viral videos, IPTV and so on have caused a huge shift in the way we access content and businesses are keen to catch up. There are events like the Content Delivery Summit devoted to each of these areas and many broad media events such as the Media 360 covering technical issues of distribution alongside the more creative challenge of creating engaging content in the form of videos, games, websites and so forth.

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Where highly technical questions of how to stream content at higher quality and faster than your competitors has been a staple for a long time, questions of how to build communities around your content and ensure that your content has appeal beyond just the TV screen are now becoming a greater focus of many conferences.

Be prepared for content to really be king in 2011.





Hot conference topics and themes for 2011: cloud computing

21 02 2011

Cloud computing has continued to grow and gain mainstream acceptance and this is likely to accelerate through 2011; the maturation of services and new models and applications should cement cloud computing at the forefront of many conference agendas.

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Whereas cloud computing has thus far largely been the subject of specialist events like the Business Cloud Summit and those targeted squarely at the CTO, we are likely to see coverage at a wider range of events going forward. The majority of this will probably take place via end-user testimony as more companies in a wider range of industries adopt cloud technologies and models for a wider range of processes. For example, we’ve already seen cloud models for RFID (the infrastructure is loaned and managed via a cloud portal, reducing initial outlay and overheads) and every day new applications are being dreamt up.

Alongside the conferences discussing the advantages of cloud computing for business and enterprise will be those discussing the consumerisation of cloud technology, through video, gaming and content delivery like the CDN World Forum. As the cloud begins to play a larger role in our lives both at work and at play it can’t help but seep onto more and more agendas across the board.





Hot conference topics and themes for 2011: social media

17 02 2011

Social Media will continue to be important in the conference landscape as our lives become more connected; TVs now even let you tell your friends what you’re watching. Communities are continuing to grow around all aspects of our connected lives and monetising and engaging with these audiences is becoming increasingly important to marketers and advertisers alike.

While there are a lot of established pure play social media events, it is likely that more will surface and that more and more traditional business focused events will incorporate social media streams looking at how to leverage social media beyond the marketing department. Gamification, crowd sourcing, merging and blurring work and social lives and collaboration as a driver of innovation, business and efficiency will all find their way onto more conference agendas.

Further to this, although many events already utilise social tools (such as a Facebook page or a LinkedIn events page, live Twitter walls and blogs), their use should increase as delegates and speakers look to extend their influence beyond the stage and the networking breaks. Some conferences already have great communities built around their content (think TED) and many more are starting to follow in their footsteps.





Hot conference topics and themes for 2011: apps

14 02 2011

Apps are new to our list and would previously have been covered by the ‘mobile’ category. However, towards the end of 2010 we saw more devices able to run apps and myriad new app stores opening across devices, operators and the web (Samsung and Amazon to name but two).

The way we’re accessing information, and the web, is changing and this should cement apps on conference agendas. The rapid growth of apps saw the first wave of app-focused conferences appear towards the end of 2010 and we expect this to continue; specialist conferences for enterprise apps are likely, as are those focusing on designing, building and monetizing applications and debating which application ecosystems are best.

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If Wired was right and The Web Is Dead, apps could well become our default method for accessing information and services, making this a huge growth area in the conference landscape.