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Virtual Events or Virtual Worlds?

Large global enterprises have spoken, and they don’t want flying avatars.

By Tricia Heinrich, senior communications director, ON24

Several years ago virtual worlds such as Second Life were seen as having the potential to become viable solutions for corporate meetings and collaboration. However, the market has clearly demonstrated that when it comes time to conduct business, enterprises prefer to focus on solutions that enable the distraction-free communication of content to a larger audience. Virtual events fit the bill.

Virtual worlds are best suited for collaboration and consumer applications and are very different from virtual event platforms. Virtual event platforms are not like the typical 3-D virtual world environment. Instead, a virtual event is an interactive software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution that combines video, slides, forums, and chat rooms while offering documents and other materials for attendee downloads.

Virtual event solutions are easy to use: Unlike virtual worlds, virtual events don’t require any downloads or training for end-users. You register and log on; finding what you need is intuitive.

Virtual events are immersive: As they continue to evolve, these virtual environments are becoming even more immersive, rivaling virtual worlds in terms of visual quality and the ability to provide a compelling end-user experience.

Virtual events are engaging and convenient: Most people go to events to learn something new. Like traditional physical events, virtual events give you access to live presentations—but you don’t have to travel somewhere. In fact, the experience is often better online, as you’re right in front of the presenter and can ask questions without standing up in front of hundreds of people.

Virtual events provide valuable data and higher-quality leads: A virtual event platform allows events managers to track their attendees in great detail. Platform providers offer robust pre-event functionality—tools to help invite participants, register them, and capture data. A virtual world is about ad-hoc meetings; it does not enable robust pre- and post-event functionality.

The Result: Skyrocketing Demand

Demand for virtual event solutions increased 100 percent in 2009, and that same level of growth is projected for 2010. A recent study from IDC showed that nearly 10 percent of digital marketing investments planned by technology companies for 2010 are allocated to virtual events, as opposed to 0 percent last year.

Businesses want a reliable virtual solution that effectively presents information and reinforces corporate branding. A virtual event gives you the ability to deliver exactly the message you want to communicate in a secure environment.

Virtual events are among the most engaging and effective enterprise marketing and communication tools of our time. No other solution, including virtual worlds, comes close to matching virtual events in terms of visual impact, image enhancement, and the generation of highly qualified leads. Let’s face it: In today’s competitive global marketplace, who has time to hang out in a virtual world and fly around islands?

Tricia Heinrich is senior communications director at Webcasting and virtual events firm ON24, which provides a full range of solutions for applications such as demand generation, conferences and events, product launches, professional development, internal communications, and executive announcements. For information, visit www.on24.com.