The Future of Virtual Conferences

Lately I came across the “Future of Virtual Conferences” post from Judith Hurwitz. I can’t agree more with her. Virtual Conferences and online events still have a long way to go. From a technological and from a concept point of view.

I researched a few virtual event platforms (,,, and all consist out of 4 components:

  • Keynote – Breakout Sessions
  • Exhibition Hall
  • Resource Centre
  • Networking Lounge

This sounds as a copy of a physical event to me.  And I am not impressed. Don’t get me wrong, they can all be fancy and working well, though my opinion is that this is not the holy grail in virtual event conferences and online events. The platform is only a means to an end. But the end in this case is not an online copy of a live event. This is new wine in old barrels.

I don’t know exactly what the holy grail is (otherwise I wouldn’t be here probably). A few ideas for pure online events:

  • within 2 clicks I should be able to see a session in great quality format
  • sessions will need to be shorter, look at the huge TED success with sessions of max 18 minutes (that is doable online without distractions)
  • events should be shorter and more focussed online
  • are we thinking about one-way conversations (lectures) or two-way conversations?
  • interactivity, interactivity, interactivity
  • connection with existing social media platforms in order to allow quick exchange of profile information between “participants”
  • what if companies would use any of these platforms as a content library for anything they have on their website? Would be great!
  • new concept for sponsors and exhibitors to connect with the brand and show the partnership with the organizer (who looks at exhibitors online?)
  • “office hours” with company experts at certain times post event

In combination with a live phisical event, I am more a believer of hybrid solutions where the online component is an extension and complimentary to the live event. In sessions people can submit questions online via the virtual event component, behind the scene content, sessions on demand post event, “office hours” with experts on certain points in time post event etc.

An online event or virtual conference is not a replacement of a physical event. They can be complimentary when we talk about one conference and more importantly they are complementary in the overall (event) marketing mix of a company.


3 Responses to “The Future of Virtual Conferences”

  1. 1 Cece Salomon-Lee June 25, 2009 at 21:18

    Hi Gerd,
    You raise some interesting points, and I agree that virtual events should not try to emulate physical events. While most events include these basic locations, we are starting to see how our customers are moving beyond a direct representation of the physical event into the virtual and exploring the advantages of virtual.

    You may also find Cisco’s recent blog posting of interest. They describe the value of virtual and physical for their upcoming event:

    Cece Salomon-Lee

  2. 2 Matt Koellner July 8, 2009 at 01:00

    To tack on, when doing concurrent events, it is important the on-premise attendees interact in the virtual environment to provide a truer experience of what is taking place on-premise. Socializing and collaborating between both worlds is integral to the success of the virtualization. We witnessed this bridge in the blogs, groups and chats uniting both worlds in Cisco Live Virtual.

  1. 1 The Future of Virtual Conferences (2) « Events Business & Marketing Blog Trackback on June 25, 2009 at 20:22

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