I don’t know about you, but I’m finding that increasingly I’m attending more events online. The move to virtual events and mixtures of physical and virtual events (hybrid events) as opposed to purely physical events had been gaining momentum in recent years.
One need only look at the attendance at Autodesk University (AU) last year to see why: approximately 5,000 attended the physical event in Las Vegas, but over 20,000 participated in AU Virtual, a combination of live streaming, pre- and post-recorded presentations, and on-demand sessions. In addition, over 100,000 customers are registered for AU Online, providing year round access to recordings of the sessions, key notes, presentations and meeting notes, video interviews at the show and other content.
The original main driving forces behind the growth of virtual events were economic and sustainability factors. Holding a virtual event means no travel, for attendees or presenters, no accommodation or entertainment expenses. Holding a virtual event also means reduced carbon footprint for attendees, event holders, and vendors alike – no airline fuel, no booths, no onsite marketing collateral, no physical handouts.Now however, more positive considerations are driving the move to and emphasis on virtual. Reach as seen in the previous examples, is an obvious factor, and both geographically and in terms of then numbers and variety of customers. Also, reach in terms of the duration of the event is greatly expanded. Before the event, whether physical or virtual or a hybrid event, sample sessions and presentations, preparatory and other background material, can be provided. After the event, all presentations, sessions and session materials, can be made available year round.
While I was attending a virtual event last week, I got to thinking about the relationships between the physical and the virtual, and where does community fit in. Although an event is not community, physical attendance at events has always been a great stimulus for community: you get to share in that common excitement of being at the event itself and all the social activities that go along with that experience. You get to meet old colleagues and attendees from previous and other events. You also get to finally meet and put a face to an email address that has been your only connection with colleagues and peers sometimes for many years.
So how does community compete in a virtual event world? I would suggest that community does very well in indeed, and in many cases adds to and exceeds the experience of the physical event.
Prior to the event, community is instrumental in creating buzz around the event, witness the number of “Are you going?”, “I’m getting ready”, “On my way” tweets and community posts on community sites and in discussion forums before the event.
During the event, it’s much easier now to find colleagues like yourself online through effective profiles provided at sign-in that help you discover fellow professionals, just like yourself. You know how difficult it is to make contact with similarly-minded people at conferences, hall-by-hall, session-by-session, table-by-table. With online matching and searching tools, that experience is transformed. During sessions, you can tweet with your colleagues about the presentation adding you own unique commentary and experiences to the topic making it a far more valuable experience that simply being a passive recipient of what it being presented. (Finally, there is a reason to tweet!) And after the session, that collation of commentaries adds still further to the value of the event whether you’re there physically, there virtually, or accessing that body of work long after the hoopla has died down.
Finally of course, the availability of all the sessions online, the conversations between old and new friends, the interaction on the discussion boards on topics raised, ensures that community continues the experience and value of the event long after the event has closed.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that community is not only a critical driver and an integral part of virtual events, community is a 24/7/365 virtual event. What say you?
And if you want to check out the latest in virtual from Autodesk, sign up for the Seize the Opportunity Autodesk Virtual Event on April 19.
Right on your desktop, attend sessions on the lastest Autodesk 2011 products such as:
- See the Difference: Lynn Allen's AutoCAD 2011 Tips & Techniques
- Go Beyond 3D to Digital Prototyping with Autodesk Inventor 2011
- Getting to Building Information Modeling (BIM)
- On the Road to Success: Autodesk Solutions for Roads and Highways
- Take Control with AutoCAD LT 2011 Software