The Benefit of Session Tracks

Many online event platforms attempt to copy in-person events, particularly when it comes to sessions. During an in-person event, there are a few rooms set up with perhaps a theme for each (or perhaps none at all). The sessions are presented in each of the rooms and there is typically a ten-fifteen minute break in between so attendees can check the schedule, look for the next presentation, grab a cup of coffee, and settle in before it begins.

Many platforms emulate this by having a session listing where the attendee will choose a particular session to watch and, like a webcast, when it is over, click back to the lobby to choose the next they want to watch.

As an attendee, if there is a theme to a room, typically, you want to watch all of the sessions. You find a table in the room, settle in your chair, and stay there until the sessions you’re interested in run out. If an in-person event were run the same way as many online events, the room would have to be cleared before the next session, forcing all attendees to stand outside before being let back in.

That idea seems so inconvenient and unnecessary that vConferenceOnline created session tracks. It’s very similar to a playlist – sessions are scheduled to present live or play pre-recorded content at a particular time, have a break in between, then continue with the next session. An attendee can simply stay in the “room” and have the sessions play seamlessly and conveniently.

How does that benefit you, as a conference host?

The time in-between the sessions can be used for any manner of things. You can play elevator music to entertain the attendees. You can host a trivia game. You can ask people to communicate with you via Twitter hashtags or Facebook. You can show commercials from you or your sponsors. Ten or fifteen minutes is a lot of air time – with no fewer options for how to use it!

Many options that make things easier for your attendees also make for great opportunities for you and your sponsors. Just think creatively!

First Steps to a Virtual Event

In my company, we’re working on setting up our next virtual conference, so I figured I’d start writing some blogs about the whole process. I’ll go step by step as I personally start setting up our event, and you can see really what there is to do for it. At the end of it all, I’ll write up a quick bullet point post that shows all the points in order.

First step is making sure you really have an event. I’m positive you have the audience you need – all you have to do is to reach out to them – so that’s not even a step. You already know your goal with the event, you know you want to save money and time by doing it online – and reach more people.

You can watch the video below, or keep reading underneath it!

Truly, the first thing you should do is contact your speakers. What takes the most time during the setup for an event – especially a virtual event – is gathering your speakers, getting confirmation, contracts, session names, powerpoint slides, session abstracts, and of course the actual recording from your speaker.

You need to contact your hopeful speakers.

  • Contact more speakers than you’ll need, because there are bound to be some that will not be able to participate.
  • Have a date in mind – but do not set it in stone yet. If nearly all of your hopeful speakers can’t make the exact date you want, well, what’s the point?
  • Be flexible. Allow varied topics from the exact ones you’re looking for.
  • Make it relevant. The topics are actually more inviting than the speakers themselves to most attendees. If someone has never heard of Billy Bob but loves hearing about how to build your own spaceship, they won’t mind that they don’t know the speaker.
  • Get excited. Your speakers will reflect your energy. If you’re just going through the motions of another virtual event, if you’re already stressed, or you just plain don’t want to do it, you need to get into a better mindset and send more positive emails. If you sound excited, they’ll get excited too, and they’ll be more likely to participate.

Keep in mind – you won’t get all of your dream speakers – and that’s okay! You’ll get great people participating in your event, and you and your attendees will have a blast.

Everything tends to fall in place in the end – just keep your plans flexible.

Great Resource for your Digital Marketing Projects

If you haven’t seen it, check out The Outreach Marketing Virtual Summit (it’s free) – it includes key information from a whole host of experts.  There is so much great information in this free event – it’s incredible.

Here’s the direct link:
http://www.vconferenceonline.com/event/home.aspx?id=1092

This was a project by GroupHigh, an outreach marketing firm that rocks working in this space.  They have a great toolset, and the series of sessions they put together are excellent.

There is also a session there by me (Stephen Wynkoop) about virtual events and how they work in the marketing cycle.  What’s more, you can see the platform in action and check out some examples.

Enjoy!

To Video or not to Video – Slides and a Webcam

Why Virtual?
Josh Harrison
Producer
vConferenceOnline

To Video or not to Video – Slides and a Webcam

I will admit right off the bat that I am a bit biased towards video for online events. “Like TV”. By which I mean seeing a person’s face not just hearing their voice. But ask yourself… which do you prefer? Static or moving images?

I mentioned in an earlier article that static slides and telephone audio probably aren’t the ideal format for your next big online event. However, there are some key points to consider when you are thinking about your event’s playout format.

