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A virtual event is a gathering of people sharing a common virtual environment on the web, rather than meeting in a physical location. Virtual events are highly interactive, looking and feeling a lot like their physical counterparts.
Popular uses of virtual events include virtual tradeshows, virtual job fairs, virtual conferences, virtual sales meetings, and virtual company-wide gatherings. Virtual events are used to deliver presentations, trainings, departmental meetings and sessions led by stakeholders and company executives to product management and human resources.
"Virtual event" can also refer to aspects of an event that are brought to users through an online experience. This can range from live-streaming the event, to creating on-demand video content for users to view after the conclusion of the event.
The "virtual tradeshow" was first publicly described and presented as "ConventionView" by Alan Saperstein and Randy Selman of Visual Data Corporation now known as Onstream Media in April 1993 in a presentation to investors at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York city. The company was videotaping trade show exhibitors booths and then attaching the videos to HTML floor maps. Although Conventionview met with some early success the company closed it down returning to the market with a multimedia virtual tradeshow platform called MarketPlace365 in November 2010.
Virtual events started to become increasingly popular during the late-2000s recession as they offered an economically and environmentally effective way to bring thousands of attendees to an event from around the globe. In some cases, traditional physical events now offer a parallel virtual component – creating a 'hybrid event'.
Virtual environments are becoming an increasingly important part of the marketing mix. For marketers, virtual events can provide a rich source of marketing data, because the activities of each participant can be tracked and evaluated. A virtual engagement index is a variable to measure interaction quantity and quality of participants. This is a very useful tool for sales people who would then know the quality of the lead they are pursuing, however not all providers offer this feature yet.
Virtual events can offer a number of ways for participants to connect and communicate. Webcasts include live presentations or pre-recorded videos where the presenters are available for questions and answers at the end of the session – a technique called Simulive. Virtual booths, forums and designated meeting places allow participants to connect with event staff or fellow attendees using online chat, video and voice. Participants can leverage their social network within the event to form interest groups or find like-minded individuals. They can also share the findings with their online communities, often leading to viral popularity of an event.
One of the key differences between virtual worlds and virtual events is that a virtual world is available as a persistent (perpetual) environment, even after the live part of the event is over. Many organizers are moving from episodic events to a continuous virtual engagement of their customer and prospect communities, (archive of the event). This permits attendees to return to parts of the event to see a complete session again, review content or gather additional information. Typically, virtual event organizers allow attendees to store the information gathered in a virtual briefcase, which can contain marketing collateral, as well as contact information of people they met, presentations they attended and content of conversations they held.
- Clancy, Heather (09/12/2007). "Cyberspace Trade Shows Bring Action to the Desktop". New York Times. Retrieved 6 February 2013. Check date values in:
- Bruzzese, Anita (2008-07-25). "On The Job: Virtual job fairs expand search options". USA Today.
- Virtual Conferences' Home AdvantageBusinessweek – Business News, Stock Market & Financial Advice. Businessweek (2008-05-05). Retrieved on 2012-07-04.
- Cisco takes its global sales meeting virtual – Technology. Event Marketer. Retrieved on 2012-07-04.
- The (Virtual) Global OfficeBusinessweek – Business News, Stock Market & Financial Advice. Businessweek (2008-05-02). Retrieved on 2012-07-04.
- "Webcasting, Webinar, Web Conferencing & Digital Media Services :: Onstream Media Corporation". Onstreammedia.com. Retrieved 2011-01-23.
- "The Smart Virtual Tradeshow". Marketplace 365. Retrieved 2011-01-23.
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- Ralph Schroeder (2008). "Defining Virtual Worlds and Virtual Environments". Virtual Worlds Research 1 (1).
- Cyberspace Tradeshow Brings Action to the Desktop  Heather Clancy, NYT, Sept 12 2007
- Virtual Conferences Home Advantage  Rachel King, Business Week, May 5, 2008
- The Virtual Global Office  Rachel King, Business Week, May 2, 2008
- Cisco takes its global sales meeting virtual  Kenneth Briodagh, Event Marketer, November/December 2009 Issue
- Next Generation of Business Software  Brian Bergstein, USA Today (AP), May 11, 2008
- On the Job: Virtual Jobfairs expand search options  Anita Bruzzese,USA Today (AP), July 25, 2008
- Interview in your Pajamas  Tara Weiss, Forbes.com, Oct 8, 2008
- Think Forward 2010 Award  Beagle Research Group LLC, May 2010