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IMT Mailbag – How Do I Engage the Audience at Virtual Meetings?

Recently a Manager of Sales Administration emailed us and asked us the following question:

Subject: How do you keep attendees engaged during virtual meetings?

Do you have any suggestions on articles, books, etc. that address Virtual Meetings regarding how to engage the audience, stop multitasking and keep them engaged?

Here’s how we answered his email:

Hi Gary,

We have been heavily involved in this topic for a long time. IMT led the research study for MPI (Meeting Professionals International) to develop a research base and a “How-To-Guide for Creating Hybrid Events.”  (Download it at We have been involved in creating several hybrid meetings applying those lessons.

Here are some things to look for in terms of engagement:

(1) Is the content appropriate to the audience? Most people try to do a 1 size-fits-all approach with their content. People lose interest much faster online. So, you need to do a better job with targeting.

(2) What does the content look and feel like? Most people’s reference point for online content is live television (Election results, live sports and talk shows.  Think Oprah.). Are you trying to emulate these formats for content delivery OR are you just recording subject matter expert lectures with boring PowerPoint slide shows?

If you think about how live television works – it moves very quickly from segment to segment and topic to topic. The content is much shorter than a live in-person meeting. Camera angles change as well.  In addition, reconsider the length of your virtual sessions and how you put them together.

(3) What are you doing to engage people?  I would look for two things: (1) What tactics are you using? and (2) How much time are you allocating to engagement?

Your attendees are one click away from doing ANYTHING else on the Internet and you only control a small window for their attention. Most online events are Subject Matter Experts talking to people for 56 minutes with 4 minutes allotted for Q&A.

If the attendee has nothing to contribute (ideas, comments, etc.), then you are “betting” that your speaker is strong enough that they will resist the temptation to click away. In my opinion, that is a big ask!  I don’t know any speakers that can keep 100% of the audience’s attention.

The person responded and thanked me for our help. Then, he told us that his virtual meetings concentrated on the following:

  • Product info
  • Shipping concerns
  • New policies/processes
  • Info such as upcoming training or meeting

This is boring stuff, especially when you can’t see people face-to-face. His situation sounded similar to a challenge that Ebay Europe faced with its internal team briefings.  So, if you find yourself in a situation where your content is capital “B” boring, I would recommend that you read the following Case Study:

Have a virtual meeting or interactive technology question?  E-mail us at: or visit our site for more information about our digital solutions.

Creating Interactive Meetings: How to Turn Attendees Into Active Participants

When I look around me, I feel like the world is screaming for more interaction and dialog at meetings and events. (In fact, I’ve been noticing this for years as I mentioned in my first IMT blog post.)  There are too many events where attendees are stuffed in chairs, lined up in rows, and forced to listen to speakers talk for hours on end.  Doesn’t everyone realize that attendees stop paying attention after the first 10 minutes? If they do, then why-oh-WHY do our colleagues continue to tie attendees to chairs in rows for 4-6 hours per day?

(Ok. That might be a slight exaggeration. According to Andrea Sullivan, president of BrainStrength Systems, a company that provides corporate training and learning services using scientific research, “People can listen only so long at a time…After they’ve listened to a speaker/presenter for even 15 or 20 minutes, they need to make a shift to some kind of active participation…”)

The point is, sitting for hours on end is stupid and it needs to stop!

Last month, we helped an association merge their networking reception and general session for 3,000 people into a single event. We developed 10 different interactive experiences that were designed to influence networking, create conversations and connect people to content.  We turned attendees into active participants and helped them create a networking and social media buzz.

A few weeks earlier, we helped another association execute their first hybrid event and create conversations.

Every day, we help event organizers take the bold step of moving away from a world of attendees sitting in chairs in neatly organized rows toward a world where event attendees are active contributors.  We have worked with national sales meetings, all employee meeting, customer events, galas, road shows, trade show booths, expos and many other types of events.

Today, I want to share our proven formula with you so you too can join our army of people trying to change the world of meetings and events. Please take notes and share these tips with your colleagues. You can save us all.

How do we take an ordinary event from Snoozeville to engaging?

Step 1: Identify Goals and Objectives

We start by looking at the goals and objectives of the event. It is important to understand our client’s audience and ultimately what they want them to do or take away from the event.

How often do you ask yourself those questions when planning your events? It sounds simple, but if this crucial first step is missed, all other efforts are futile.

Step #2: Segment the Audience

When preparing for an event, it’s important to know who is expected to attend as well as future attendees who are not attending or are disengaged from the event. Once that is complete, we look at the audience by behavioral type.

