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3 posts from February 2010

2010.02.26

Face-to-Face vs. Virtual Meetings; Come Together, Right Now.

Panel_112Hx221W.The Virtual Edge Summit I attended this week was amazing. I was genuinely impressed with the high caliber, entrepreneurial, visionary group of people that I met. For example, after presenting about how to measure results including ROI of virtual events, the conversations that ensued were challenging and relevant. Many seemed ready to develop ways to add value to an industry that still has a hard time proving the value and ROI of virtual meetings and events. It was energizing and just plain fun. 

The content from all the presenters was also high caliber. I don’t normally do this after attending conferences but I am planning on viewing the sessions I couldn’t attend. You’ll find them in about ten days at www.prolibraries.com/virtualedge 

Many of the sessions were eye opening. I saw beautiful 3D environments, the ability to translate chats so you can speak with people around the globe without language barriers, fun and challenging games, team building activities, powerful reporting tools and more. The possibilities are enough to make your head spin. I found it easy to dream about future events complete with all kinds techno bells, whistles. 

Virutal_enviro_201Hx438W

And then, all of a sudden, my visions of a technologically enhanced virtual future crashed. I thought, “Hey, we have work to do, and a lot of it!” Around the globe companies are trying to recover from the 2009 recession and their people are the just the ones to do it. And quite frankly, they don’t give a hoot about technological marvels if you can’t help them achieve greater success.

Then my thoughts drifted to last week. I traveled to and served on a panel at the NBTA Masters Program I was with 200 of the most influential travel industry executives and it was all about travel. (Read my post about The Masters here and here) And this week at Virtual Edge Summit it was a similar kind of group and it was all about virtual meetings and events.

So, what is the best solution to engage the people you rely on to succeed? Travel? Or virtual? I’ve come to believe that the answer is both. 

You see, it’s not about ballrooms and airline seats. It’s not about whizz-bang technology platforms for a virtual event. It’s about the people. It’s about engaging people and vision casting and influencing how your people think about your product/service and building relationships and collaborating and innovating and building new skills and more. You get the picture.

And in my opinion, the best place to begin a meaningful dialog between the travel people and the virtual people is with “hybrid” experiences; meetings, conferences, trade shows, expos, exhibitions, summits, events of all kinds that include in person as well as remote audiences. By working together, these two seemingly diametrically opposed industries will extend the reach for their clients, drive better ROI and, in so doing, capture more business. Together. 

So call me crazy, but I think the two conferences should meet concurrently. What about you?

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

2010.02.18

Fear Virtual Meetings, Events and Experiences? Travel Industry Execs Ponder the Trend

This week I was invited to serve on a panel on ROI at the NBTA Masters Program. The Masters is a very prestigious forum for corporate travel executives and major travel suppliers. Participation is limited to 100 each and they represent quite an impressive group of leaders.

MastersProgramNBTA Day One was high impact. Charles Petruccelli, President, Global Travel Services, American Express Company, presented an opening session entitled Getting Back in the Game. The message is poignant. The travel industry has experienced the sharpest decline in recent history over the past 18 months. Petrucelli believes that travel will play a key role in the recovery of the global economy. I agree.

Edward Walter, President and CEO, Host Hotels & Resorts, provided a very candid review of the past 18 months and an outlook for 2010. In short, the last 18 months was as bad as you may have thought for hotels, maybe worse. The industry was in a freefall and only recently hit the bottom. Prospects for 2010 are encouraging but it will most likely be 2011, 2012 and perhaps even 2013 before you can expect robust growth and health in that sector. 

Petrucelli referenced indiscriminate cuts that were made in travel budgets. In many cases, businesses were driven to virtual meeting and event solutions, because they had to. And that’s where it got interesting.

An hour was devoted to a panel discussion on virtual experiences versus face-to-face or physical meetings. There was a lot of curiosity and I could sense confusion and skepticism.

I think I understand. Following Walter’s overview of the dismal hotel outlook, the topic of virtual meetings came up in Q&A. He stated “they scare the death out of me. But I better figure them out.”

It’s interesting, next week there is a summit devoted to the use of virtual experiences. Check it out here

It’s a physical, face-to-face event.

More in my next post on figuring out virtual experiences.