Cisco Blogs

Virtual Events: Reality or Hype?

March 31, 2009 - 15 Comments

There has been a lot of buzz about virtual tradeshows and events lately. With a lot of folks speculating on whether they are ‘here to stay’ or ‘only result of the current economic state’. Check out these five reasons on why I am on the ‘here to stay’ side of this fence.


1) Virtual events will only get more immersive as we move forward and better tools for collaboration and immersion will create different ways of training and interacting. Which means attendees will stay longer at your event and engage more with each other, sponsor participants and your virtual event staff. For example, Cisco is hosting our monthly Cisco Live in Second Life TechChat on Cisco EnergyWise on April 14 but this time there is an immersive twist. In addition to the discussion based event format we always have at our TechChats this time the speakers will also include a virtual conceptualization of a day in an office using green technologies. After the event you can interact with the demo yourself so if you do not have a Second Life account yet you should register now and download the client so you can interact directly.2) We are all responsible for this planet and we need to consider this when making event choices. This does not mean all physical events should be scrapped but when planning an event one should look at whether a virtual extension or virtual only option makes sense or is viable as there are many ways there are many ways these approaches can help green the globe. For example reduced or no hotel stay needed for virtual event extensions or virtual only events which means less water down the pipe…or reducing the carbon impression associated with shipping booth materials and staffers around the globe; just to name a couple. 3) Event reach can be expanded considerably if a virtual option is included. This is not only good for the globe but good for the bottom line as well. Being able to reach potential attendees based anywhere in the globe with a broadband connection and a computer makes possible reducing/eliminating the overall number of physical events being created/managed without impacting the company’s overall reach and messaging to their global audience. 4) Virtual events encompass so many different mediums that there will soon be a very viable option for all types of event experiences and audiences. With tools like webcasts, WebEx meetings, TelePresence, virtual trade shows, and virtual world immersive events at an event planners disposal reaching event audiences including CIO, consumer, B2B, vertical industries and more does not seem out of the realm of possibility.5) Extending real life into virtual life will get easier with technology. Imagine your speaker goes on stage and that automatically triggers their avatar to walk onto the virtual stage at the same time…then the lights dim and the spotlight comes up on your speaker. ‘Show time!’, with the show starting in both spaces simultaneously and without human intervention because a smart network at the theater in real life sends signals to the virtual theater to follow its lead and start the show. Your speaker steps up to the podium and utters their first words. The podium is tricked out with an infra red camera which scans the facial as well as body movements of the speaker enabling real time expressions and movements to be synched with the speakers avatar. You get the picture by now I think.So which side of the fence are you on?

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  1. The Virtual events will be the next big thing in the world. If the Go Green"" is the new mantra for the corporates the virtual events will play a major role."

  2. Great post, have added the blog to my favourites!

  3. We are on the side of using the virtual worlds to save money, increase collaboration, and use it for learning and meetings. We have also done several mixed reality"" events using live and virtual offices and it is working as well.As CPAs we are holding regular profesisonal development programs in Second Life - you can see some examples at"

  4. Cisco is certainly a consumer of virtual event technologies. Not sure about the 'will Cisco be a provider of virtual event technologies' question though.

  5. Dannette,Do you see Cisco being a great consumer of such virtual event technologies or emerging as a provider considering its excellent positioning with converging video/audio networking capabilities? Is Webex going to emerge as the next gen 'virtual events' platform or continue as the place for virtual meetings..?

  6. John I concur we are going to see a lot more integration of collab tools and live events set-ups enabling folks to communicate on and off site as you state. I don't think I would right off 3D or avatars though. Many folks really get great value add from being able to feel immersed in a richer 3D environment and being able to express personal brand of sorts. The avatar I think has its place and should at least be something event planners consider as an optional element. I also agree that this an exciting time in the events industry and love the innovative approaches being looked at to engage attendees virtually!

  7. Jarmo, Gregg and Andrew...thanks for taking the time to share your position.Andrew regarding technical...I agree virtual world events can hold a larger audience. I tend to use virtual worlds for more intimate gatherings though at this time because as Gregg stated the learning curb is steep for those environments and they facilitate an intimate discussion better than a web based virtual environment, imo. Web based virtual environments are the platforms I use to scale to mass audiences. Andrew you are 100% right that knowing who you want your audience to be and targeting your event type/messaging accordingly is key.Keep the dialogue coming...loving it!

  8. Link dive in...the water is fine! Seriously thanks for sharing your position and I think there are a lot of folks straddling the fence. What I didn't include in my post (but should have) is that I believe physical events will reduce in number but I don't see physical events as going the way of the dinosaurs, in so far as being extinct. Not sure I would want them to either as I personally get a lot of value from attending both formats.

  9. Thanks for weighing in Tom! I didn't bring up the virtual environments for meetings but am glad you did as I couldn't agree more. Virtual meetings can be effective and productive when everyone engages 100%, i.e. close IM, put down the 'smart phone' and pay attention everyone!

  10. There are two sides to this coin. First is technical – getting enough people to your Second Life event to make it worthwhile. Generally, this is limited to a few dozen but in fact you can have 1000 or more with the right preparation.More important is WHO you want attending, e.g. by occupation, purchasing authority, etc. Our foundation created First Opinions Panel in Second Life with over 13,000 members studied by 33 standard attributes, e.g. Gender, Age, Income, Education, Occupation, etc. We can quickly help you locate and invite those with the target attributes for your specific needs. A free copy of our 2008 annual Second Life member survey is available for download at

  11. From my understanding, virtual events are becoming very popular. In fact, I was even paid by a company to promote their virtual chat service on my celeb news blog. Their service was offering video feed conferencing for businesses around the world. Their slogan or hit line was something like, ""save time, save money, be comfortable."" It should be interesting to see how much this stuff actually turns into a reality."

  12. Virtual Events are not going anywhere--but they are changing. We will see more intergration of virtual event tools (webcasts, social media, video feeds, etc) into live events, allowing attendees to collaborate on and off site. Some of our clients have expressed disinterest in 3-D world solutions. I have a suspicion that the wow-factor"" of 3-D worlds is starting to simmer, and people will want their virtual experiences to focus on interactive tools and clear content delivery, not the novelty of virtual worlds and avatars. This is an exciting time to be in the event business, that's for sure!"

  13. Dear Dannette,We at Koan here in Finland are building up skills to consult the people"" side of both RL and VW meetings integrated. We want to facilitate and support teamwork in both environments. We would like learn more about Cisco's approach to integrating collab tools and virtual worlds.Our local Cisco contact is Jukka Nurmi."

  14. I predict that in 5 years 60% of business meetings and conferences will be held virtually.The only major barrier is that attendees must learn the basic protocols and etiquette. Today, people are beginning to learn that you can network, meet others, and build relationships in a virtual environment.Once this happens, the benefits of cost savings and resource conservation will make virtual meetings the preferred choice.Physical events will continue, of course, particularly in the form of incentive travel.

  15. Hi Danette, interesting article and certainly very valid points. I'm still balancing on the fence but I tend to lean more towards the virtual side for all its good points. Maybe I'll take the full plunge! I tweeted a link to your article. If you're on twitter, by all means, feel free to follow me. @linkmaven.