This step involves doing some secondary research about trends and challenges. Sometimes we have to get other people involved to learn more about the attendee. Useful information includes your audience’s demographic makeup, learning needs, challenges and job tasks.

Step 3: Identify Constraints & Resources

Some clients have lots of volunteers and no budget. Some have budgets but no people. Some clients have a CEO that needs to speak for 90 minutes. Some have agendas that are “filled up and unchangeable.” Some have spaces that have challenges or vendors or technologies that we have to work with.

At the same time, we look at the resources. Did someone donate 47 monitors? Do you have as much carpet as you want? Is one of the sponsors a large format printer?

Step 4: Brainstorm Boogie

Finally, we get ready to brainstorm.  Our goal here is to come up with simple, fun and smart engagement solutions that match attendees’ needs and behavior style.  Also, we look for ways to pull together a theme that can be carried throughout the entire event.

In this process, we use a set of “engagement cards” that we helped MPI create for their meeting design curriculum.  There are about 50 cards that are extremely useful in getting everyone to contribute new ideas for their meetings and events.  We recommend allocating 2-4 hours for this step. The output of the step is several different ideas for solutions that hopefully map out to satisfy all of the attendee needs.

Step 5: Piece Together the Event Concept. Challenge Assumptions.

In this step, we pull together the event concept, challenge our assumptions and validate budgets.  It’s important that we make sure that our recommendations align with objectives, attendee segmentation and behavioral segmentation. IF YOU DON’T DO THIS THE PLAN WILL FAIL. (Yes, I shouted that!)

When you are compiling your recommendations, here are some important things to note:

  1. Incorporate notes about light, space, sound, digital and structure.  These things matter. For example, if you set the room with chairs in rows — then you are likely not creating space for conversations. In many respects, you literally “set the stage” for the type of engagement your event encourages.
  2. Recognize that not 100% of the attendees will do or be interested in everything that you are recommending.  Please be sure to recognize that and scale appropriately.  (For example, you might not need 1,000 buttons if only 100 people are going to collect buttons.)
  3. For what it’s worth, budgeting can be tricky here, because you are probably coming up with new to the world ideas.  How do you figure out how much a laser maze is going to cost?  Or, where do you get a custom art piece built? Who can make these concepts a reality?
  4. Do you need the 5 star version of everything or will the 2 star version be sufficient?  (Expect future posts on this, as I have plenty to say on the topic.)
  5. Technology is not the answer.  Ever.  Always start with people and process, then get to technology.

Note: For the budget conscious, we packaged our most popular games, interactive touch screens and social media executions into turnkey solutions under our SocialPoint® digital solutions brand. They plug into your event seamlessly and are budget friendly.

Step 6: Propose Solutions to Your Stakeholders

In this step, we find it much easier to get senior leaders to sign off on the concepts.  This works well when you remind them of the objectives and review how the concepts tie to their vision.

However, the individuals that are part of the execution on the stakeholder side are usually much more resistant…because you are asking them to change what they do.  It might be undefined, feel squishy and they might be just plain scared of change.

We get these individuals on board by scheduling smaller meetings with them to review the concept and get their alternative input.  In some cases, they approve the concepts-as-is.  In some cases, they have lots of creative ideas to make it better based on initiatives that they are doing that nobody on the core team knew about.

Step 7: Pre-production Phase

Sun-Tzu wrote that the battle is often won before you take the field.  In my opinion, the same thing is true when you are turning attendees into participants.  By completing the steps above you have already laid out your strategy and won the battle.

So, your goal in this phase is to make sure that nobody unwittingly sends you off course.

Here’s how it can happen.  You will have experienced people doing new things that they might not be good at, or totally understand.  Be sure to allocate extra time in your schedule and keep everyone reminded of your goals and objectives.  IF YOU DO NOT YOU MIGHT FAIL.

Also, beware of executives or other stakeholders that want to make late changes.  Usually a late addition means removing something and adding something the executive thinks is cool…like a chocolate fountain.

Step 8: Onsite Execution

Execution onsite should be similar to what you have seen in the past. Remember to double check that the pieces are coming together as you designed. Allow for extra time during your loading. When you are trying something new like this – be wary of the details – if your room for error is small, details matter.

Step 9: Measurement & Follow-up

We like to do follow-up surveys based on the goals and objectives of the event rather than the logistics.  For example, if our goal was to improve networking – how will we know if we achieved that goal? Setting specific metrics for measurement beforehand is key to evaluating the effectiveness of an event.

