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2010.02.22

Embracing Engagement in a Virtual World

VESAudience20100222 At the NBTA Masters Program held in Washington D.C. last week, some concern was voiced over the impact of virtual meeting and event solutions on the travel industry. I can understand. The travel industry has been hit about as hard as any over the last 18 months. In fact, the thorn is still in the lion’s paw. (Check out my views in the February 18 post.)

Is the concern warranted? According to Joel Secundy, U.S. Department of Commerce, travel and tourism is a $1.3 trillion contributor to the economy, employing 8.2 million.

Let’s try and figure out this virtual experience stuff.

According to Malcolm Lotzof, CEO, InXpo, Inc. there is a natural progression of virtual event savvy. First there are webinars, then virtual events, and eventually, through effective use of portals and repeated usage, community development. Some interesting statistics shared were that 27% of companies are using virtual experience solutions and another 15% are exploring their use.

So are we all eventually just gonna ditch meetings and go completely virtual?

Kathy Sulgit, Director of Corporate events, Cisco Systems, Inc. shared quite a bit of insight. Interestingly enough, no physical conferences have been replaced by virtual events and nearly half of her conferences include a virtual component. In fact, when virtual options are added to physical events, attendance is not cannibalized!

So while the travel industry lion still groans from the pain inflicted by the thorn of the 2009 recession, I have a crazy thought… maybe its virtual technologies that can be just the thing necessary to remove it.

Isn’t that an interesting scenario?  Virtual and physical meeting and event providers working side-by-side. And wouldn’t it be great if the focus wasn’t on the means, but the end.  Engagement of audiences.

VESSign20100222This week I am at the Virtual Edge Summit held in February 22-23 Santa Clara, California put on by the Virtual Edge Institute.

This is one of these “hybrid” events. You can attend physically OR virtually. The attendee can decide. And the really cool part of our involvement is that we’re measuring the results of the summit. And when we do, we will compare results for both types of attendees. I am looking forward to what we will learn. We’ll be sure to publish our findings at www.roiofengagement.com

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