7 Comments

Summary:

One of our more popular articles is A Conference Survival Guide for the Web Worker – full of tips on how to pay for, pack for, and get the most out of one of the many conferences out there. But what if there was an even easier way to attend a conference: by sitting in front of your computer? That’s the proposition behind vConferenceOnline, which is putting on a big purely-online conference for SSWUG in November.

vConferenceOnline - Virtual Event Hosting - Video Conferences -  (Build 2008070206)One of our more popular articles is A Conference Survival Guide for the Web Worker – full of tips on how to pay for, pack for, and get the most out of one of the many conferences out there. But what if there was an even easier way to attend a conference: by sitting in front of your computer? That’s the proposition behind vConferenceOnline, which is putting on a big purely-online conference for SSWUG in November.

The vConference site goes to some length to contrast their offering with a traditional webcast. They’re using professional video production to actually broadcast conference sessions with full audio & video, instead of requiring phone dial-in for the audio portion. They also make conference sessions available to attendees in on-demand fashion after they’re first broadcast, so you can revisit a session to take better notes or check out a point you don’t quite remember.

These virtual conferences are patterned on “real” physical ones, though without some of the hassles like waiting in line or eating rubber chicken. When you first log in, you’re at a main menu – though they call it a conference lobby. From there, you can do things like click through to the session tracks to attend a session, visit the virtual exhibit hall, or chat with other attendees.

The virtual exhibit hall is interesting – it’s not just web collateral, as you might expect. They’ve set it up so that sponsors can have a broadcast pitch with one of their representatives “walking” on screen, as well as letting them deliver white papers and allowing chat-on-demand between attendees and vendors.

Overall, this is the best-looking virtual conference platform I’ve yet seen. Certainly, there will be some elements of attending a conference in person that you can’t replicate while sitting at your computer. For me, one of the best parts of conferences has always been serendipitous ad-hoc meetings, and a chat room isn’t quite going to get that part of the experience together. But given the savings in gas and travel time and the ability to adjust the schedule to my own liking, the advantages will outweigh the disadvantages in many cases.

Would you attend a virtual conference in your field?

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By Mike Gunderloy

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  1. I would not attend virtual conferences. Conferences are about making contacts and networking. It is difficult to do this in a web conference. Also say your supervisor pays the big bucks to get you into the web conference and you get the pleasure of attending while answering the phone and continuing normal work responsibilities since you are at your desk. Even though I hate going to conferences, I hate virtual conferences more.

  2. Virtual meetings, yes. Everyone knows each other and they could even be more productive. But virtual conferences… what about workshops or gala dinners? :)

  3. In the education world, VirtCons have been growing significantly over the last 2-3 years. The trimming of school budgets have driven this, when the options are virtcon or no conference at all, the virtcon wins. What I have personally found successful is a VirtCon/Face-to-face format. Major Keynotes provided virtually, break-outs held locally. Discovery Education held conference in February with around 5,000 attendees, at over 50 locations across the country and in attendance virtually. The second one is scheduled for October 25.

  4. I agree with the previous postings that conferences are often as much about connecting with other people informally as they are about content or presentations.

    One area a virtual conference might be able to help with the “connecting” aspect would be to help attendees connect with others with similar interests for ad-hoc discussions or private meeting rooms.

    That could actually be an advantage over a physical conference if it could be pulled off effectively.

  5. Cece Salomon-Lee Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    My company, ON24, does do webcasts and virtual events for companies. There are two key reasons that people attend conferences – networking and information.

    Keeping this in mind, we did incorporate professional networking features to search for people, engage in one-on-one chats and for discussions.

    In the end, we believe that an online conference helps to augment the in-person experience. If you missed a keynote or met someone but lost their business card, the virtual show helps you with this.

  6. Michael Montgomery Wednesday, September 17, 2008

    Never heard of vConferenceOnline.

    Sounds like they’re copying the format of the <head> conference (formerly Singularity)
    http://www.headconference.com/

  7. Serge Lescouarnec Friday, September 19, 2008

    To add to the conversation I offered my take on and online conferences in general in Get Your Heads Together, ‘Head’ Online Conference, October 24-26

    I put it in the context of my Consumed to Thrifty thread in this wobbly economy.

    Take care

    Serge
    ‘The French Guy from New Jersey’

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