One smart person we met likes to ask the following questions: “Did you meet anyone new at this meeting? Yes or NO? If Yes, who was it and how will you do business together?”

Bottom Line

You can save us all from perpetuating the cycle of stuffing people in chairs for hours on end at meetings and events. I need your help!

The steps above outline our formula for turning passive event attendees into active participants.  Of course, there are more details and some secret sauce that we left out. You should be able to get pretty far by following these steps.

Please do me a favor – give this process a try at your next event and share it with your customers and colleagues.  Call me if you need guidance.

Good Luck! We are counting on you!

Are You Thinking Outside the Room?

Bruce MacMillan wants MPI members to look at their meetings and events in a new way. He wants them to look at new ways of connecting people to ideas and content. He wants them to start thinking outside the room.

That’s the message that he brought to MPI Members from Minnesota and Wisconsin at the Midwest Regional Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota, today. I hope that he continue to share this same message with all chapters around the world.

Bruce brought more than theory. He brought three “A” list events that would inspire anyone.  I have summarized each event below – so you can be inspired too.

SAP’s Sapphire Now

Luca Favetta and his team outdid themselves with this event. They built a hybrid event that linked two hub cities of Frankfurt and Orlando and integrated thousands of people online. They used TV studios to create additional content and connect people to a broader audience.


Cisco GSX

In 2009, Cisco’s Global sales event was in danger of being cancelled. Instead of cancelling the event, they created a virtual event. They pulled together over 19,000 people and created a remarkable case study in the process. They created interactive games, like the Threshold, to get thousands of people involved and participating.



TED does four things to connect people to ideas and content outside the room. First, they use an 18 minute format for their presentations. Second, they regularly publish videos on their websites. Three, they have TEDActive which is a simulcast event for people that could not attend the real TED event (See Interview). Fourth, they have the TEDx series of self organized events that help connect people to the content.

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Bottom Line

We have the tools to connect people and ideas to larger audiences around the world. The events above show you what you can do with gazillions of dollars. There’s a big secret that most people don’t know about. You don’t need a gazillion dollars to create innovative and engaging experiences for remote attendees. At Event Camp Twin Cities we proved that you can create engaging experiences with a lot less money. A lot less. (if you don’t believe me checkout the case study: Watch)

Are you thinking outside the room?

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Talking TEDActive with Sarah Shewey

What comes to mind when someone mentions the TED Conferences?

Do you think about a specific presentation – like Bill Gates presentation on malaria?

You know the one – where he opened up a jar of mosquitos in the auditorium. Then he said – malaria doesn’t need to be a poor person’s problem (watch video).  Or do you think about an endless supply of smart people sharing great ideas? Or do you think of cool, inspiring videos that are free to watch and easy to share?

Regardless of what comes to mind first – you eventually draw the conclusion that TED is awesome!

Have you ever wondered how they create this magic? Have you ever wondered what they are doing that you aren’t?

Recently, Mike McAllen and I got a glimpse inside of TEDActive from Sarah Shewey of Pink Cloud Events (pictured above).  Sarah joined Mike and I on a recent installment of Meetings Podcast Going Digital to talk about what they are doing to make the TEDActive Simulcast an awesome experience.

(Listen to the podcast)

For those of you that want the highlights from our conversation – Read on.

TEDActive is Much More than Watching TV

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TedActive is the simulcast event that is tied to the main TED Conference. TEDActive attracts people that are ready to create action around the ideas at TED. This event is much more than watching TV. They weave real talks (that are given by real people), social activities and collaborative activites into the experience. These activities help TEDActive participants establish community and create a unique experience of their own – beyond watching the simulcast.

The main conference room has a ton of different seating options.  There are beds, bean bag chairs, lounge chairs, and tons of screens all over to watch the TED Talks. The environment is designed to breakup the big room into smaller groups of 4, 8, 20 or 60 people. If you get a bed – your simulcast screens are on the ceiling (Pictures). The event attracts more than 500 people.

It’s a simulcast and a real event at the same time. Pretty cool, huh?

Participants Create Something Together

The attendees at TEDActive get to determine 1/3 of the content and workshops. In 2010, the attendees and a group of musicians created a music video during the event. Attendees were given a piece of paper and asked to make drawings that matched the event’s theme – What the World Needs Now. Then, a group of singers on the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus took recorded a track to go with the pictures and a production team created the video. You can watch that video here:


Why are TED Videos So Engaging?

TED works with speakers to create awesome presentations and to have stage presence. Then, they use about 8 different cameras to film the videos. The shots are positioned so that they will be engaging to people watching online. Sarah makes a point of saying that they use closer shots to make things more intimate. They rarely use the long shots.

