Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Second Chance at San Diego

Everyone loves a second chance. Here's yours (and mine, too).

On  Jan. 31, PCMA is hosting a free virtual extension of several sessions from Convening Leaders, held Jan. 8-11 in San Diego. You can link to register for the virtual extension here. And go here for information about the rebroadcast of the co-located Virtual Edge Summit.

I attended Convening Leaders, and I've already registered for next Tuesday's virtual event. I want to see some sessions  I reluctantly missed — including Dr. John Medina's Masters Series, "More Brain Rules for Meetings" — because I was attending others in the same time slot.

I'm also attending because it won't simply be a taped version of the content. There will be a social mediator on hand to keep the virtual group connected through text chats and at least two of the presenters, Sally Hogshead and Mary Byers are taking part in the live chat. It's a safe bet that we'll see more extensions like this in the future, as a way of expanding and extending the meeting experience to more people.

When Convene talked to James Goodman, managing vice president for conference and event services for the 157,000-member American Dental Association (ADA) regarding its decision to expand the virtual component of its annual meeting last fall, Goodman had this to say: "We are not trying to replace the live experience, we we are trying to enhance it."

So whether you are a repeater like me, or haven't had a chance to see any of the sessions, in person or otherwise,  I hope to see you online.

According to some sources, it was a pretty good meeting.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Closing General Session

Photo courtesy NeilsPhotography

After the Beatles broke up, George Harrison's first solo album was titled, appropriately enough, All Things Must Pass.  True enough.  In the same vein, it's with regret that I — Convene Senior Editor Hunter R. Slaton — must now say the same: For the time being, at least, I'm calling my last general session to a close, and signing off from PCMA, Convene, and the meetings industry.

It's been a good run for me.  I joined the meetings industry four and half years ago, when I started working at a competitor magazine of Convene's.  When I started, I was given my "beats" — journalist slang for areas of coverage — one of which was an acronym I'd never heard of before: PCMA.  Little did I know that in the coming years PCMA would become an even bigger part of my life.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Global Platform Could Unite, Expand Virtual Events

Tony Lorenz, left, with industry leaders at Convening Leaders.
The Network.

That’s what Tony Lorenz, founder of bXb Online is calling a new global online channel designed to aggregate content that offers live and on-demand content, primarily from face-to-face events. Plans are to launch the network later this year, but only after gathering information from the events industry. The network, which will be on an open-source platform, will be “for the industry and by the industry,” he said.

Pulling content together onto one network will make it easier for users to find and access the best, Lorenz said. He also expects that by aggregating the content, the network will raise the profile of the events industry in the greater business world, he said.

Plans for the network were announced this morning at the San Diego Convention Center at a press conference held during Convening Leaders. Lorenz was joined by supporting organizations,
including the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA),  and Virtual Edge Institute (VEI). The International Association of Events & Exhibitions (IAEE) is also a charter supporter.

Lorenz will be gathering information from the industry in a series of face-to-face events, some tied to large industry events, as well as through an online forum. More details are available here, http://bxbonline.com/blog.
Those interested in participating can also contact bXb by email at thenetwork@bxbonline.com.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Live From Convening Leaders

Convene is representing at PCMA 2012 Convening Leaders in San Diego this week -- overseeing the PCMA Daily newspaper and maintaining a strong, florally accented presence in the PCMA Partner Lounge. Photo by Andy Chasteen.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Scholarship Funds Support Digital Certification Program

Meeting professionals eager to develop the skills required in the quickly expanding hybrid and online events arena could soon get support from an industry leader.

Michael Doyle, founder of the Virtual Edge Institute (VEI), announced today that  bXb Online has committed $100,000 in support of VEI’s Digital Event Strategist (DES) certification program, the only one of its kind. The financial support offered by bXb Online, a four-month-old marketing agency founded by Tony Lorenz and specializing in hybrid and online event strategies, will sponsor professionals who are pursuing advanced credentials in the discipline.

The DES Certification, scheduled to launch this spring, is designed to help develop the talent that organizations need to effectively engage audiences using online events, Doyle said.

“The digital events community is an important and fast-growing category within event marketing,” he said. “The scale of the industry, when compared to the available talent in the digital events category, calls for investment in the talent base. bXb Online’s commitment will help ensure growth of a robust talent pool in the industry.”

For the second year in a row, VEI's Virtual Edge Summit is being co-located with PCMA's Convening Leaders.

Education is a pillar of bXb Online, said Lorenz. “We want to do what we can to support professional education in the digital event marketing space." The DES certification program starts with best practices around strategy, a characteristic that Lorenz called "embedded in the DNA of bXb Online."

While not a condition of bXb'a commitment, Lorenz is encouraging industry colleagues to consider a match of up to 100 percent of the pledge to further expand VEI’s DES certification program as a critical component of the entire event marketing landscape.

