Compliment your Events with Virtual Environments
August 31, 2012 @ 01:50 AM | By Eric Vidal

Virtual environments and events are rapidly redefining the role of event marketers and event planners.  Where once their focus was primarily on driving attendees to a location, they are now being asked to think outside their comfort zones and determine how to use virtual platforms and tools to increase the value of those events.

QuoteEven offering only a few key aspects of a traditional event online provides considerable value for those who can – as well as those who cannot – attend in person.

Think of it as an enhancement to the physical event. By offering presentations and other event materials online, not only will your event reach a larger audience, but those who were on-site are able to access reference materials afterwards.

Let Event Atendees Spread your Message for You

For example, perhaps they enjoyed a particular panel session and want to share some of the insightful answers with their colleagues back in the office. With a virtual component to the event, it’s as easy as emailing a link to the content – as opposed to trying to re-write the key points from memory or even photocopying handouts from the event itself.

Keep your Event Alive with a Persistent Virtual Environment

Where virtual really pays off for event marketers is when it moves from being tied to a specific event into a persistent virtual environment (PVE) – an online location that can house documents and videos, provide an opportunity for dialog via discussion boards, chat, IM and other tools, and generally become a go-to location for the industry.

Having a PVE helps the event provider keep the conversation going year ‘round improving the value of events exponentially.

Expectations are Changing for Event Hosts and Planners

Event marketers and planners need to consider the changes in expectations from prospective attendees in our increasingly digital world. For many in organizations where travel restrictions have become much tighter, being able to access world-class content without having to get prior approval for travel is enough to impact their decision on which events they will participate in and which they won’t.

The event marketers and planners who understand and address the changing needs of the event audiences of today will be the ones marketing and planning for tomorrow.

Eric’s article was originally published on IBM’s Smarter Commerce blog. View it and other posts>>

Eric VidalEric Vidal is a Director of Product Marketing at InterCall and is considered a leading voice and expert in virtual business, which expands from marketing to collaboration to learning. He has more than 15 years experience in developing, implementing and optimizing strategies in these areas for numerous organizations and Global 2000 companies. As the director of product marketing for InterCall’s event services, Eric manages the strategy and initiatives for the virtual technologies that include virtual environments, streaming, event management services and operator assisted services. Previously from WebEx, Eric managed the virtual classroom product, as well as brand advertising and new media. Over the last several years, Eric has held management positions at Cisco, WebEx, IBM, BBDO Worldwide and Macromedia.

The Virtual Environment - Where Everybody Knows Your Name
August 28, 2012 @ 11:12 AM | By Eric Vidal

While the ability to hire talent where it lives has opened up many new possibilities for enterprises, one thing that seems to have been lost in translation is the little impromptu social interactions between employees that help build teams.

 

Virtual environment

Building workplace camaraderie is important

While formal meetings may be good for conveying information on a broad scale, it’s often the spontaneous conversations as people pass in the hallway or stop at the vending machines for a snack that create the camaraderie needed to turn individuals into cohesive units.

Nothing, however, may be missed more than gathering up a few co-workers to head to the local watering hole after work. Traditionally it’s a place where individuals can let their hair down a little, show their true personalities, and get to know their fellow employees better as human beings. That sort of bonding can help get people on the same page faster and more thoroughly than all the corporate PowerPoint decks and memos put together.

Use virtual environments to bring your team together

While you can’t exactly fly people in from all over just to socialize, there is another way to drive that interaction. Why not replicate it by creating a bar as part of your virtual environment?

You can give your bar a cute name, such as calling it Jack’s Place after the CEO. You can then use the technology to create any sort of atmosphere you want – sports bar, upscale New York nightclub, cocktail lounge in a hotel, even Rick’s from Casablanca, the cantina on Tatooine from Star Wars or Cheers (complete with your own version of Norm).

If your company is more conservative, you can make the gathering place a coffee bar like the one on Friends, or a juice bar. The point is you want a place where people can get out of “work mode” for a little while and show their real selves to one another.

Within your bar you can have different functions. For example, for a group conversation you can set your bar up in a rectangle or horseshoe so many people can “talk” with one another at once. The “bartender” can be a moderator or subject matter expert.

