Virtual Events Should Focus on Content, not Furniture

meetings and conventions techbeat column

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In the “Tech Beat” column at Meetings & Conventions, Michael Shapiro wrote a piece titled “The Sociological Evolution of Meeting Online.” In the article, Michael asked, “Are we past the point where we need to think of our virtual interactions in physical world terms?” For me, the clear answer is “for sure.”

Mirroring Physical Events: A Temporary Measure

Back in 2005-2006, what did it mean to attend a virtual event? Not many people knew, which meant that out of necessity, virtual event platforms mirrored the physical event experience(within the web browser). Doing so made it easier for end users to say, “Oh, I get it, I’m attending an event and can navigate this web-based environment just like I do a physical event.”

Fast forward to 2011. Awareness and understanding of virtual events are much less of a concern. Ask business professionals if they’ve attended a virtual event and the majority will answer “yes.” Since users “get it,” we can now move beyond the auditorium, the lobby, the lounge and the booth. They’re still there, of course, but we like to think of them first and foremost as digital spaces.

Digital Interactions Have Always Been Digital

If you think about digital interactions, they’ve always taken place in the absence of physical world terms. Starting with email, bulletin board systems (BBS), Compuserve, AOL and Usenet, “pre-web era” digital interactions lacked a direct analogy to physical world objects.

In today’s era of Web 2.0, our digital interactions on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and other social networks are similarly devoid of physical world analogies. Virtual events have been the lone exception – and as I said, the physical world tie-in was a temporary measure.

Give Me Content, Not Furniture

At a physical trade show, furniture is a requirement for my booth. At a digital trade show, furniture gets in the way. In fact, in our INXPO VX Platform, we’ve moved away from the term “booth” – we call them “sponsor spaces.” We’ve also removed much of the furniture, to make more room foryour content.

Similarly, in a digital event’s auditorium, we don’t need to allocate one third of the real estate to images of a seated audience. Instead, that valuable real estate can be used to list and feature the event’s sessions. These days, it’s all about content, brands and engagement and not about furniture.


I admit, I got a kick out of navigating physical event structures in digital events back in the early days. But that was then and this is now. These days, give me content, brands, engagement and networking. When I need furniture, I’ll head to IKEA.

Related Resources
  1. Blog Post: How Virtual Event Platforms Can Allow Content and Brands to Take Center Stage
  2. Web Page: The INXPO VX Platform
  3. Details on our VX Certification Program. Think of it as a drivers license – and once you get your license, we give you the “keys” to drive your own events.


Post contributed by Dennis Shiao