AV + Connectivity

What’s Ahead for Virtual in 2012?

As Michael Doyle, founder of the Virtual Edge Institute, prepared for the 2012 Virtual Edge Summit next week, co-located with PCMA's 2012 Convening Leaders in San Diego, he took time to look ahead with his top seven predictions for the virtual meetings industry for 2012.

1. Movement toward a simpler “less is more” approach

The trend toward a more simplified, web page-based graphical interface for online events and meetings will continue in 2012. Platform vendors are moving in the “less is better” direction with their new versions.
2. More embedded event and meeting solutions
Events in 2012 will be open and easily accessible to attendees wherever they are located. Many event and meeting producers will want to embed their events and learning programs into their existing websites to simplify the attendee experience.
3. More convergence of event technology
The competitive edge will go to those vendors who have the ability to converge registration, website, mobile, community/networking, and virtual extensions into a single solution. Most digital event solution providers will continue to move toward open architecture and a modular approach that will allow the embedding of elements driven by physical event registration and mobile communication systems.
4. More 365 environments
Although there will always be the need for online environments for single events, the trend will be toward building perpetual environments that are available year-round to allow for better utilization and monetization of content. Users and producers alike will seek easy-to-use solutions that include their history, sufficient storage for recorded materials, and a familiar social network.
5. More shuttering of virtual event platforms
“Currently, there are too many virtual event platforms with too few distinctions,” Doyle explains. “Mobile technology has changed the game and what was a workable platform six months ago is now on the verge of being leapfrogged. That being the case, we will likely see new entrants that come into the market based on the latest web services, mobile and cloud architecture as others continue to drop off the radar screen.”
6. More predictable pricing models and shared risk/reward
In 2012, more simplified and more predictable pricing models will emerge. Some technology providers will choose a true Software as a Service (SaaS) model with limited services, while others will focus more on the services than on the technology platform. Some of these services will be geared toward making the event producer more successful from an ROI standpoint and we’ll see compensation models that reward or share in success.
7. More facilities will bring their Internet costs down while others will go “plug ‘n play.”
Internet charges for streaming content from events and meetings will come down as the strategic value of hybrid events continues to grow. Convention centers will find it a competitive advantage to offer great connectivity packages that enable attendees and event producers to share their event experiences via low or no-cost Internet and Wi-Fi. Some centers will also seek to become leaders in the digital revolution by offering in-house streaming studios, streaming services and built-in virtual presenter solutions. Event producers will need to negotiate the digital elements of their physical events before they sign their facility rental contract to get the best deals.
In summary, Doyle notes, “the theme is ‘more, more, more’ for 2012, though not necessarily more of the same. Experimentation and ongoing adjustment to digital strategies will be with us for the foreseeable future as we strive to add value to event, meeting, marketing and learning programs with an ever-growing arsenal of digital tools.”

Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor and director of digital content.