Why does the Simulcast Event Work?

We asked Sarah why the simulcast worked. She shared the following reasons:

  1. Live host is the glue for the simulcast.
  2. Localize the event with other activities/experiences and create community.
  3. Coach the Speakers on their delivery.
  4. Video Production (see above).
  5. Broadcast the Video and the slides.
  6. Treat the simulcast as a special event.

Of course, she didn’t talk in bullet points – she elaborated on most of these points in detail. You should go listen to the podcast to hear what she had to say.

Bottom Line

TED rocks! But, you knew that already.

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How To Design An Effective Hybrid Event [Webcast & Slides]

Ray Hansen and I traveled to Madison, Wisconsin to record a live webcast/webinar on our Lessons Learned in Building the Hybrid Event at Event Camp Twin Cities.  Here are the slides and link to the video archive from that presentation.

[slideshare id=5585158&doc=ectc10casestudy-101027132325-phpapp02]

Watch Archived Webcast

(Watch) This presentation starts with a photo slideshow from the live Event Camp Twin Cities event. Then we dive into the presentation.

It is hard to pack so much into a 45 minute presentation. Actually, we left out a ton of stuff from the presentation – sometimes intentionally and sometimes by accident. (The timeclock was ticking.)

For example, we didn’t talk much about planning and objective setting, because we assumed that most people will have already taken that step before starting. Also, we didn’t talk much about the Technology Recipe – because I did that in the post: Nacho Mama’s Hybrid Event Recipe.

Thirteen Points From The Webcast

  1. Most hybrid events are like bad public access television
  2. Most attendees are in cubes & you dare them to not be distracted
  3. “Live” TV are a good model for hybrid/virtual
  4. Hosts that bridge the live & remote are imperative
  5. Additional programming keeps the virtual audience’s attention
  6. Your technology should support your objectives (indirectly made)
  7. Incorporate input from remote locations (Your PODS)
  8. Use business games, group projects, etc to turn viewers into participants
  9. Integrate remote presentations from other locations
  10. Two-way communication with f2f & remote is important
  11. Program for your f2f, POD and remote audiences
  12. Plan for sharable content & ideas to help extend your reach
  13. Define team roles and prepare

Bottom Line

Planning a good hybrid event requires much more than putting a camera in the back of the room and pushing record. You need to design and plan an experience that will connect and engage your remote audience.

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Nacho Mamas Deep Fried Hybrid Event on A Stick

If Hybrid Events had fun recipe names, then the Event Camp Twin Cities hybrid event recipe would be called Nacho Mamas Deep Fried Hybrid Event On a Stick.


Because it sounds unhealthy, irresistible and something that you should try at least once! I imagine it just like the photo below.

Why should you try Nacho Mamas?

Good question. Has anyone ever said this about a virtual event that you have organized?

At 6:00 pm when the camera stopped rolling and the event closed down, I realized for the first time I was alone in my office.  I looked around and wondered where the 174 people had gone.

Or what about this:

It blew me away. For the first time ever, this was officially a hybrid event that works.  It was the whole package. I got way more than I expected. If I had to pay for it – I would have.

If you aren’t getting that kind of feedback, then maybe this recipe is the kick start that you need. It is tasty, irresistible and keeps people coming back for more.

Here is the recipe, so you can go out and create your own Deep Fried Hybrid Event on A Stick. See the finished product.


Team Roles

1 Virtual Event Design Consultant / Project Manager

1 Virtual Emcee: The Host of the Remote Broadcast

1 Tech Director: Calls the show, video camera shots and switches

1 Twitter Moderator: Captures questions, comments and ideas from the audience

1 Soundbyte Tweeter: Tweets Out Speaker highlights under the event’s Twitter ID

1 Main Session Cameraman

1 Studio Cameraman

1 Mediasite Tech: Manages video, audio and VGA feeds going into Mediasite system

1 A/V Tech: Manages the House signals

1 A/V Tech: Manges the Video and Audio Switches for Remote Audience

Equipment and Technology

2 Cameras: One for the main room and a second for the studio

2 Camera Tripods

1 Riser – to make the tripod sit over everyone’s head

2 Studio Microphones (These are linked to webcast – but not house sound.)

3 House Sound Microphones

1 Media Site Player (this is the webcasting gear)

1 Video Switcher

1 Interview Studio (Table, Chairs Backdrop, Professional Lighting)

1 Twitter Hashtag

1 Event Twitter Account

1 Webcast Player (Mediasite provides this – but can be configured)

1 Intefy System (Virtual Front Door that shows video, schedule plus twitter streams

1 Hosting Server for Storing and Hosting Streaming Video

3 Laptops for Virtual Emcee, Twitter Moderator and Fact Based Tweeter (if not the same person)

Various and sundry cables to connect and power everything


Create A Virtual Agenda

Take your event agenda and mix in a virtual introduction, virtual shows and planned interviews. With your rolling pin, neatly roll out the virtual conference agenda until it integrates nicely with your regular event agenda. Be sure that most of the breaks and meals are filled with lively content for the virtual audience.