 Look for details about the bXb Online DES scholarship program and registration for scholarship applications on January 31, 2012, at www.bxbonline.com/desscholarsship. For now, interested professionals may sign up for scholarship updates by emailing their complete contact information to desscholars@bxbonline.com.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Here We Go Again

As I picked up this morning's local paper (The Record, serving northern New Jersey), I ran across this front-page headline: "Convention trip cost taxpayers $14,000." My initial concern was that conventions are once again being targeted as junkets, but as I read the more, I learned that those interviewed for the article were not questioning the merit of the conference in question — the New Jersey State League of Municipalities conference in November in Atlantic City — as much as raising the fact that one N.J. city (and potentially 17 other towns) failed to obtain proper state approval before sending 24 employees and officials to attend it. That city and those towns are under state supervision for receiving transitional aid and are therefore subject to a number of requirements regarding expenses — conferences included.

That was a relief, but I still imagined something of a smirk on the face of the writer as he described the conference: "Municipal officials have flocked to the conference for decades to attend seminars meant to improve government practices, schmooze with other officials, and be tempted to buy a wide range of services and products that are offered on the convention floor by private vendors." Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

And in other recent government news in my neck of the woods, yesterday NY Gov. Cuomo announced plans to turn Manhattan's Javits Convention Center into a housing, hotel, and office development, while pushing for a new 3.8-million-square-foot convention center — the country's largest — at Aqueduct Raceway in Queens. Mayor Bloomberg, who supports the proposals, asked: "Could you imagine what we could do if we had a world-class, appropriate-sized convention center?"

It will take grit along with imagination to see the project through, as convention-center expansion is not without its critics. In an unrelated City Journal editorial on Dec. 31, Steven Malanga accuses cities of "squandering money on hotels and meeting facilities" by using public dollars to build convention center space for two decades — "far more than demand warranted."

I think we should all embrace a healthy debate on the topic. At the very least, it keeps our industry on the public's radar.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What's Ahead for Virtual in 2012?

Image by Solfrost
As Michael Doyle, founder of the Virtual Edge Institute, prepared for the  2012 Virtual Edge Summit next week, co-located with PCMA's 2012 Convening Leaders in San Diego, he took time to look ahead with his top seven predictions for the virtual meetings industry for 2012.

1. Movement toward a simpler “less is more” approach

The trend toward a more simplified, web page-based graphical interface for online events and meetings will continue in 2012. Platform vendors are moving in the “less is better” direction with their new versions.

2. More embedded event and meeting solutions

Events in 2012 will be open and easily accessible to attendees wherever they are located. Many event and meeting producers will want to embed their events and learning programs into their existing websites to simplify the attendee experience.

3. More convergence of event technology

The competitive edge will go to those vendors who have the ability to converge registration, website, mobile, community/networking, and virtual extensions into a single solution. Most digital event solution providers will continue to move toward open architecture and a modular approach that will allow the embedding of elements driven by physical event registration and mobile communication systems. 

4. More 365 environments

Although there will always be the need for online environments for single events, the trend will be toward building perpetual environments that are available year-round to allow for better utilization and monetization of content. Users and producers alike will seek easy-to-use solutions that include their history, sufficient storage for recorded materials, and a familiar social network.

5. More shuttering of virtual event platforms

“Currently, there are too many virtual event platforms with too few distinctions,” Doyle explains. “Mobile technology has changed the game and what was a workable platform six months ago is now on the verge of being leapfrogged. That being the case, we will likely see new entrants that come into the market based on the latest web services, mobile and cloud architecture as others continue to drop off the radar screen.”

6. More predictable pricing models and shared risk/reward

In 2012, more simplified and more predictable pricing models will emerge. Some technology providers will choose a true Software as a Service (SaaS) model with limited services, while others will focus more on the services than on the technology platform. Some of these services will be geared toward making the event producer more successful from an ROI standpoint and we’ll see compensation models that reward or share in success.

7. More facilities will bring their Internet costs down while others will go “plug ‘n play.”

Internet charges for streaming content from events and meetings will come down as the strategic value of hybrid events continues to grow. Convention centers will find it a competitive advantage to offer great connectivity packages that enable attendees and event producers to share their event experiences via low or no-cost Internet and Wi-Fi. Some centers will also seek to become leaders in the digital revolution by offering in-house streaming studios, streaming services and built-in virtual presenter solutions. Event producers will need to negotiate the digital elements of their physical events before they sign their facility rental contract to get the best deals.

In summary, Doyle notes, "the theme is ‘more, more, more’ for 2012, though not necessarily more of the same. Experimentation and ongoing adjustment to digital strategies will be with us for the foreseeable future as we strive to add value to event, meeting, marketing and learning programs with an ever-growing arsenal of digital tools."