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How the West was virtually won


We are delighted to welcome Greg Hackett, managing director at Informa VBC as our guest blogger today, talking about the New Frontiers of virtual events.

For anyone who has seen the shocking but excellent Deadwood, US TV’s dramatised journey into the Wild West, they may also have found themselves drawing parallels with the emerging Virtual Events market. Or maybe that’s just me, but as with any gold rush it is difficult to estimate the size of the prize, though some have tried with $15bn by the year 2015 being the most commonly distributed estimate.

 Such quoted numbers are likely to have many an opportunist packing up their wagon and heading West. Gunslingers, evangelists, entrepreneurs, law-keepers and all manner of people offering services, advice and partnerships to anyone willing to listen. Hoping to be early in – and in some cases early out following an acquisition – this community has set up shop before very much gold is unearthed.

I am not complaining –  it is a good thing and a necessary part of the process for an emerging market. I believe there is enough custom in them there hills for all, and most of the characters are ingenious and certainly watchable.

So within the dusty streets of Virtual Deadwood there are a number of battles raging, all of which are played out in the neighbourhoods of Social Media for those of us interested enough to participate. Largely, the areas of conflict centre around pegs that different businesses have decided to hang their strategy on.

The biggest strategic decision of them all is 3D – go down this alley as a platform provider and there is no coming back. I have no problem with 3D for those who want it. And why should I? Who am I to judge how people should consume content? But there are judges at large in Virtual Deadwood.

Some people in business like the idea of avatars, but for most of us who want to meet anyone for real we can catch a plane or pick up the phone, both of which the last time I looked still do the job. Our kids might want all this stuff, having graduated at Club Penguin but that’s a few years off and business also needs to deal with the here and now. But good luck to them.

What I do want is real live poker down at the saloon. In 20 years of events I have never seen a presentation which would improve with a second outing. Events should come and go, delight in the moment and remain in the memory. Otherwise they are not events at all, but simply trapped content, processed and served cold. A pre-recorded speaker will never let anything interesting slip, drop witty asides or impress you with his or her business guile.

Even though this industry is in truth quite old now, the real opportunity has only recently come into view for most. Some of the big winners may not even be in town yet. I am humbled by the work that has gone before and I respect the pioneers.  But like the vast majority I want to be a settler, which hopefully means I am less likely to be seen down a canyon pulling arrows from my back.

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