Everyone has seen the virtual event lobby, right? There’s usually a rendering of a modern-looking conference center peppered with animated people standing around talking to one another. And there’s either a video or a central image of a person that acts as a concierge ready to instruct attendees on how to navigate around the environment. Well, that kind of cookie-cutter virtual experience won’t be greeting your attendees for long. Totally customizable environments are just one of four major innovations rocking the world of virtual events this year. If you’ve been reluctant, turned off or frustrated by the limitations of virtual event platforms in the past, read on. Here’s what’s next on the horizon.
Menlo Park, CA-based Unisfair has recently released a suite of upgrades which include the new Venue Builder tool set. The tools still allow organizers to create a virtual venue based on a template for fast and loose play, or create a custom designed event from the ground up either in-house or through an outside creative agency, but with the new roll out, the environment becomes alterable in real time. So if a new hall needs to be added on day two—you can add it. If a track doesn’t sell well enough—you can remove it. The environment is in your hands and designed with enough flexibility for last-minute changes at any time during the event.
Chicago-based virtual provider InXpo knows customers want out of the cookie-cutter, too, but also to be able to get their events moving on ever shortening timelines. Therefore, the agency has created InXpo Express, which is designed to allow event marketers to build a custom environment fast and spend less time on design, saving more resources for the star of the show—content. InXpo Express has two main avenues available for custom design. The first is known as “self-service” and, as indicated, allows event organizers into the environment’s back end to create their own exhibit halls and conference centers, either from scratch or based on templates. The “full-service” lane involves using InXpo’s design and build team as a partner and collaborating on the virtual event environment. Best feature? Setting the background skyline of the lobby to the host city of the live event, corporate headquarters or a Mars-scape. (Take us to your thought-leaders.)
Despite the potential for fun and engagement, many marketers have eschewed Second Life as an event platform because it requires too much time and bandwidth from the average attendee. Perhaps not anymore, thanks to Irvine, CA-based Altadyn Corp. The digital agency recently released 3DXplorer, the first and only browser-based 3D platform for virtual events. It’s built on an Applet, so attendees don’t need to download anything to participate. They just select an avatar from prebuilt templates and they set off into the 3D world. Arrow keys control movement, though mouse control is also an option.
It only takes about an hour to build an event or meeting from a template, the company says, or about a day for a completely new space. Updates and changes can be made on the fly, mid-event if needed. Audio-visual elements live within the space, though videos have to be pop-ups to view. The downside: scale. No more than 100 people (avatars) are recommended for these 3D rooms and halls. So, sorry, CES exhibitors—it’s not ready for you… yet.
AUTOMATIC DATA MINING
Collecting data in the virtual world is a favorite feature among event marketers, but new technology from Unisfair automatically mines users’ in-environment activity and delivers targeted, precise leads via what it calls the “engagement index.” Organizers and exhibitors can identify target groups (cmos, for example) and the index will start to collect the intel on every self-identified cmo at the event: where they went, what they watched and how long they spent doing it on a point system. Every lead that meets the minimum point level set by the event’s stakeholders is delivered to sales people with the intel, arming them with data they need to pull the trigger on new sales.
Data is not just good for measuring ROI, however. InXpo’s software upgrades seek to improve attendee enjoyment and engagement by allowing the attendees to determine what top-level topic areas they are interested in and then providing them with the sessions, speakers, discussions and other content areas they will not want to miss—all automatically thanks to their preferences and activity.
Who says an event has to be over when everyone shuts off their computers? Not Unisfair. Its new Virtual Business Center is designed to act as an umbrella for all of the online components of a brand’s virtual and live events. The first time someone visits or attends, they set up a profile that transfers to every future event under the umbrella. Because of that, organizers can track attendees over multiple events and see how interests evolve and change. Each Business Center is unique to the company but can house events ranging from small departmental meetings to huge, multi-national sales conferences, with each internal division owning its own, custom event “venue.”
Don’t you just love the smell of innovation in the morning?