Having just returned from spending the last few weeks in the market talking to event producers followed by an internal UBM Global Events Meeting, (for those of you who do not know, UBM is the world's second-largest pure-play events organizer of major trade shows across all geographies), I am more excited than ever about the growth of marketing services and the integration of physical and online events. It is becoming clear that when a physical and virtual event are paired, not only does it extend the life and reach of an organization's event, it deepens the experience of both the event producers and the attendees—a win-win.
Social behaviors and audience preferences are changing. Online has become an extension of our everyday activities—personally and professionally—and this is driving the natural integration between online and physical events. It is reflected in a comprehensive benchmark study done in combination with UBM, the Virtual Edge Institute and the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) to understand the work-related uses of virtual and live event integration. We'll be releasing the full report soon, but here are some top-level highlights from the attendees:
83% say the ability to view online content before an event is important or very important;
78% say it is important or very important to view online content during an event;
94% say it is important or very important to be able to view online content—such as presentations, videos and white papers associated with an event—after the event has occurred.
Additionally, 90% say that you turn to virtual events to extend the reach of a brand and 81% of you use virtual events to reach those individuals that cannot attend an event in person.
We know there is no replacement for face-to-face interactions at live events, but having a virtual component adds a level of enhancement to an event experience and fulfills key audience needs. The virtual layer extends the ability to follow up, view missed content, share information with colleagues and interact online with real-time conversations. We have done quite a few virtual events at UBM alongside our live events and have learned what works and what doesn't. Here are a few examples of virtual events at UBM that may give you some ideas on creating your own:
Pre-event: UBM Electronics created a virtual preview of DesignCon 2011, an electronic design show, last December. The virtual event, a first of its kind for UBM Electronics, drew 845 registrants and 204 live attendees who remained within the environment for an average of two hours and 30 minutes.
During event: UBM TechWeb's Black Hat created Black Hat Uplink, a virtual conference environment to enlarge its reach globally with an online, real-time extension to the Black Hat conference.
Post-event: Following UBM TechWeb's Interop conference, which took place in May, there is a post-event scheduled for mid-July focused on the mobile revolution again, using the virtual component to extend the life of a physical event.
Community building: PR Newswire's RetailInvestorConferences.com is a good example of a perpetual model that stays open after each monthly event and is continually building community and networking activity all year long. To date, the environment has grown to nearly 30,000 attendees.
Establishing ROI: Recently, one of our clients hosted a virtual event for its partners simultaneous with a live event and doubled its attendance. Coupled with backend reporting, it was able to integrate profiling and behavior interactions into their sponsorship delivery.
I'd love to hear what you're doing in this emerging industry and how you see the enhancement of physical with online. Please drop me a line and let me know your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.