By Elaine J. Hom
Based on the results of the latest survey conducted by ON24, Inc., a webcasting and virtual event vendor, 27 percent of executives have networked in their underwear (or at least pajamas) and 92 percent of executives hate traveling. More than 2,000 executives were polled on the advantages of virtual conferencing over traditional physical trade shows and conventions.
More executives than ever before prefer virtual shows because they can attend from their computers without wasting time and money on travel and lodging. With the recent TSA pat-down controversy and holiday-related travel delays, people are even less willing to travel. And attending an event via computer means that an executive can multi-task, rather than waste an entire workday—sometimes multiple workdays—on a single event.
Many major channel vendors hold events virtually. Cisco, for example, offers several virtual conferencing options for global partners, including its Cisco Industry Solutions Partner Network (ISPN), which launched in 2007. The ISPN is an interactive tradeshow where partners can collaborate and network 24 hours, 7 days a week. Cisco also experimented with a Second Life-type play called Cisco Virtual Campus, involving customized avatars, and has been known to release products via collaborative online video events. The online environment gives partners a bolstered confidence when asking questions during a virtual trade show webcast, too–without a face to the question, the question-asker becomes more anonymous and thus more likely to ask tough questions.
There are a number of professional reasons that executives prefer virtual shows, including:
• 66 percent appreciate the ability to reach people all over the globe anytime
• 55 percent like the ability to multi-task
• 54 percent like the ability to send or forward presentations to other colleagues
• 41 percent prefer the ability to find the right people with whom to network
• 25 percent like the ability to “tweet” or use LinkedIn
There were also several personal reasons executives cited for preferring virtual shows over traditional physical trade shows and conventions, including:
• 67 percent felt more empowered to “talk” to anyone
• 65 percent liked that they could leave presentations early without appearing rude
• 28 percent said a key benefit is not getting “roped into” awkward social encounters
• 27 percent cited the ability to attend in their pajamas or underwear
• 25 percent liked that they could avoid annoying people
These survey results also indicate that companies that previously couldn't afford to hold expensive on-site events can now offer virtual networking events. For example, IT service providers could announce a new type of product or service via an interactive virtual conference with customers and potential customers. IT service providers could also educate clients and customers via virtual events, boosting knowledge of hot technology trends and how clients might benefit. However, 68 percent of respondents prefer a virtual event featuring an industry luminary, so keep that in mind when planning a virtual event.