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.