Beyond Credits

Law, Learning, Life, and Other Things I Love

The Future of Conferences (and CLE) Probably Isn’t in “Virtual Events”

I have a confession to make. I don’t like “virtual events.”

I don’t know quite why I call it a confession. I just have a feeling I’m supposed to like them. People I meet who know that I have blogged about conferences, and often about how technology is reshaping them, are always surprised–perhaps even suspicious–to learn that I don’t care for their “virtual” counterpart.

First, let me say what I don’t mean by “virtual event.” I don’t mean the grassroots virtual event that sprouts thanks to engaged attendees. That type of virtual event is something to aspire to.

Nor do I include online education, like webcasting, etc., and its integration with various online social tools to improve engagement. That’s all great, too.

When I say “virtual event,” I’m talking about this:

virtual

You might recognize this as one of the booths at the Virtual LegalTech Show on November 19.

I’m not picking on LegalTech. In fact, I think LegalTech has been an industry leader when integrating the use of online tools with its legal events. Its New York conference last year was one of the first legal conferences to really take off on Twitter and it seems to always be working on new ways to engage its tech-savvy attorney market.

What I’m picking on is the “virtual” platform and its effort to simply recreate the live event in an online format. LegalTech didn’t come up with this, of course. It’s simply another online tool they’re trying out. A variety of companies offer the virtual platform, and I’ve had my eye on some of them for the last year or so, but so far I’m not buying it.

See those people milling about in the picture? I think they’re supposed to make me feel connected. Instead, they make me feel like I’m playing the Sims, only the Sims is more interactive. How about the chat box you can see on the right? When I “went to the booth,” I received some type of welcome message in a long list of other welcome messages (with occasional responses) that went something like: ‘Hi, Alli. Thanks for stopping by. Let me know if you have any questions.” This exchange might take place in real life, but here it feels like I’m back in an AOL chatroom, circa 1995. And why do I need to hear loud background noise–mimicking the sound you might hear when you walk into a bustling auditorium–to let me know when I’m in the exhibit hall? It doesn’t make me forget that I’m actually just staring at my computer.

Maybe I simply lack imagination, but I think we can educate, engage and [in the case of sponsors] market online without needing to simulate the real-life experience with features that only remind us of the limitations of online events. In many ways, the online experience isn’t inferior and when we let its form develop and stand on its own, we might even see that some things are better online.

What do you think?

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8 Comments

  1. Hi Alli, How are you? I was wondering if you had stopped blogging and it’s great to know you’ve just moved. Congratulations!

    I appreciate your honest feedback as it’s the best way for our industry to improve upon the initial phase of virtual events. I think in 2010, we’ll begin to see innovations that take the current metaphor of an auditorium, networking lounge, and exhibit to the next level.

    For example, Cisco’s recent global sales meeting provides a glimpse into the possibilities for virtual events – ZD Net’s article titled “Virtual Conferences bring big savings, demand innovation and creativity” at http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=28136&tag=content;col1.

    I would love to reconnect if you would like to see what we’re doing here. Talk to you soon,
    Cece
    Disclosure: InXpo powered the Virtual LegalTech virtual event.

  2. Hi Alli, How are you? I was wondering if you had stopped blogging and it’s great to know you’ve just moved. Congratulations!

    I appreciate your honest feedback as it’s the best way for our industry to improve upon the initial phase of virtual events. I think in 2010, we’ll begin to see innovations that take the current metaphor of an auditorium, networking lounge, and exhibit to the next level.

    For example, Cisco’s recent global sales meeting provides a glimpse into the possibilities for virtual events – ZD Net’s article titled “Virtual Conferences bring big savings, demand innovation and creativity” at http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=28136&tag=content;col1.

    I would love to reconnect if you would like to see what we’re doing here. Talk to you soon,
    Cece
    Disclosure: InXpo powered the Virtual LegalTech virtual event.

  3. Hi, Cece… good to hear from you!

    I know virtual events are still young and I expect they’ll go through many iterations. I’m still interested to see what’s next.

  4. Hi, Cece… good to hear from you!

    I know virtual events are still young and I expect they’ll go through many iterations. I’m still interested to see what’s next.

  5. Spot on post! I attempted a virtual conference but couldn’t even get through a full hour. Simulating the live experience doesn’t resonate. Playstation, it’s not.

    More interactivity or engagement would probably go a long way in keeping me in the virtual ‘hood. I do appreciate that new and innovative mediums are emerging, and look forward to seeing them develop. More daunting, will be convincing the state CLE Boards that they’re worthy of MCLE accreditation, but we’ll try :)

    Love the new look of your blog!

  6. Spot on post! I attempted a virtual conference but couldn’t even get through a full hour. Simulating the live experience doesn’t resonate. Playstation, it’s not.

    More interactivity or engagement would probably go a long way in keeping me in the virtual ‘hood. I do appreciate that new and innovative mediums are emerging, and look forward to seeing them develop. More daunting, will be convincing the state CLE Boards that they’re worthy of MCLE accreditation, but we’ll try :)

    Love the new look of your blog!

  7. Thanks, Tim! I definitely agree on interactivity. I haven’t found the virtual platforms to offer much engagement (even outside the booths). I think building in that functionality (in an intuitive way) and bringing in relevant conversations taking place in existing online networks would make a big difference.

  8. Thanks, Tim! I definitely agree on interactivity. I haven’t found the virtual platforms to offer much engagement (even outside the booths). I think building in that functionality (in an intuitive way) and bringing in relevant conversations taking place in existing online networks would make a big difference.

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