Virtual Events: Available In Many Flavors

In Virtual Events Year In Review: 2009, I summarized key trends that I witnessed in the virtual events industry this year. The trends for 2009 included global adoption, emergence of new industries (as virtual event show hosts), emergence of hybrid (virtual/physical) events, the shift to ongoing communities and the shift to multi-day events. There was one trend I neglected to include – and it may be the number one trend for 2009: virtual events in many flavors (aka virtual events take on many shapes and sizes).

(Photo by via Flickr.)
(Photo by rkeohanevia via Flickr.)

Virtual tradeshows still constitute the majority of virtual events in 2009 – however, new flavors emerged (or generated strong growth) in 2009.  Here’s how they’re different from virtual tradeshows:

Virtual Job Fairs

First off, virtual job fairs are quite similar to virtual tradeshows, especially in structure.  There are exhibitor booths, lounges, presentations (live Webcasts or live Video), prize giveaways, a document Resource Center, etc.  Here’s a big difference with the job fair, however – attendees pursue the exhibitors more than the exhibitors pursue the attendees.  The virtual job fair brings a rather engaged attendee, who’s more keen to visit booths and interact with exhibitors (hiring companies) than typical virtual tradeshows.  Hosts of virtual job fairs will want to work with their virtual event platform provider to create unique tools/applications within the show – for instance, a resume wizard (builder), resume submission tools, attendee<->exhibitor match-making (i.e. find the right job for you – find the right candidate for the hiring company), etc.

Virtual Sales Kickoff

That’s right, the annual sales meeting (for some companies) is moving 100% virtual.  Michael Doyle of Virtual Edge published an interesting article on Cisco’s Global Sales Experience.  For most companies, the goal of an annual sales meeting is to bring the entire salesforce together, reflect back on the past year (acknowledging and rewarding sales reps for their efforts) and talk about the year ahead (set priorities and goals).  Similar to a virtual tradeshow, education (e.g. live sessions) is a focus for this type of event.  Unlike a virtual tradeshow, however, there’s less pitching and selling (from exhibitors to attendees) and the need to network (e.g. find new contacts) is lessened.  It’s incumbent on show hosts to make the virtual sales meeting fun and engaging, as attendees are used to going out for dinner, drinks and parties after physical sales meetings.  Virtual cocktails don’t work too well, so be sure to make the virtual experience memorable and fun.

Virtual Partner Summits

A virtual event platform makes perfect sense for a b-to-b vendor’s partner / reseller network – gather the network of partners virtually, give them the training and tools on your products and services and allow them to network with one another.  You improve relations between you and your partners – and, you encourage resellers to partner together to create joint solutions for the market.  Cisco Virtual Partner Summit ran concurrently with a Boston-based physical Partner Summit (June 2009).  Oracle has similar plans for a virtual partner summit.  PartnerPoint has created a 24×7 virtual community “to help connect Microsoft Customers with qualified Microsoft  Partners from around the globe.”  While virtual tradeshows tend to be “lead focused”, virtual partner summits revolve around networking among exhibitors [peers] – they’re unique in that the exhibitors and attendees are one and the same.

My prediction for 2010 – these three flavors will gain further adoption.  Virtual tradeshows will still carry the majority – however, we’ll be seeing more and more off these flavors, in the following order:

  1. Virtual Sales Kick-off
  2. Virtual Partner Summit
  3. Virtual Job Fair'