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August 25, 2008

vBusiness Expo:Gateway to the virtual world

If you’ve been reading our articles on virtual worlds and their importance to meetings and events, and have been wondering where to start, then there’s one event you will want to attend – vBusiness Expo.

Created by Clever Zebra’s Nick Wilson, vBusiness Expo is a mix of leading industry analysts and companies actively engaged in virtual worlds. It's very much a hands-on conference with practical examples of how organisations are using this new technology and what the best practices for corporate adoption are.

“We felt that it wasn't good enough to just talk about the possibilities of virtual worlds for meetings and events, and that we should provide leadership, and actually do it. Experiencing a virtual event is 100 times more informative,” explains Wilson. “vBusiness Expo is the only enterprise virtual worlds conference held entirely virtually, and we're very proud of that.”

vBusiness Expo present real networking opportunities

Looking for help
The content of vBusiness Expo is geared toward C-level executives charged with exploring the use of virtual worlds, though in reality, Wilson says, the audience is largely made up of a wide variety of job titles. “These are the evangelists, often representing the grassroots interest in virtual worlds within companies,” continues Wilson. “They're looking for ways virtual worlds can help their companies, and for advice on how to pitch it to senior management.”

The reality is that, vBusiness Expo is attracting high-level interest across the meetings and events industry, and Brooke Bode, director of knowledge management at Meeting Professionals International (MPI) in the US, who has attended the event explains why. “As the meetings industry looks into its future, it is more apparent that organisations will need to develop a virtual strategy,” she says. “A virtual strategy will be unique to each company’s objectives but will most likely include some virtual meeting component in addition to the more static forms of online learning such as webinars.”

Bode continues, explaining MPI’s position in the wider picture: “As a leader in the industry, we are exploring the world of virtual meetings and plan to educate our members on the process and strategies behind virtual meetings. In order to fully understand this realm of online connecting and learning, we plan to work with subject matter experts and possibly develop our own suite of virtual meetings.”

Through vBusiness Expo, Bode explains she was able to gain knowledge through the session content as well as through the virtual experience itself. “I was able to see some real business applications for the virtual meeting platform – I can see how companies can achieve some of their learning objectives through this application. I was also able to see some real connection and networking opportunities as well as some additional revenue opportunities such as sponsorship, advertising and virtual tradeshow space.”

Hitting the right spot
vBusiness Expo is certainly hitting the right spot at a time when meetings and events are facing some tough issues. “Our participants clearly value the vBusiness Expo as they would a physical conference and despite limitations and the occasional technical hiccup the event is fast becoming a beacon for virtual business,” says Wilson.

Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, after polling the April vBusiness Expo attendees Wilson discovered that 86.4% felt the expo compared well to a physical conference, and that 16% thought it was even better.

And it’s growing – within the confines of the system. The event sold out in July, although platform limitations kept it at a peak capacity of around 70 people. “We aim to connect the vBusiness Expo to a regular web page in the Autumn so that even more people can experience it, and are already talking with some large events and associations about the prospects of incorporating ‘mixed reality’, into their physical events,” concludes Wilson.

But are virtual worlds a passing fad? Bode doesn’t think so. “I don’t believe this is a flash in the pan. Of course, only time will tell but when the industry is facing such issues as green meetings, globalisation and an uncertain global economy, the world of virtual meetings certainly seems to provide some potential solutions and could, if the strategy can be worked out, compliment the face-to-face meeting – although not replace it,” she concludes.

For more details visit http://vbusinessexpo.com/

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