Webinars: Worthwhile or Worthless?
March 18, 2009, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

Webinars connecting professionals across the world. Image courtesy of Google. In the spirit of staying “green,” I thought I’d transition my next post to explore the effectiveness of planning virtual events.  The virtual trend continues to gain popularity and value among business professionals. Although Webinars may not be the most exhilarating type of event to plan, there’s something to be said about traditional conferences moving toward more innovative and unique forms of communication. As social media becomes more prevalent in the professional atmosphere, virtual events have the potential to eliminate real-life events altogether.

Okay, so that last statement might be a little extreme, but as far as the business-to-business audience is concerned, virtual events seem to be a cost-effective solution to the industry’s economic dilemma. 

While these types of events have some obvious drawbacks, how can you help but think watching Webinars from a computer screen isn’t a convenient alternative to the hassle of traveling to traditional business conferences?

 Second Life Saver

Virtual event technology has the ability to extend the reach and impact of events through multi-faceted, user-friendly and highly interactive programs. There are countless Web sites that serve as platforms for virtual event planning.

According to a recent post on the EventManagerBlog,

“Technologies have advanced to the point where virtual events look and feel remarkably like their physical counterparts.”

Second Life has proven to be a success in the virtual event industry, increasing membership by 30 percent since September 2008, according to CBN News. The virtual world established a 3D teleconferencing platform for enterprise customers by creating immersive workspaces. These sites are set aside for corporate meetings, providing a secure experience for professionals with no connection to the Second Life mainland. 

Second Life virtual conference event. Image Courtesy of Google.

The recession has actually helped Second Life, as more companies are looking to lower costs from meeting budgets. In the case of IBM, corporate event planners have been working with Second Life for more than two years to perfect the creative strategy of hosting successful virtual conferences. In just one event, IBM saved $350,000 by hosting a conference online and eliminating travel and productivity costs. 

Networking Over the Net

Professionals can engage with one another through social networking sites during Web conferences. Image courtesy of Google.Although streaming technologies provide cost-effective ways for organizations to deliver messages to thousands of professionals across the world, some worry eliminating physical meetings will decrease interaction between professionals. However, in addition to reducing costs and creating a more convenient means of corporate communication, virtual events allow professionals to engage with one another without the intimidation of speaking up in a conference room. Therefore, attendees could have the opportunity to feel more comfortable providing candid feedback and opinions on the subject matter. During Webinars, professionals also have the capability to tweet, blog and engage with one another via online communication forums. 

Plan Like a Virtual Pro

Although some professionals may still prefer attending traditional conferences rather than Webinars, the industry is only going to continue moving in the direction of virtual events and Web-based communication strategies.  So as public relations professionals, we might as well start making the transition now.

Tips for Planning a Virtual Event:

  • Prepare the meeting’s content information, keynote speakers, and thoroughly understand the Web- based technology.
  • Build an audience by promoting the virtual event to professionals who might benefit from the presentation.
  • Make sure the audience will have the ability to register, understand and gain access to the company’s virtual event platform.
  • Evaluate the event and analyze feedback from attendees to determine if virtual events are an effective way to communicate with a specific audience. 

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4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Thank for the mention Amanda.

We actually think that Virtual Tradeshows are even better than real ones. We think that the culture of shouting and flashy special effects to attract attention is much more rationalized on virtual platforms.

Gosh you have a great blog.

Julius
editor EMBLog

Comment by Julius

Fascinating. I read the IBM case and went to the secondlife site to see the cnbc video. I know I would appreciate not having to do all the travel, which gets exhausting as we get older and keeps us away from our families! The cost savings can’t be ignored (but is there a lot of taining for participants?) Virtual Trade shows might have saved my feet from permanent damage! On the other hand, no one will knock on your door for a quick question if you are physically off site. And What about building relationships and establishing trust? How does an avatar do THAT? You can’t look into a person’s eyes or use the myriad other nonverbal cues to formulate an instictual impression. Are words alone enough to establish trust and build relationships? I think it may be so!!!

I agree with Julius. Your blog is fabulous.
MJ

Comment by MJ

Very well thought out post, Amanda. However, there is something to be said about the nonverbal communication cues these virtual worlds lack. Hand gestures, facial expressions and eye contact help engage audiences, and provide valuable insight to a speaker’s thoughts and feelings. Plus, it’s always good to know the people on the other end of the Webinar aren’t being distracted by a heated game of Solitaire.

Comment by Bill




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