‘Perpetual’ Virtual Environments May Unlock Long-Lasting Customer, Employee, Partner Relations & Drive ROI

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As we prepare for the next Virtual Edge Summit trade show (both in the physical and virtual world), a powerful idea that has been percolating for a while seems to be coming closer to a reality.

This virtual event and meeting space and now virtual environment sector is converging and getting very interesting. Really, there’s something new happening every day. I get calls about new technologies practically every week, I hear about new start-ups and service providers even more often. And, every day there are people joining online communities like the Virtual Edge Institute and LinkedIn to learn more.

I think you are really smart to be interested in the business applications where physical and virtual meet. What we have seen to date in virtual environments is just the beginning and though there are still many debates about the value of virtual and many who find the experiences less than engaging…just you wait. You may find that before too long, you are in the heart of a massive shift in the way businesses meet, market, train, learn, collaborate and communicate.

What I see is a corporate web site that is the tip of the iceberg, with the rest of the iceberg as a massive virtual environment where people – customers, prospects, employees, partners, media you name it, go to connect, learn, find service and support and where companies can make money all the time. Where people can get access to people, data, leads, education, training on their schedule – not our schedule. A virtual environment where businesses can support customers, keep customers happy and solve problems whenever necessary.

Draft Definition: (your input is welcome) A Perpetual Virtual Environment is continuous online location where people, resources, applications, data and events are aggregated together and connected in order to facilitate communication, learning, collaboration, marketing, purchasing, service, support AND RELATIONSHIPS.

‘Virtual events’ are going to become ‘perpetual virtual environments’ and the events ‘community’ will mostly operate in the perpetual virtual environment, but the ‘event’ will be just one of many functions that exist in the virtual environment. These environments are going to become the eye-catching immersive web presence for business, engaging all constituents looking for information, video downloads, interaction, community, etc. They will likely be the drivers of ‘community.’

And, before anyone jumps in to say, “We already do that,” I’m not talking about on demand versions of expired virtual events. I talking about an inventive and attention-grabbing mix of static and live resources available and updated all the time, in a web environment that never closes. That’s right, where people from the company are available in the environment all the time not just between 10am to 3pm on Mondays and Fridays. We live in a world where businesses have to be highly available, connected everywhere and all the time.

We also need new pricing models and a new service models to go along with the Perpetual Virtual Environment platforms. The pricing needs to be less expensive and more fixed with “all you can drink” options that allow companies to fully utilize the platforms features and capabilities without being dinged for every feature. Companies need to be able to quickly and easily set up their own custom environments for activities, manage attendees and users, upload and download assets, access meaningful analytics, and more.

So, it’s not here yet, but it is coming and I predict that in 2010 you will see enough to get as excited about virtual environments as I am. You are smart to be watching and learning as much about this as you can.

Don’t misunderstand me, virtual events are very successful for businesses for many reasons, but they are perishable (which can be ok and even a good thing in some cases). For some prospects a virtual event could be like an eye-catching ice sculpture: looks great at the party, but afterward the party planner might wonder if they missed a chance to get more bang for the buck.

Enter ‘perpetual virtual environments’ and more and more people I talk to see the value. They want something to transform their business, not only generate leads during a short window of time. They’re dream is not really a booth in a 2-day virtual event. I think many of these savvy business people are looking for a ‘virtual environment’ partner to help them transform their business.

So, as we head into Virtual Edge Summit 2010, our industry will find customer appetites crave more virtual – not less as we continue to develop the link between physical and virtual and easy to use, engaging, multi-functional virtual environments. Though the way for vendors and service providers to find out what customers want is to listen to what they say about how virtual options could transform their business; the industry will still need to lead the vision and deliver on the promise.

Don’t miss this opportunity to participate in this business critical evolution in the way we market, collaborate, train and communicate attend the Virtual Edge Summit February 22-23 and recommend the event to your peers and colleagues.