Virtual Engagement Platforms for Events

Over the last two days I have been remotely attending the Virtual Edge Summit, a conference focused on event producers and leaders who are making sense of the virtual event space.  At VES11 mostly one-way dialogue from the stage on the how and why features dozens of virtual engagement platforms; 8 different virtual platforms are hosting the virtual expo/trade show and live streaming sessions.

Compare screenshots of various platforms and the virtual user experience as we look at this growing field, now accessible and more robust than livecasting tools like UStream or LiveStream.  While streaming bandwidth is a huge issue at large events like this some providers were able to perform far better than others.

Digitell and VirtualEvents365:

Spent little time here due to browser crashing issues.  Moved from RockMelt/Chrome to Safari for better compatibility with most of these services.  Found this UI from VirtualEvents365 to be easiest.  Digitell opened up the ProLibrariesLive window seen at the end of this blog post.  VirtualEvents365 did not have access to all slides or as many social tools as other platforms like Digitell.

Social27:

This site excels on mobile – the web shots do not do it justice.  I found the UI needed work – it was hard to find the livestream on the website but it worked very well on my iPhone.  This tool integrates your web app with your livestream beautifully if well developed for your event.


Connex6:

I could not get their links to work properly and ended up on this outdated site for a company I’ve seen before hosting Second Life events. Wish something had worked for them but never was able to load.


Unisfair & InterCall Streaming using Stream57:

Overall high quality experience with an uncluttered UI that’s easy for most first-time users.  Would love to see it take one less click to find the streaming content and less bandwidth/stream breakup issues but overall this tool is ready to use for comprehensive conferences integrated with SMS & Twitter.  Unisfair offered more of the sessions streaming than most of the other providers.

UBM Studios  & INXPO:

I liked this set of tools once working through browser/popup issues.  Reliable stream, clean interface, easy to find what I was looking for throughout the service.  These two companies are in partnership providing platform and content together. The INXPO platform seemed to be the least buggy and most easily multifunctional tool of the bunch.


Overall there was a lot of this….people talking AT you.  Looks like old sci-fi television, not great for engagement.

Many of the video windows looked like this and lacked Twitter integration or other meaningful social media dialogue.

Other platforms from Cisco, Adobe, IBM were also featured in special talks on the agenda.  Adobe Connect, IBM’s Virtual Event Center and a dozen other platforms were featured in two days of talks.

Fiona Bruder from George P. Johnson, working with IBM Virtual Event Center speakers spoke of 3 c’s: collapsing distance, connecting people, driving behavior conversion.  COHESIVE EXPERIENCE makes sense with your mission and communication strategy; one experience enables deeper engagement and drives greater conversion to clients.  Unfortunately the tech team in place at VES had a hard time working with the IBM sample video to share their virtual space designs.

IBM is working toward geoexpansion: how do you reach clients in far-reaching places?  How can we recapture dropoff and reach those who cannot travel to your event?  Richer engagement to bridge the distraction gap in virtual events, allowing them to follow their “nurture streams” in UNICA, a tool they use to track the details of every connection.  IBM looks to aggregate data to ask about formats, informational ease and provide better tools for the market.  This shot of an IBM event demo on video via the InterCall livestream platform shows how the rabbit hole starts to deepen.

The cost of hosting virtual events is attributed to three categories:  the virtual engagement platform (the real estate), event execution (manpower) and content creation.  CONTENT is king. IBM will be doing 180 events this year without subsidizing the cost of using tools like we’re seeing here in the marketplace.  With few free and low cost players in this space there is plenty of room for consistent technology giants to take on much of the heavy lifting as this industry stabilizes.  Overall at least four of these tools look poised for long term success in this field, with IBM, INXPO, Social 27 for Mobile and Intercall as some of my favorites along with tools from EON, Adobe & Cisco.

Conference Takeaways:

  • Content must be engaging!  How is it relevant to your clients?
  • Hybrid Events are Taking Off!  Big growth in this arena….most people are learning that virtual events enhance their relationships without cannibalizing their live event.
  • Movement away from standalone virtual events, toward 365 engagement centers where information is always available
  • Virtual Expos/Trade Shows offer value add to companies looking for asynchronous reach throughout the year
  • Most large companies are concerned with the aggregation & cultivation/filtering of information as the primary value resource provided by hosting a virtual event
  • Platform instabilities are common on every platform, even with professionals at the helm

Good luck out there as you produce your own virtual events!  Tell us how it goes and which tools you are using.

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6 thoughts on “Virtual Engagement Platforms for Events

  1. A good review of the platforms available at the event but you failed to mention xpos2 which I spent most of my time on at the virtual event.

    The others that got my attention were inexpo and unisfair.

    Did you forget to cover xpos2 in your review?

    1. I had trouble getting XPOS2 to work on my machine for more than a minute, tried two browsers but no luck. I got one brief screenshot only and not enough time on it to really gauge the experience.

  2. Evonne, I like your article – it is well balanced and informative. However, you are missing a big point: IBM’s Virtual Event Center is built on Unisfair’s Engagement Platform, just like the environments of 12 other customer speakers at Virtual Edge 2011. It speaks to the amazing customizability of our environments I guess.

    1. I was impressed with the professional quality of Unisfair along with the wider programming options and stability overall, it was one of the least buggy experiences of the VES. Thanks for leaving a note about IBM’s virtual event center, that was one piece we missed from the virtual event!

  3. Hi Amoration,
    Thank you for your feedback regarding the virtual experience for the virtual attendees at VES11. Our hope was to provide attendees, like yourself, a sense of what the industry offers. I do want to clarify the following:
    1) All sessions and two keynotes were streamed by CMC. Each platform that sought to provide a virtual experience was required to stream all sessions.
    2) Intercall Streaming (previously Stream57) then provided the webcast for one keynote (I believe it was the one with all the platform providers) and the Live Streaming Theater. While all platforms were also supposed to carry the Live Streaming Theater with our virtual hosts, I believe only a few incorporated this stream into the overall experience.

    We are actively reviewing the conference to make this a better experience for both our physical and virtual audiences. Your point about “talking” at the audience is a key one we seek to address for 2012. Please feel free to forward additional feedback to clee@virtualedge.org.

    Thanks again for your feedback,
    Cece Salomon-Lee
    PR/marketing consultant
    Virtual Edge Summit 2011

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