Next, chop the agenda up into a run schedule and add in different points for group time. Take those chopped up elements and sprinkle in various people (virtual emcee, twitter moderator) and places (Studio, main room and man on the street).

Put the programming in the refrigerator to gel for a few days.

Design the Virtual Experience

Next, sketch out the virtual experience. Sketch out the sights, sounds and mouse clicks that people will experience while moving from your Virtual Front Door into your Event’s Virtual Living Room. There may be several steps and screens – understand them all. Be sure to look at experience, performance, usability and intuitive interface when choosing vendors.

Plan & Equip Your Physical Spaces

Now, you need to assemble the elements that will go into your studio, main room, etc – the tech, decor and people. Be sure that you compare these pieces to your agenda to make sure that you have not forgot anything — you want the flavors to gel together when you deep fry it. If they don’t match you could be in trouble. Then, go find your vendors to execute.

Assemble and Deep Fry

Wrap your virtual emcee, virtual experience pieces and physical on-site elements together in your programming. Insert a stick to make sure that your solution is fully portable (that you can embed it on other websites).

Now, Deep Fry that Bad boy for 60 seconds. Let it sit for 20 seconds (the webcast delay), then serve with a big smile and a group of social sharing buttons.

This recipe serves 550.

If you are making a double batch, consider adding two different twitter moderators. The first is a twitter moderator that responds to comments. The second is a twitter moderator that only tweets out speaker highlights from the main event into retweetable soundbytes.

Bottom Line

There were many people, processes and technologies that went into creating and implementing the Event Camp Twin Cities virtual experience. It was the combination of all of these elements – along with compelling content – that got people to engage in the event.

If your hybrid or virtual event or technology or process had a cool food name, what would it be? and why?

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Virtual Events 101 Presentation at MPI EMEC

On Monday, 1 March 2010, I gave an introduction to Virtual Events presentation at the European Meetings and Events Conference in Malaga, Spain.  While most introductions to virtual events presentations concentrate on the technology involved – I tried to keep the focus off of technology and on the when and why to use virtual events as part of your event strategy.

Here is the slide deck. Some notes from the presentation are below:

[slideshare id=3344908&doc=emec2010virtual101-100305101811-phpapp02]

What is a virtual event? How are people using them?

This presentation contained some insights and ideas from my participation in the “Virtual 3rd World” at the Virtual Edge Summit (Read more here). Where I tapped into some of the latest research data from Virtual Edge and George P. Johnson regarding virtual event usage and statistics. Also, I discussed the big question: What is a virtual event? and showed some of the graphs from Kelly A Graham’s presentation on Virtual Events.

Three Types of Attendees in the LikeMinded Community

One of the radical ideas that I proposed – was this idea that there are three types of likeminds in your event community:

1. Those that are attending.

2. Those that cannot or do not attend

3. Those that don’t know who you are but believe how your attendees do.

In my opinion, the virtual event is very powerful for giving the people that are your fans (and cannot attend) a platform for participation and sharing. In this sharing, your virtual participants can help draw in other likeminded individuals that don’t know about your organization, brand or event.

New Opportunities that Digital Technology Creates for Events

I shared my framework of the four opportunities that digital technology creates for events: Extend the Event Experience, Include More People, Increase Interaction and Leverage New Formats. Then, I discussed four different types of virtual technologies that could be used for their events and explained the advantages and differences.

One of the points that I tried to make in this presentation is that events are an explosion of content. While that is great, virtual events help us extend that content explosion and spread it much further. Also, they help us re-use the content that goes into these events over a much longer time.

Also, I shared some planning timelines from Cisco, where I made the point that a “Virtual Event” is a real event. You need to still go through your planning process in the same way that you would for another event.

Metrics and Best Practices

The final section covered some metrics and best practices that I wanted to share with the audience. In fairness, I could have developed this a little further – but I considered these bonus slides. I didn’t think that we would even get to these slides.