You can create smaller tables for private conversations. Maybe even add a game. If you want to be able to make the occasional presentation, add a small stage, complete with spotlights and a red velvet curtain in the background.

To complete the atmosphere you can add music, glasses clinking occasionally and/or general murmuring. One or more virtual TVs can run video, news or whatever else you need.

The objective is to get employees out of their work personas in order to interact more freely with one another, and maybe come up with those “cocktail napkin” ideas that lead to great innovations in products, processes and the way the enterprise operates.

Informal knowledge is encouraged through virtual environments

This type of bar is also the ideal place for “tribal knowledge” to be transferred. One of the challenges large and mid-size enterprises have is getting information that sort of information passed from the senior staff or subject matter experts to the lower levels of the company. Some try to do it in a formal setting, most never really get to it. The casual conversations in your “bar” will provide an opportunity for the tribal knowledge about the personalities, preferences and culture of the company to be shared between the most and least experienced members of the staff.

Most people hate meetings. They’re the bane of the modern world. But they like going to bars. Building one with an easy-to-use virtual environment technology will give your employees a place to build the relationships that drive success no matter where they’re located. And without having to explain an expense report to the CFO.

Eric VidalEric Vidal is a Director of Product Marketing at InterCall and is considered a leading voice and expert in virtual business, which expands from marketing to collaboration to learning. He has more than 15 years experience in developing, implementing and optimizing strategies in these areas for numerous organizations and Global 2000 companies. As the director of product marketing for InterCall’s event services, Eric manages the strategy and initiatives for the virtual technologies that include virtual environments, streaming, event management services and operator assisted services. Previously from WebEx, Eric managed the virtual classroom product, as well as brand advertising and new media. Over the last several years, Eric has held management positions at Cisco, WebEx, IBM, BBDO Worldwide and Macromedia.

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Mentoring in the Networked Workplace
August 7, 2012 @ 04:09 PM | By Anusha Karnad

I recently came across an interesting article (published in Talent Management) in which Randy Emelo, president and CEO of Triple Creek, a provider of enterprise mentoring systems, offers suggestions on what qualities to encourage in the workplace and how to help people build trust in the time of remoteness.

In the article, trust is highlighted as a vital piece of today's networked mentoring landscape. Within a virtual environment, learning centers developed to motivate internal relationship building, in my opinion (and from a trainer’s perspective), can create a highly contextualized interaction between employees.

While there is certainly an obvious advantage to working remotely, the rarely mentioned disadvantage remains that there can be at times a feeling of a slight disconnect. Some employees work remotely for years and may rarely or sometimes never actually meet their colleagues in person, so it’s important that a company’s virtual workplace environment aims to close gaps in relational distance.

Emelo suggests leaders can help build an environment of trust by encouraging people to follow a few guidelines that will build camaraderie and emphasize their commitment to their mentoring network:

  • Give willingly and generously - People must have the desire and willingness to share knowledge and insights with their colleagues if they expect trust to form.
  • Act humbly and courageously - One of the keys to building trust in a virtual mentoring network revolves around embodying the characteristics of humility and courageousness.
  • Engage others honestly and openly - Honesty is vital to building trust because trust is based on confidence in other people's character.

The main take-away from this article was that remote employees need a virtual environment where their reputation and character won’t have to deviate from how they would be perceived in a face-to-face setting. They will simply use technology to help project the way they typically interact with others. If they are responsive, collaborative and supportive in their physical work world, this will come through in their virtual reputation as they engage their mentoring network. This lends itself to building trust and boosting engagement in mentoring among colleagues and trainees.

I agree that while creating an environment full of purpose and hope in a virtual world can be challenging, it is crucial for the success of today's distributed organizations and virtual mentoring networks. Have you found ways to successfully build a mentoring network with employees around the country or the world?

Anasha KarnadAnusha Karnad is a post call services lead at InterCall in Bangalore. She’s been with InterCall since 2009, working in customer service, training for new hires and account management where she helped customers with billing and service related questions. Anasha's background is in training voice, accent and soft skills for customer service agents.

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