Beau Ballin, director of marketing at MotivAction, spent some time with Virtual Edge discussing his firm’s launch of the Virtual Event Center. The Center, Ballin said, provides immediate benefit to MotivAction’s clients in delivering a blueprint for effective virtual event design and a platform to launch meetings, conferences, trade shows and learning events.
MotivAction’s Virtual Events Manager Anthony Warren noted “we’re creating, designing, and managing incredible events for our clients. These virtual events build community, help them extend reach beyond the confines of a live event, and provide valuable measurement during the entire event lifecycle.”
Ballin gave MotivAction’s entire staff a presentation on the Center this summer to give them a better understanding of what the company does with traditional competencies, and what the addition of virtual events means for clients. First he talked about the technology piece of the business and how MotivAction partners with Unisfair and ON24 for different pieces of the solution.
When it comes to MotivAction’s approach, Ballin said there’s a point of differentiation from his firm’s expertise, which traditionally had been in executing live meetings. “We’re taking the same process and methodology that we use to execute a live meeting and moving that into the virtual space,” he said. “With the entrance of Unisfair, ON24, and InXpo, etc. there are obviously several technology partners around but our goal is to match the right technology partner with the right client and the right solution.”
How do they do this? Ballin understands that Unisfair and ON24 are close partners but won’t hesitate to work with clients who have a preference for InXpo, 6Connex, CGS or others. The bottom line, he says, is doing an outstanding job managing the virtual meeting and the creative and content as well as marketing, acquisition and registration.
“We work with clients to create different environments and lay-outs. You’ve got to brand it and create your own space,” Ballin says. “This landing page or microsite is the gateway into your environment. Make yours unique. Create something you don’t see in other events. For example, instead of just having a center bar that’s just a static graphic, perhaps you might overlay a flash video to welcome attendees.”
He suggests trying to breakthrough right away with the registration page. “The registration page can be a barrier so we try to make it a more user friendly place where people get launched into the event as opposed to saying to themselves ‘Oh geez! I have to fill out all this stuff to get inside?’ Get a play button in there so they can be engaged with content right away, it’s familiar and helps take some ambiguity out of this for a new attendee. You can always go back and ask for more registration information later.“
MotivAction helps, from concept to creation. The firm’s in-house design team does all the creative work and continually adds new ideas and nuances boosting value. One example is incorporating a virtual host. Doing this works wonders, Ballin says. The idea with a virtual host is she engages attendees immediately and explains what they are looking at and what is available throughout the experience.
“We can even have her point to the podium and a map which is intuitive to navigate,” Ballin added. “What are the paramount things about virtual advances? Making sure attendees know how to move around. If they don’t know how to get to it, it’s kind of moot, what your content looks like.”
Next up, Ballin demoed the conference hall, where all the presentations are held. He suggests incorporating streaming video during a live event, or a simulive where you record and then playing it on demand, with your presenter logged in and taking questions. Set up an ask-a-question button and other features. “We have all these features built in already for clients,” Ballin says. “The availability to the attendee to ask a question after the presentation, and having the moderator push questions to the presenter to answer them over the live conference bridge, this all works right out of the box.”
Or course the devil is in the details. With an on demand PowerPoint slide on the right, and the ability to hop around and take a different slide, as well as slides that will change and snap to the appropriate point in the timeline in the presentation, these details offer a kind functionality that enhances your content and truly helps content live on. “People spend so much time developing content. You’ve got to give attendees the option of going back to a presentation to look at sessions again. There’s a value in that,” Ballin said.
When it comes to the exhibit hall, replicating a trade show floor with different exhibit booths, MotivAction offers different capabilities. Entering a booth you’ll find customized features that complement a company’s brand and logo
“In each booth we have the actual person behind the booth,” Ballin noted. “Adding that layer of customization you get a nice little flash piece running in a booths main image. All the assets are stored in an information desk. One of the nice things about the Virtual Event Center is that when you click to a link, it’s going to open a video within the environment. It’s not popping up another window where the attendee gets confused.”
In a booth you find the words, “Rep online”, and there’s a green light that says a rep is actively staffing and attendees have the capability to engage and send instant messages back and forth. “You can open up a chat dialogue with the rep and there’s a booth chat which lets you chat with all the reps and attendees in the booth,” Ballin explained. “You can click on online attendees and see who is currently in the environment. And we can link out, and integrate with a Facebook page and a Twitter account. We push out to Facebook and Twitter to advertise our environment and we also have our company profile on LinkedIn.”
The Center also has networking lounge. Ballin said he recommends a text-based networking lounge and chat all in one window. “All the different chats are able to be translated into 16 plus languages. They’ve got support for double byte characters for Chinese and other languages that require double byte keyboard. There’s also a feature in the Center where you’re able to set up forums to attract people to chat for specific topics.”
One of the biggest features of MotivAction’s environment is the reporting capability. You can run a report on everything an attendee clicked on and see what they looked at, what they downloaded, how long they were in a booth. All of the information on the registration page is captured. You can use it for training by asking questions like: How engaged were they? What are their text chats about? How did those correlate with the amount of time they spent in different areas? And much more.
“This technology, this platform, is a conduit for our core competency which is meeting and event planning, building the program and schedule,” Ballin said. “It’s important to us and important to our clients that we have the right technology but at the end of the day, that’s just the conduit for what we do.Much more interactive than just a website, these new virtual environments are shaping the way businesses move forward in driving engagement and building relationships.”
“There is definitely a very strong interest in virtual environments. Clients want to know what it is, how it works and how it can add value. The technology has proven to be mechanically sound so I don’t think that’s where the question is,” Ballin said. “A lot of clients are trying to figure out how to best utilize this within their organizational culture, and how to drive the change of mind that this is a powerful tool that can deliver significant value. The interest level is extremely high, the adoption level has been a bit slower, but it’s warming up in comparison to the interest. Simply, there are a lot of pilot projects out there that are going to be turning into full engagements.”
Ballin mentioned hybrid events too. “Hybrid events are very popular. The hybrid events are taking off as fast as the industry will uphold. They are our sweet spot at MotivAction, the hybrid event.” More turnkey solutions are coming but virtual event specialists and agencies like MotivAction are still needed to help companies figure out what they can do and how they can do it. And of course the cost of all this eventually comes up.
“With increased competition the price of a virtual event is coming down from the technology side,” Ballin said. “People think that once they decide to do a virtual event and if they decide on the platform and someone tells them it’s going to be X thousand dollars; they think that’s it. That’s good. I’m done. Okay. The reality is that they’re not done. There’s a tremendous amount of services and data capture, streaming and production that still has to happen and what is happening out there is that the price of the technology is coming down. The price pressure for the basic virtual environment or facility is going to come down and that’s a good thing for general partners because there will be some money available for services, which is what they really need help with.”
In conclusion, Ballin’s simple advice is this: don’t turn your back on this or scale down. “Continue to be out there driving it because when this thing does take off, the damn is going to break and there’s going to be a tremendous amount of business out there. We’re working with companies that are in the process of putting their strategies together and when those strategies get executed upon, there’s going to be a ton of work. We have a complete learning competency within our organization and we do quite a bit of training and we’ll be ready.”