Questions and Comments

If you have any questions or comments on the presentation or the content, please let me know. I would be more than happy to answer any questions and expand on any of the ideas that were discussed.

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20 Tweets from the Virtual Edge Summit Worth Reading

Tuesday, I found myself in the “virtual third world” at the Virtual Edge Summit in Santa Clara, California, USA. I wasn’t attending the event in person. I wasn’t watching the event on any of the 5 different virtual event platforms. I wasn’t behind my computer. I was observing the conference through Twitter on my iphone.

While it wasn’t ideal – I gotta say that it wasn’t that bad either. Especially, considering my alternative was to watch movers load the truck.

Here are 20 Tweets that I collected from the event that I think are worth your attention. If you are interested in more – you can either watch the videos or checkout the backchannel (Search #ve10 on Twitter).

1. C your F2f event as a microverse in a larger context of community says @PaulSalinger #vevu #ve10 think of all channels 4 your content /via @jeffhurt

2. Key component of Hybrid events is the interaction and engagement created between virtual and face2face attendees /via @michaelmccurry

3. Remote attendees arrive early, stay late online and want a robust virtual experience when attending a virtual event says @kellyAGraham #ve10 /via @jeffhurt

4. Why Virtual Events: extend content reach, extend, reduce spend, extend duration, support #green, demonstrate tech @kellyAGraham A) #ve10 /via @jeffhurt

5. Why Virtual Events B) Gain better metrics for business intelligence – data, data, data says @kellyAGraham #ve10 /via @jeffhurt

6. Consider prospects who may attend your virtual event, taste it, & decide to later attend the F2F event says @kellyAGraham #ve10 /via @jeffhurt

7. A Virtual Event is a gathering of ppl who meet in online environment at set time 2 acquire info, share, network, engage @kellyAGraham #ve10 /via @jeffhurt

8. Virtual Event Strategies: Get, Keep & Grow Customers says @kellyAGraham #ve10 /via @jeffhurt

9. Virtual Event Strategy (VES) 1) Understand your Audience 2) Document Your Objectives 3) Develop Measurement Plan says @kellyAGraham #ve10 /via @jeffhurt

10. What I like about the live stream of #ve10 – I can flip between sessions until I find content of interest /via @scottlum

11. @scottlum You can flip between sessions and no one has to move their chair to let you scoot by! 😀 #ve10 /via @ginaschreck

12. VES: Don’t understimate resources for virtual strategy. Lrn to understand virtual attendee’s expectations says @KellyAGraham #ve10 /via @jeffhurt

13. You need a good Digital Strategiest that understand virtual and online experiences for Virtual Events Success says @KellyAGraham #ve10 /via @jeffhurt

14. Strategic Methodology for Virtual Events Use Master Process: M) Mark your aud A) Assess Objs & goals S) Strategy says @kellyagraham #ve10 /@jeffhurt

15. VE Strategic Methodology cont T) Tech Review E) Execution R ) Review & Reblance says @kellyagraham #ve10 /@jeffhurt

16. Audience Technographics for Virtual Events #ve10 from @KellyAGraham [Book mark this. Another winner from Kelly] /via @jeffhurt

17. Wow, Cisco did a virtual event for 10 million says @kellyAGraham [Not the norm she reminds audience] #ve10 /via @jeffhurt

18. Cisco cost per person dropped from $4500 to $385 by going virtual. But they want hybrid event for 2010 : drive motivation #ve10 #vevu /@ikesingh

19. Virtual events? Don’t look at technology first – what do you want to accomplish? Look at tech. after event plan in place. #ve10 /via @scottlum

20. Virtual is an umbrella term for any type of event that is not face-to-face says @KellyAGraham /via @JeffHurt

Two BONUS Tweets

21. Gr8 4all events: Virtual Event Obj: Complete form for each aud segment u target says @KellyAGraham /via @JeffHurt

The diagram is great for all events that are using any type of digital technology. I use many similar questions when I meet with companies that are considering event technology.

22. Virtual Events Metrics & ROI [Good list to consider] from @deTomasi & @KellyAGraham #ve10 #eventprofs

I like how this list of metrics is categorized: Reach, Engagement, Conversion and Content Lifecycle. I think the attention to the content life-cycle is important. If you are going to make the investment in creating content, then you should look very closely at how you far and wide you can spread that content.

Bottom Line

Even in the virtual third world, I was able to connect with this conference and harvest some valuable insights. I hope that you found these 20 tweets and the links valuable as well.

So, what jumped out at you? What would you add?

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Which Event Technology Delivers The Best ROI?

