The highlights of my year are the times when I can get up early, slog to the airport, stand in the security line, have my privacy and personal space invaded, and then sit in a cramped seat next to someone who smells bad while I’m charged six dollars for half of a sandwich and pretzels.
Why? Because at the end of that rainbow are blogging and new media’s live events like BlogWorld & New Media Expo… the times when those who work on the internet all get to stop being loners behind a computer screen for a while, get together, and share ideas.
But there’s a challenge: getting to live events can sometimes be tricky.
As much as it’s worth it — as much as the knowledge and inspiration frappe at live events can improve your way of connecting and doing business — sometimes it’s just not in the cards. Sometimes you can’t get away. Sometimes your job or business won’t let you leave. Sometimes you can’t get a babysitter or a dogsitter… and sometimes, honestly, you just can’t afford it.
So the question becomes: as November approaches and you realize you won’t be able to attend BlogWorld & New Media Expo in Los Angeles, will you be left out in the cold like that meatloaf I threw into a Michigan snowbank last year?
Nope. You can “attend” anyway. You can still “be there” — without leaving home, without taking time off, without having to hire a dogsitter, and for a super-affordable price — thanks to the revamped and newly expanded BlogWorld Virtual Ticket.
But wait a minute… virtual conferences suck!
I hear you. Really I do.
In fact, when BlogWorld Rick (that’s how I think of him, to differentiate him from my high school friend Granny-makes-great-waffles Rick) called me to pitch the idea of working together to reinvent the Virtual Ticket, my first thought was that virtual conferences suck.
(My second thought, incidentally, was that I wanted some waffles.)
As we talked about it, though, I realized that virtual conferences don’t have to suck. They usually just do suck. Most virtual events have the potential to suck less or even be awesome, but fall short because producers are typically far more concerned with delivering content than providing an experience.
Let’s think for a minute about why people attend conferences. And for now, let’s look at real-deal, in-person, on-the-spot conferences.
Conference content is important. More: content is vital, seeing as “obtaining new and helpful information” is ostensibly the reason anyone signs up for a conference… but content is not enough. Think about it. You can find great content about new media tactics by Googling for it. You can locate fantastic tip-filled interviews with your favorite bloggers and personalities elsewhere. If you really, truly boil it down to content and look at nothing besides the facts that will be conveyed while you watch conference sessions, you’ll usually see that those facts are not enough to justify all of the hoops we jump through to attend live events.
So why do we attend?
Well, why do you attend a concert when you can hear all the songs you want for free on the radio?
We go to conferences because not only do we want to learn a ton of new stuff; we want to learn it in an atmosphere of mutual growth and contribution. We want to see the keynotes in front of a crowd, feeding off of their attention and engagement. We want to be around people like us. To connect. To be part of a group with access that those out there in Google-Land don’t have. To feel the energy and the vibe and the excitement that comes with big events — and with the experience of “being there.”
So if you were totally jazzed to see your favorite band in concert but realized you couldn’t swing it, I totally understand why you wouldn’t be floored if I recorded the performance and offered to sell you the tape.
As I talked with Rick and BlogWorld Dave — and as we enlisted ringleader extraordinaire Jess “Renewabelle” Commins to keep the rest of us from daydreaming and eating nachos all day — we all began the Virtual Ticket’s redesign by asking two questions.
QUESTION #1: How can we most effectively convey the content of BlogWorld Expo in the Virtual Ticket?
This one was easy, because conveying content is what virtual events do well.
There are over 100 speakers at what I think of as “BlogWorld Live” (Rick and Dave both rejected my proposal to rename the live event “BlogWorld on Ice”), and we’ll record each and every one of them. Shortly after the live conference has finished, we’ll stock the online virtual environment with these recorded sessions. Speed matters, so we’ll get them up there fast… and in no time at all, you’ll have access to over a hundred hours of some of the best, most cutting-edge material out there. That’s enough stuff — across all of BlogWorld’s diverse content tracks like monetization, content creation, and so on — to dwarf any “info product” out there. Slam dunk.
And truthfully, the Virtual Ticket has a real advantage where Question #1 is concerned. A virtual event can actually deliver the “content” part of the puzzle more effectively than the live event because when you attend live, the sheer number of presentations means that you can’t attend every one. Because multiple conference sessions are happening at once, you can’t attend all of them without rupturing the space-time continuum. But virtual delivery means that you can see all of them… multiple times if you wish.
(By the way, this is one reason that live attendees really should think about adding the virtual ticket to their registration even though they’ll be there in person. You’ll end up learning a ton more, and it’ll be at your fingertips to replay and rewind if you can’t take notes fast enough. You’ll also get a pretty steep discount over virtual-only registrants.)
So that’s content, and we felt good about that from the get-go. But to address the “most virtual events suck” issue, we also needed to ask a second question:
QUESTION #2: How can we convey as much of the experience of BlogWorld Expo as possible?
Ah, the million dollar question.
To address this, we first asked what virtual events lacked, and we went about trying to figure out how to plug those leaks. And how we did that is what I’ll walk you through in the rest of the posts in this series, coming soon.
In the meantime, you can learn more about and register for the Virtual Ticket here. (It’s awesome. We promise.)
Johnny B. Truant is the host and M.C. of the newly-redesigned BlogWorld Virtual Ticket. You can connect with him on Twitter as @JohnnyBTruant.