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Virtual Events: Where’s the Beef?
June 23, 2011 @ 02:23 PM | By Jill Huselton

I attended my first ‘real’ virtual event today, and I have to say, it was pretty cool. This is a service that InterCall offers through Unisfair, a company that we recently acquired, so I’ve seen how it works, but never experienced it firsthand.

Today’s event was hosted by the American Marketing Association through their VirtualXchange series. I’ve been to plenty of on-site training sessions and conferences, and even though I sat at my desk for this one, I still got the same benefits out of it, and probably some extra perks (not having to leave my office is at the top of the list).

Beef

When I entered the lobby, I saw signs pointing me in the direction of the networking lounge, the auditorium where the presentations took place, a download center where I could get any information about the sponsors I wanted and the exhibit hall where I could chat with sponsor representatives. And what event wouldn’t be complete without some kind of goodie bag or raffle? This online event was no exception; there was a prize center where you could earn points in order to win giveaways.

So, how was the ‘beef’ of the event, the actual presentations? Did I get as much out of it as I would have if I were there in person? I would say it is about 90% comparable to the real thing. The presentations were streamed, so there were slides, pictures of the speakers and interactive Q&A, just like a live event.

Other pros:

  • I didn’t have to sit in those standard event chairs (burlap covered foam and cardboard). Instead I got to stay in my comfy office chair and desk.
  • I could still listen to the seminar while doing a few other urgent tasks that otherwise would have prevented me from attending.
  • Asking a question resulted in less anxiety because the whole room didn’t turn to see the girl in the back of the room with her hand up.
  • Using streaming kept me at my desk because I could only hear the presenter through my computer speakers (as opposed to using audio conferencing and web conferencing because I tend to wander with my cordless phone and not always watch my screen).
  • I felt it was an efficient use of my time because I could make my own agenda based on my schedule. I wasn’t forced to spend a whole day in a hotel and meander through exhibit booths or sit around in a lobby until the presentation I came to hear was ready to begin.

I suppose you could say that some of these pros are also cons from a marketing perspective; however, feeling like I’m in control will make me a repeat attender and eventually a buyer.

Have you either hosted or attended an event in a virtual environment like this? What do you think are the benefits and drawbacks?

Jill HuseltonJill Huselton is a senior marketing manager at InterCall. She's been in the conferencing industry for nearly 15 years, working in operations, account management and marketing, mainly based in Colorado. Before leaving the Mile-High City, she hiked a 14er, one of her top accomplishments. Now she's traded the mountains for the beach and works from a home office in North Carolina.

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