ROI DialToday, I was asked to pick ONE event technology that offers the best ROI for events.

The questioner didn’t want to hear –“well there are several choices depending on your needs – blah, blah, blah.” He wanted one answer. He wanted it on the spot.

For me, this was gut-check time. So – I blurted out: Virtual meetings and hybrid events.

I made a good choice. Though, I imagine some of you are thinking that I must be riding the crazy-train to loony land.

So, here’s the deal. I will share the reasoning for my choice below. Then, I need you to push back. Pick an event technology that you think offers a better ROI and make your case.

GE Telepresence Center

Why I Chose Virtual Meetings & Hybrid Events

This event format is building communities and including more people in events than ever before and doing it for less.

Save Money

Cisco recently reported that they cut their event expenses by 90% by hosting a virtual meeting. It makes sense – when you host a virtual event you avoid travel, venue and F&B charges, etc.  GE is using massive 60 person Telepresence centers to avoid long distance travel and save money. One executive traveling to Asia for a meeting can cost more than $30,000 and more than 6000 pounds of carbon emissions.

Include More People

Another powerful benefit is using the hybrid format as a compliment to a face-to-face event to include more people. Here are two examples:

Drive Virtual Attendees to Face-to-Face

Equally important, I think using virtual as a compliment to face-to-face is good for your event. Imagine using virtual activities to drive people to your face-to-face event. 34% of the Cisco virtual attendees reported that they would like to attend a face-to-face event in the future.

A Word of Caution!

Virtual events are not right for all meetings. Forbes recently published a report on “Business Meetings: The Case for Face-to-Face Meetings.” In that report they interviewed 750 business executives that agreed that Virtual Events are best for “Presenting Data” and “Information Dissemination.” In all other cases, the executives agreed that Face-to-Face meetings were the best solution.

Bottom Line

Virtual & hybrid events offer event planners another way to connect to a larger community, drive attendees to your face-to-face events, save money and reduce carbon emissions.   Sounds like a great ROI to me?

Ok – the floor is yours – Make your case.

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18 Tips To Make Your Event Webcast Rock!

Are you thinking about adding a webcast to your next conference? I feel like “live” webcasts from conferences are popping up everywhere.  Just last week, three webcasts caught my attention.  I watched the presentations and engaged in discussions about the content.

Though, I was surprised by the lack of standards and best practices. All three webcasts had different formats, used different technologies and created three different experiences for me (the virtual attendee).  All three events would have rocked, if a mashup of all three experiences existed.

If webcasts are going to become a standard part of conferences and events – they need to rock! So, I came up with 18 tips that I hope will help the first-time-webcaster get off to a successful start. The tips are divided into 5 categories to make it easier for you to digest them and think about them. If you have additional tips, please add them in the comments section!

Sample Webcast Screen

Planning Your Session

1. Think Like a TV Producer. Once you start webcasting you are basically creating a television show. You need to think about your audience and ask yourself: Who is my audience? When will they want to watch my program? What do I need to do in the presentation to keep them from changing the channel? Do I need to make any changes in the introduction, content and wrap up to accommodate them?

2. Pick a Date/Time that works for your virtual audience. If you want your webcast to be seen by a large “live” audience, then air your webcast at a time when the largest virtual audience will be available. Be sure to pay attention to time zone changes between East and West Coast of US and Europe. One recent webcast that I saw was broadcast live at 10AM MTN time on a Sunday morning in the US. People were either attending church, eating brunch or sleeping. It was a terrible time. Another snafu was 9AM EST on a weekday. In Europe that was a great time – middle of the afternoon. However, the westcoasters were still snuggled under the covers.

3. Use Social Tools to Share Your Story. In “Here Comes Everybody” Clay Shirky writes that the easier things are to share – the more that people will share. So – use social tools to help your audience to tell their “like minded” friends about your webcast. Make it easy for them to email or tweet the links. Ask them to write about it in their blogs. (Tips for Integrating Social Technologies in Webcasts/Virtual Events)

4.  Create a Hashtag for Your Webcast. Use Hashtags to help a community form around your event by aggregating the buzz and user generated content on Twitter, Blogs, Flickr, YouTube, etc. Equally important, the hashtags will help people that are talking about your virtual session connect with each other and exchange ideas.

