Archive for August, 2009

Are we becoming completely virtual?

August 18, 2009

I’ve seen billboards, ads and evites for virtual conferences lately and I think the trend is really becoming more than a trend. With travel being limited, I think more and more businesses are seeing the value in staying on the ground to save plane fares and have invested in new ways to keep customers coming back to their products and services. This year, it’s virtual events! Virtual conferences, virtual kickoffs and virtual meetings.

I’ve been invited to one virtual kick-off meeting and three virtual conferences in the past two months. These are well-planned and executed events, some of which have virtual rooms where you click on various environments that simulate a conference room with banner ads and a place to actually scroll through a live presentation. I can’t say that they completely replace the face-to-face experience, but I will say that it has saved me plane fares, hectic airport security lines and the stress of getting to and from an event on time. From the comfort of a computer, yes, I can say that I have been able to communicate with others in chat rooms in a virtual conference environment and learn about best practices for a new product launch or a service. I’ve also been able to post comments on my opinions about a presentation and it’s really quite satisfying. However, I still believe that it’s hard to replace the excitement and enthusiasm of seeing a new product announcement or idea come to life in the presence of the actual presenter.

I think virtual events are a great idea, but I will be interested to see some research as to how many customers feel that they are closer to making a decision on a product or service when they attend a virtual event as to opposed to attending an in-person event. Sometimes that in-person handshake just seals the deal on how you feel about working with a company or how you feel about a new product or service. With so many people working remotely these days and the cost of travel being halted this year, virtual events do make sense. The question is, will they keep customers coming back more quickly or will it slow down the decision process?