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rising popularity of virtual worlds like Second Life
in the early 2000s, theseevents moved from static chat rooms to an interactive virtual gathering place thatallowed hosts to recreate virtual renderings of buildings and visitors to create life-like avatars that spoke and could move around events much like they could in aphysical space.At the same time, other businesses began exploring things like webinars andWeb-based conference calls as a means to expand reach and cut event costs.Today, businesses are continuing this trend, while incorporating other virtualcomponents to in-person trade shows, conferences and other events.These days, Jennifer Belissent, a senior analyst at Forrester Research says that themost successful virtual events “mimic the activities of their physical counterparts,including interacting with participants with live or recorded video, presentations,online spokespeople, signage and collateral downloads.”
It’s not just enough to call an event a virtual one. “To be a true virtualmarketing event, the meeting has to generate interest and convert that intoactual leads, and eventually sales,” she added.
Physical events versus virtual events
Physical events and virtual events share a few common traits and both aimto achieve the same goal: To present a business, organization or individual’smessage to a targeted audience. Both types of events often feature speakersand showcase presentations. Speakers and presenters are backed by experience,clout and professional credentials and attendees of both kinds of events learnimportant information while engaging and interacting with speakers, exhibitorsand professional peers.But the similarities end there. The differences between physical and virtualevents are in the cost and time savings, and the opportunity to engage withtarget audiences and industry peers in cases where a gathering in person isn’tpractical (or in some cases even possible) to pull together. What’s more, thepresentation of content in a virtual event can offer participants convenient accessto a wider range of materials : Attendees can peruse slideshows, videos, podcasts,documents, articles and more instantaneously or at their leisure. Speaking ofleisure, both presenters and attendees can access virtual events from just aboutanywhere—their office, a coffee shop, a lounge chair on the beach, virtuallyanywhere with an Internet connection.