Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A People-Based Approach to Virtual Meetings

Next Monday, PCMA, UMB Studios, and the Virtual Edge Institute, will release a new research report that takes a fresh look at the role of digital technology in the meetings industry. 

Instead of the typical "virtual versus face-to-face" approach, this survey took a comparative approach, looking at how digital technologies can best be used within the framework of meeting environments. It delved into the social behavior and business motivations that fuel both in- person and online events, said Michael Doyle, founder and executive director of the Virtual Edge Institute, asking such questions as: Why do people attend in-person and online events? What business goals are being achieved? How are attendees engaging within these environments?

The bottom line: Attendees' business motivations and social behaviors are essentially the same at in-person and virtual events.

The full report, Business Motivations and Social Behaviors of In-Person and Online Events, will be available next Monday, (now available for download here) but as a special sneak peek for Convene readers, Doyle has shared five key findings and recommendations from the report:

Market content before, during, and after events: Respondents seek to access content online or via mobile devices throughout an entire event cycle. Digital channels allow meeting and event practitioners to engage with audiences before, during, and after events, connecting audiences from the physical event to the online channel and back again.

People are social creatures. More than 80 percent of respondents are "comfortable" or "extremely comfortable" connecting and networking with strangers, regardless of whether the setting was an in-person or virtual event.

People seek the same information at exhibitions, regardless of format: Both for online and in-person exhibit halls, respondents cited seeing ‘what is new’ as their number one motivation, followed by gathering relevant product and company information and gaining subject matter expertise. Respondents also noted that the motivation to network and connect is very high.

Exhibitor goals seem aligned with attendees’ needs: The main motivations cited for exhibiting at a conference include:  building brand awareness (68 percent), new business development (65 percent), educate market on products/solutions (62 percent), new lead generation (56.9 percent) and thought leadership (51 percent).

Participants are multi-taskers: Compared to their online counterparts, in-person participants are just about as likely to be checking email (81 percent in-person versus 83 percent online) or to leave a meeting/session for some reason (65 percent in-person versus 68 percent online). Online attendees are significantly more likely to take a phone call during a presentation than physical attendees (66 percent online versus 48 percent in-person). 

Doyle notes: “From our perspective, this report provides exciting insight on how we, as marketers and event professionals, can approach the use of digital technologies within our larger marketing and events strategies respectively."

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