First and foremost, what does the content call for and how do the viewers want to take it in? If you’ve got nothing but computer code and script syntax to cover, there may not be a chance to see the presenter’s face much less put him/her in front of a camera. On the other hand, if you’ve lined up a big name (and they are not presenting loads of text) then you are probably going to want to put that persons face front and center and let other materials like slides play a supporting role. A good example is the TED talks. If you’ve seen one you know what I mean. They are interesting, engaging, and nice to look at. Now imagine that you only see bullet point slides and their voice behind that. The subject may still be interesting, but you’ve lost the engagement and immersion.

Just a little side note:  Personally, I don’t get event platforms that put all the content up in front of you at the same time in so many little windows. The problem I see is that there is no main focus. This probably comes from my training in both cinematography and design. It is important to direct the viewer’s focus. It’s much easier to take in information when it is presented clearly and your attention is directed in one place. If I’m looking at a slide deck window, a video player window and any other assortment of “supplementing materials” windows, my focus is never on just 1 thing. The human eye will wonder when allowed.  I prefer a “like TV” approach where you get one screen and that window is your focus. What you put in that screen is up to you.  Arguments can be made for both sides, but that is what sets us apart from many other platform providers and we like to think it’s the best way to deliver engaging content.

Ok, so I said there were “some” key factors which would imply more than the one I just described. Secondly, Is it possible? Can you actually get the presenters to use video? I say, “where there’s a will there’s a way”. Not every session has to be a huge multi-camera production. Keep in mind that even a webcam is better than no cam at all. Giving your viewers something to connect to besides text is a big part of immersion.  Ok, sales guy hat on for a second. We have a full HD production facility that is purpose built to deliver presentations. As our client, you have access to those facilities and our production staff. Also, there are plenty of free lance video producers who can help. Beyond                       that we offer tools that allow for self recording that are easy to use and can help you avoid bland presentations. I understand that wrangling speakers alone is difficult, much less trying to produce video, but that’s what we are here for. It’s what we do and we would love to help you take it up a few notches.

Off with the sales guy hat and on with the video guy hat again. Quality is important. It sets a level of respect for your brand’s reputation. The world is full of boring slide deck presentations. You don’t see anyone commenting on social sites about the latest PowerPoint preso they just saw. Pay special attention to producing creative, engaging content and step outside of the box a bit.

In the next article we’ll get into some technical stuff. That’s what this is supposed to be about right?

Types of Events

Why Virtual?
Josh Harrison, Producer
vConferenceOnline

Types of Events

I realize that the name of our platform might lead some to think that we only do conferences online. I assure you  that is not the case and my bosses didn’t make me write that either. There are many different types of events that can be done online. I’ll get into the  types we work with most often. Starting with the most obvious… in person events.

Conferences

These may be the most popular and well known types of events simply because there are so many and they generally happen in every area of interest. From finances to comic books, there are people with like interests that need to gather and communicate. For the most part these consist of keynote sessions to start off and general sessions combined with a show floor or exhibition hall for vendors to tout their offerings to attendees. Depending on the area of interest you’re probably going to a conference for the sessions or the exhibits. A subgroup to conferences would be shows or exhibition events for vendors. The attendees at these events only represent a very small portion of the actual audience for their topics. Many can’t get away from their daily lives or simply can’t afford to travel and attend.

Education

This is  also a very popular type of event. In most professional industries there is some sort of Continued Education implemented to keep pros up to date. There are requirements and standards that must be met to qualify for these CE credits. Professionals are usually busy, and time is money, so fitting in travel or even leaving the office for CE is usually a struggle.

Training

Training events are usually done on a smaller scale in person. There will be an instructor going over hours if not days worth of courseware with a select group of people. Some training programs will do a circuit or tour run to try and reach as many people in different locations as possible. Still, the reach is limited and you have an instructor repeatedly delivering material to a small audience. This requires higher registration prices due to trainer costs and can eliminate some potential trainees due to travel or costs.

Webcasts/Webinars

Marketers have long been creating events to attract attention to their product or services. A company may be releasing a new product and they want to tell the press or educate potential customers/clients. In many of these situations these are small events that require their attendees to travel.

If you are starting to see a trend I’m hoping you are starting to see the advantages of Online Events. Factor in time and costs for travel, food, lodging and attendance charges and you may see why in person events have seen a decline in attendance.

I said all of that to say this. Give the people what they want. In today’s world, individuals and businesses are accustomed to instant gratification. Everything is at their fingertips thanks to the internet. If your information isn’t easily available to the world they will find another option as quickly as type, point and click. The good news is all of these events and more can be done online.

Any craftsman knows that you need to use the right tools for the job. In the next article we’ll start to talk about what type of delivery suites your information.

