What Is A Virtual Environment?
Yesterday I was at lunch with my dad. Being a great dad like he is, he was asking me about my work and what I was most excited about these days. I started telling him about Virtual Environments. My eyes got big, my speech started to quicken, and after 20 minutes of non-stop talking and animated hand gestures my dad just looked at me blankly and said, “That all sounds great, but what is a virtual environment exactly?”
When stopped for a moment to think about that reaction I shouldn’t have been surprised. The first time I saw a virtual environment I thought to myself “What is this? And who would ever pay for this? And who would ever attend one of these?”
A virtual environment is accessed via your computer – whether it be at home or in the office – via the internet. A participant usually receives an invitation of some kind that directs them to a log-in page. Some typical uses of a virtual environment might be:
Product Launch / Announcement / Training Center
Virtual Trade Show
Internal or External Training Center with Training Catalog
Recruiting Center for HR
Upon logging in, your screen will change and you’ll be looking at a very detailed, realistic animation of a large corporate campus, an exhibition hall, the lobby of your dream office head quarters — whatever the host can imagine. One of the biggest benefits of the virtual environment is that there are virtually (yes, pun intended) no limitations on the customization of the experience. If you can dream it, it can be done.
My first reaction was “Is this version 2.0 of Second Life?”
Hardly. While Second Life was an intriguing and often times weird “world” focused on avatars and escapism, Virtual Environments are robust and extremely powerful business tools. The virtual representation of another space is where the similarities end. Second Life was a playground, something that wasn’t built to be monetized. Virtual Events are focused on nothing but business — whether it be training, HR recruiting, or product launches.
When entering a virtual event the first thing you’ll realize is that looks like a business space. Often you’ll be greeted by a video image (real video, not an avatar) of a CEO walking across the screen with a welcome kick-off message.
From here you can click on different kiosks that organize live and on-demand content. For example, a global camera manufacturer may have 20 pavilions, each representing a product. Once inside the pavillion users can select to view video and print content related to each product, or camera in this example. A participant may want to attend a seminar on advanced photography techniques or watch a seminar by a world renowned photographer. The camera manufacturer may even offer certification courses to their distributors and dealers that require minimum scores before a distributor can become “certified”.
Content can be a live presentation or video. Many times the Virtual Environment leverages a sister technology – webcasting to create and deliver this type of content. Webcasting is a great fit because it scales almost infinitely and can handle video, web demos, webinar type presentations, quizzing, polling, and much more. The other benefit of using this technology is that the live event only has to be presented once and then it can be archived and reused over and over again creating real value out of the time and money spent to create the content.
Webcasting integrates seamlessly into the virtual environment and is a familiar form to the participants. There are no downloads or proprietary software required eliminating all barriers to entry.
What really stands out in virtual environments is the 24/7 on-demand aspect. Many virtual environments are initially developed around a live event. Think of your traditional trade show for example. A company or industry may decided to save 80% of the cost of a physical trade show and host an online trade show. They will schedule it just as they would a normal show, running for 3 or 4 days. During that time, the virtual trade show may have interactive booths, celebrities presenting on an applicable topic, promotions for services, a networking pavillion to meet other attendees, and so on. Unlike a physical trade show — when it’s over, it’s OVER — a virtual trade show can easily be set to run in perpetuity. All content can be archived and you can continue to attract target prospects and customers from all over the world at any time of day! There’s not a physical trade show in the world that can do that.
Now here’s where Virtual Environments really shine — it’s all in the data. When you’re at a physical trade show you’re either in a booth trying to accost prospects to visit or you’re trying to dodge aggressive sales reps in booths — depending on what side you’re on. Truth is, neither side likes the process. With a virtual trade show you’re able to deliver the content and messaging you want your prospects to see. As a prospect you’re able to attend the show when you can and visit those areas that interest you — without pressure. So when a prospect visits an area you know they’re interested!
The way the content is distributed is engaging and of value to your prospect. They want to view and understand your content around your product but they want to be in control of when and how they interact with your brand.
Also think about how we capture leads at trade shows. We bring all sorts of junk and chotchkies and try to lure attendees to our booth so we can scan their bade or get a business card. We get all excited about the stacks of cards and go back home and tell our boss about all the awesome leads. Then we call the prospects and they have no interest in what we’re selling. They just wanted free stuff. We also have no idea what other booths they visited, for how long, what else they are interested in. We know nothing.
Now look at the Virtual Environment. To make a long story short, we know EVERYTHING. We know who logged in, when, where they went, for how long, how they scored in a quiz, how they answered a poll. We can take all their activities and create a dynamic lead score or build out a buyer persona that’s REAL. So by the time we follow up with this prospect we know what they know about us. We’ve qualified them as someone ready to buy in our sales process. We have fun prospecting and sales calls and ultimately we close more deals than physical trade shows.
Virtual Environments are:
Instant access to a global audience—expand reach, extend brand
Cost-effective—save money and time; increase ROI
Targeted—capture, segment and define audience
“Always on”—24/7/365 environment
In addition to online lead generation, these virtual environments are great at partner training and collateral portals and HR recruiting events or online job fairs. But that’s for another post.
To learn more about virtual environments and online meeting tools or take take advantage of our free trial offer, contact us today. At Lighthouse Conferencing we provide the best in conferencing solutions to make your job easier.
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