Until a couple of years ago, I never seriously considered attending or launching a virtual conference. It seemed to me that I would miss out on the main benefits that I found in face-to-face conferences - networking, meeting new people and enjoying the exhibit hall browsing experience. But after attending and later exhibiting at Campus Technology's virtual conference, my perception started to change, and we subsequently decided to try hosting one at my company, Kaltura.
In the past, hosting major conferences was a luxury typically affordable to only large corporations and businesses with deep pockets. Today, organizations of all sizes are empowered by the Web and the reduction in production costs to host their own conferences - virtually (provided that they can create interesting, valuable and engaging content).
Last December, we conducted our first Kaltura Education Video Summit, a virtual conference that showcased speeches and discussions with industry leaders and decision-makers in education, learning and training. The summit allowed users to connect and network with leaders in the education industry via a virtual, interactive environment. With just a few clicks, attendees could meet thought leaders, collaborate with peers, and download information - all from the comfort of their office or home. We even had a virtual exhibit hall, where companies had "booths" that attendees could stop by.
The event was extremely successful. Thousands of people signed up for the live event, which featured speakers from the likes of Yale Law School, Oracle, Cornell University, and more. Thousands more viewed the on-demand content after the live event. Following last year's success, we are now conducting a bigger virtual summit this year, which will take place this month.
Virtual conferences are not only an amazing marketing tool, but also a great networking and learning experience for audiences attending them. They are actually fun and engaging, and are environmentally friendly.
Virtual Conferences are here to stay for many reasons:
Easy and cost effective for organizers and participants. The main cost associated with a virtual conference is that of producing the content for the conference and delivering such content in an engaging and interactive way. My company teamed up with InterCall, an industry leader in virtual conference environments and webcasting, to create our summit, which in turn allowed us to focus on the content. Audiences from around the globe could easily join our summit at no cost.
Anywhere, anytime. People can attend virtual events from anywhere in the world, and if they can't make the live event, they can still benefit from the VOD content later. All you need in order to attend is a connected device and decent Internet connection. . .
Networking made easy. Attendees of a physical conference often need to scour exhibition rooms and corridors searching for nametags and tracking down industry leaders with whom they want to speak. With a virtual conference, these physical barriers are stripped away. Attendees have immediate access to fellow attendees, as well as speakers and exhibitors, with just a few clicks of the mouse..
Accelerates pipeline deals. Feedback from our virtual summit clearly showed that organizations that were deliberating using our technology found the virtual event extremely helpful and accelerated their decision to close the deal. Learning from the sessions, and having access to their peers, resulted in a faster decision.
Valuable analytics. Virtual conferences offer analytics that cannot be typically gathered accurately in a physical event. You can see for example which sessions attendees watched, which virtual booths they visited, what resources they downloaded from booths, and with whom they spoke.
Environmentally friendly. A virtual conference does not involve travel. Additionally, all collateral (brochures, data-sheets, and give-aways) are virtual, hence avoiding all printed material in conferences that anyhow gets trashed later on.
As businesses look for new ways to engage audiences and push branded content, virtual conferences will undoubtedly become more popular and will help transform the way we do business in our increasingly global village for years to come.
What do you think of virtual conferences? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.