5. Assign Someone to Tweet (or Connect) the Virtual Audience with the Face2Face Audience. Having someone summarize key points and tweet them to the virtual audience helps the virtual audience connect with your event. Encourage this person to ask the virtual audience questions. In the #bizbutterflies session Paul Salinger asked the virtual audience questions that provided additional points of view. He then shared those tips with the live face-to-face audience.  (Additional Tips from Doug Caldwell)

Webcast Technology

6. Computer Screen Real-Estate: In my dream world, the screen would contain the video, the slides AND a place to see the backchannel. I have yet to see anyone do it. Most vendors provide either the video + backchannel or the Video + slides. Be sure to select a vendor that can integrate 2 of these 3 services on the screen. When you find a vendor that can do all three – tell me!!

7. Setup a Backchannel: Virtual participants need to lean over and whisper comments to their neighbor, too. So, use a backchannel to help them chat. This could be through the Hashtag or a private chat. If this is a commercial conference or an association conference – please use Twitter as part of your solution. It is much easier for everyone. (Backchannel Explained by Jeff Hurt)

8. Don’t Use That Auto-Rotating Webcam. In my opinion, a webcam is fine for webcasting breakout sessions or people standing in a stationary position. However, I strongly advise that you stay away from the auto-rotating webcam. They end up focusing on attributes and places that are more distracting than helpful.

9. Include the Slides/Screen Content: If there is a screen that will be broadcasting slides and videos please make sure that the virtual audience can see that content. Most commonly I have seen slides embedded on the screens next to the video  or offered as downloadable resources.

Integrate the Online Audience with the Face2Face Audience

10. Introduction and Background: If you are webcasting a single session from your conference, it is important to introduce all speakers, leaders, characters, etc that will be participating in the session to your virtual audience. Most virtual participants will not be familiar with the rituals and customs of your organization or your event. For example, one event had a talking eagle that was probably a hit with the face to face audience. For the online-audience the eagle appeared out of place.

11. Take Some Questions from the Virtual Audience: By including the virtual attendees in the question and answer portion of the session – you ensure that their ideas and points of view are valued.

12. Show the Backchannel Comments on a Video Screen: Include a big screen or two (depending on room size) that shows audience comments. Here are a list of options for showing these comments on the screen via twitter: (View List)

13. Conclusion and Wrap-up of session: Be sure to plan plenty of time to properly wrap-up and conclude your virtual session.  Thank everyone for attending – share next steps, etc. This might sound obvious but I have been to several webcasts where this did not happen, because the technology had a hard cut-off point. If your webcast technology has a hard time cut-off then be sure to start the wrapup early. Otherwise, you could be in the middle of answering questions or just starting your “Thanks for coming” speech and the session immediately cuts off. If that happens it looks really, really bad to the virtual audience.

Stage Setup

14. Seating, Podium and Stage Space: Be alert to how your stage setup – seating, podium, backdrop, etc will work on the video. It is sometimes hard to visualize without the cameras. In some webcasts, I have seen the speaker darting in and out of the camera view. In others there were objects in the line of sight of the camera that were distracting to online viewers.  Also, you might want to give your speakers instructions of where to stand/walk so their movements do not distract online viewers.

15. Ask your A/V Company To Be Consultants. A/V professionals are experts in production – so be sure to use them as a resource when planning your webcast.  They might be able to help you avoid simple mistakes that improve the quality of your presentation. You might not need a lot of help, but by keeping them in the loop – you might avoid some simple mistakes.

After Your Event:

16. Archive the Session Video Immediately: People that joined late may want to watch the portion of the presentation that they missed. By offering the archive immediately, they can do this while they are thinking about your event. Others will want to tell their “like minded” friends about the “Awesome webcast” that they missed. Having the archive immediately available helps your participants spread the message of your awesome webcast.

17. Archive the Backchannel Discussion for Future Review. The Backchannel will contain questions, comments, new ideas and additional links to resources. By archiving the backchannel you create another educational resource for participants to use.

18. Look for Blogger Recaps of your Session. Your virtual attendees might write blog posts and other stories about your sessions. Share the links to your archive documents with these bloggers.

Additional Resources:

19. 10 Takeaways on Virtual Events from “Boldly Going Where you Should Already Be” by Jeff Hurt (Read)

20. Virtual Meetings and Renegade Tweeps by Midori Connolly (Read)

21. 6 Things to Consider on the Way to the New World by Ian McGonnigal (Read)

22. Virtual Events Boost Live Attendance (Read)

23. Free E-Book on Virtual Events by Virtual Edge (Download)

How Can You Contribute?

There are a lot of ideas and resources in this post.  It could be better with your input! Please share your ideas, experiences and additional resources in the comments section.  For those of you organizing your first webcast – please use the tips and let me know what is missing. I look forward to your suggestions and contributions!

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