InformationWeek Scores Big in 2009 With Virtual Events
TechWeb brand announces expanded schedule for 2010.
Since 2008, TechWeb’s InformationWeek has been steadily building a roster of virtual events, which in 2009 reached record-breaking heights. The brand presented 18 virtual events last year with over 2,000 registrants attending each event, surpassing its attendance goals by 140 percent. A commitment to providing relevant content and a customized user experience are key, according to marketing VP Scott Vaughan.
“In the 1990’s, when print publications went onto the Web, they basically took their magazines and pasted the same content onto their sites,” he told FOLIO:. “That’s pretty much what happened with virtual events in the early 2000s. They took live events and posted them on the Web. But since then, technology has advanced, and in 2008, we decided to approach virtual events in a committed way. Each one had to meet certain standards.”
Those standards, he said, included providing high-valued content that could be presented in an online virtual environment. In other words, attendees would be able to not only listen to experts in their respective fields, but also have the ability to download information, contact and compare vendors, and connect with each other.
Secondly, that content had to be delivered to the right audience. “That’s more than just understanding standard demographics,” he said. “If we know a group of readers, for example, are attending Webcasts and downloading whitepapers on security, we can target that audience and overlay the experience. It’s all about behavior and preference.”
The third component—customizing the user experience—was missing from the first wave of virtual events, according to Vaughan. “The ability to learn, interact and absorb information can be affected by the event’s environment,” he said. “So we customized the environment depending on the topic of the event. For our global CIO event, for example, we tweaked the auditorium to have the look and feel of the United Nations.”
The functionality—TechWeb uses numerous vendors for its events, including On24 and InXpo—as well as the structure of the content, however, isn’t radically altered. Some events have a half-day format vs. a full-day format, but for the most part, all have a keynote presentation and two or more smaller sessions. “Where things are located stays pretty consistent, but the flow of the event may change,” he said. “Topics do sometimes shift the content flow.”
In addition to high attendance numbers, on average, attendees of InformationWeek’s virtual events in 2009 spent 2 hours and 13 minutes per event and over 900 content clicks and 205 downloads per booth per event were recorded. In terms of revenue and profitability, Vaughn said that compared to 2008, the brand’s average revenue per virtual event grew by 16 percent in 2009, and virtual events rank “right in the middle” when compared to the company’s live events and other products. “They are indeed profitable, but it all depends on the volume and the timing,” he said.
InformationWeek announced this week an expanded schedule of 24 events for 2010 with one of them being an attendee paid participation virtual event. Vaughan said attendees will experience a stronger platform and visual experience, as well as more action and dialogue. “We have better tools in place now, plus the audience is getting more comfortable with the platform, so we’re going to see the interaction within these events move to the next level in 2010.”
Managing A Successful Virtual Event
InformationWeek uses a number of best practices when creating and managing their virtual events, according to Vaughan, which cover all areas from content and logistics to marketing and sponsor preparation:
Content should remain brand-centric. Content should never revolve just around your sponsors’ requests, according to Vaughan, but around the brand itself and what’s relevant to its readers.
The visual experience should be dilated into the topic. For example, when the company was doing a virtual event for executives, Vaughan said, they used a resort type setting for the virtual environment.
Form a team that is dedicated to running virtual events. You can’t go halfway, according to Vaughan. “Don’t just hand the job off to the person in charge of Webcast,” he said. “Have experts on the team that can really take advantage of the capabilities and nuances of the technology, and make sure the technology is evolving with what you’re doing.”
Collect feedback. Use each virtual event as an opportunity to ask what other topics attendees would be interested in. What’s missing? What can be improved? “It sounds obvious, but it’s how we’ve been building our schedule for the last 18 months,” Vaughan said.
Train your sponsors. Many sponsors have never done virtual events before, so the more training you can do in advance, the better. “You want to get them involved so that their environment, materials and collateral are baked into the event,” Vaughan said. “They, in turn, get the right amount of ROI.”
Use social media as a marketing tool. “You want to use editorial and communications channels to let people know about the topics and speakers that you’re lining up,” Vaughan said. “That way there’s going to be a conversation going on about your event.