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Not a zero-sum game

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MediaTec Publishing's biannual Chief Learning Officer Symposium covers the latest trends in workforce development and talent management. The spring conference, which was held in late March at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island (Fla.), garnered 350 attendees, said Norm Kamikow, president and editor in chief of MediaTec Publishing. However, one month later, MediaTec launched a virtual edition of CLO Symposium that attracted 1,400 attendees, Kamikow said. MediaTec's Talent Strategies 2011 conference saw a similar spike in circulation when Media-Tec introduced a virtual edition. The physical event, in February, garnered 200 attendees while the virtual edition, in March, drew an additional 950 registrants. MediaTec is also introducing two virtual-only events this summer for Chief Learning Officer and Human Capital Media Group, respectively, which will be followed by a live-virtual combination for the CLO Symposium in September. “Virtual shows are like webinars on steroids,” Kamikow said. “We're seeing three times and four times in attendance growth [compared with physical events] and we're probably going to get to seven times or eight times attendance.” Kamikow said augmenting live events with virtual editions works on three fronts: 1) Virtual events enable customers to attend the work sessions they didn't get a chance to audit when they traveled to the physical event; 2) they offer customers and prospects, who didn't attend the live event, to view the sessions on a “pay-per-use” basis online; and 3) they enhance the exposure among the events' sponsors. Despite boosting its investment in virtual programming, MediaTec has no plans to reduce spending on its live events. “We spend an inordinate amount of money to keep them strong because they are well respected in the industry and we're not going to do anything to detract from that,” Kamikow said. Indeed, 46% of U.S. marketers said that within two years more than 50% of events will be hybrid, meaning the programs will feature both physical and virtual elements; 41% of respondents said that within five years more than 50% of events will be hybrid, according to a recent study released by Unisfair, an InterCall company and a provider of virtual events. “I now see a upward trend in hybrid events,” said Joerg Rathenberg, VP-products at InterCall. “It's not a replacement strategy, but a new arrow in the quiver of marketing tools.” The survey, titled “The Future of Virtual Business Environments,” was conducted online in April, with 550 marketers responding. According to the survey, 60% of U.S. marketers plan to increase spending on virtual events and environments in the next 12 months while 42% of marketers said they planned to reduce spending on physical conference and trade shows in the next 12 months. Rathenberg said that despite the current trends in events spending, he didn't see any danger that virtual events would start to cannibalize their live counterparts. “The right strategy is to release the content in the virtual edition of a trade show over time to keep audiences engaged until the next event,” he said. “And many of our customers have seen their physical audience grow as a result.” Attendance is growing for Local Government Summit, a virtual event produced by American City & County (70,000 circ.). Roughly 2,000 attendees are expected for the fourth annual LGS in October, according to Bill Wolpin, editorial director and associate publisher of American City & County, Government Product News and Government Procurement magazines, which are part of Penton Media. Attendance grew to 1,600 registrations in 2010, compared with 660 for the first event in 2008, Wolpin said. LGS, which is promoted via print, online and email, is available on-demand for one year following its premiere. Wolpin said budgeting for the event has not chipped away from other products in his portfolio. “We don't see a conflict,” he said, adding that he is now considering launching other virtual shows targeting the government sector. “We're not robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
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