Why Virtual?

Why Virtual?
Josh Harrison, Producer

Before we dig into the more technical stuff, I have to get this out of the way to be sure we’re all on the same page (No, my bosses did not make me write this).

Chances are, you’re reading this because you have something you need to distribute to an audience. It’s also possible that you are considering distributing it via a “virtual event”. Before we go any further I should clarify what I mean by virtual event. To me (YMMV*), a virtual event is a happening that people attend online or over the internet. This could mean a presentation, a meeting, a learning session, or a time and place to eat pizza together… virtually. The sky’s the limit! It’s also important to note that I personally think that the word “virtual” when applied to an event sounds a bit like we’re all going to play a game in a 3D environment so I will substitute the word “online” for “virtual”. Call me crazy, but it makes more practical sense to me.

In our case here at vConferenceOnline, the need for online events came about via conferences. Organizations usually have members and interested parties. These entities need a way to communicate with each other and share their information. In the old days what we now call “in person” conventions or conferences were organized in large cities where people would come from all over to take part in the “event”. This also applied to meetings, continuing education, and many other forms of organized events. This worked pretty well for many years.

In recent years event organizers have seen their “in person” attendance drop. People were busier than ever and their time and budgets were limited. A solution was needed… “Hey, what about the internet?” Online events were born. It became possible to include many more people in the events by offering a “virtual event” online to those who could not come to the “in person” event.

Today, some choose to do online events alongside in person events. Some do them at separate times, and others do online only. There are many factors (which we will discuss in future articles) to consider when deciding HOW you will do your event. Overall, the main reason WHY you should do an online event is to widen your audience options. From there the rest starts to make more sense.

In the next article I’ll discuss types of events and how you might choose what is right for you.

*Your mileage may vary

 

Introduction from The Producer

Why Virtual?
Josh Harrison, Producer

Introduction
As a provider of virtual events, the company I work for has a vested interest in putting “the right foot forward” in these articles. That is my disclaimer and I’m sticking to it. On the other hand as a technical staff member for said company I am able to offer a slightly less marketing/sales perspective on the whole thing. Which may be why my wise bosses asked me to write this in the first place. You’ll probably find these articles to be mostly about the “production” side of producing events. Which is where most questions arise once the overall concept is understood.

Just a little info about me so you get where I am coming from. I love all things technology, digital and analog. I grew up taking things apart and putting them back together (although sometimes as different things). When digital became a reality it opened a whole new world of possibilities for taking things apart and putting things together (although sometimes as different things). I started playing with machines when I was young. Coming from a musical background, I enjoyed the engineering side of audio. This lead to enjoying the engineering side of video. All of that lead me to where I am now with vConference Online as a content producer for video.

Now a little history on vConferenceOnline. Founded by Stephen Wynkoop, our parent company, Bits on the Wire, was working on a project for a community site we own known to the Database world as SSWUG.org. We wanted a way to share all of the technical knowledge from our partner experts in a way that was intriguing and interesting. Further, we had learned that people like to watch way more than they like to read (exceptions to every rule of course… as you are reading this). We decided to take what were daily audio podcasts and make them into a video show, “Like TV” said Stephen with a twinkle in his eye.

That’s where it all started back in 2006. Online video was just starting to poke it’s head out along with the infrastructure to support it. What we found in that particular space of technical learning was a lot of telephoned in audio and slide presentations, with little to no production value. We set out to change the way techy’s take in their techness. We said, “Let’s take broadcast level production and merge it with top end IT knowledge. People will love it!” So we started with a small camera, a green screen and a lot of really hot lights. The first virtual event we did was in Spring of 2008. We had 1 camera, a plasma screen with slides, and a huge desire to show the world that technical presentations didn’t have to be mind numbing. 1 year later we had grown from 1 10×20 foot room to a 4500 sq ft office with 2 full studios. Then we had another great idea (pat selves on back)… “We have this platform for virtual events built, why not let the rest of the world in on it?”  That’s where vConferenceOnline was born. The whole premise behind our virtual event platform was to offer HD video with supporting materials like slides rather than offer slides with supporting thumbnail video. We built studios with one purpose, to allow presenters to show their computer screens and slides while making a connection to their audience via the camera. “Like TV” said Stephen with a twinkle in his eye.

Many events, clients and features later, we feel we have one of the best (if not THE best) platform for online events. In this series of articles I’m hoping to walk you through the production side with a tiny bit of marketing and sales on the What, Why and How of virtual events. Stick with me, this is going to have a lot of quotation marks and parenthesis.