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Virtual Events - Motorola

The Challenge

Typically, a premium stand at an international technology exhibition in Geneva or Frankfurt, will cost £20,000-£30,000 for a 5 day event. Add to that staff costs, travel expenses, and the loss of productivity while away from the office, it can easily cost in excess of £100,000 to launch a product at a single exhibition. Even with such huge expenses, you cannot always guarantee that you will reach all of your target customers.

One day while working 12 hours manning an exhibition stand in Geneva, Tony started to think about whether new communication technology could help reduce the costs of attending exhibitions, and allow more people to participate in global product launches.

This was the idea that eventually became the Free Rein – Virtual Events Management System.

Roll forward several years; Tony Addison joined forces with James Smy in 2004 to form Free Rein, and shortly after, the journey toward the VEM System began.

Free Rein’s goal was to embrace the latest broadband communications and computing technology to allow delegates to get the benefits of attending a conference/exhibition, but without having to leave the comfort of their own office or home.

The Solution

Free Rein has developed a Virtual Event Management (VEM) system which allows event organisers and corporate customers to run online events using a mixture of streamed video, audio, graphical presentation, document downloads, and two way interactive chat. It allows the organisers to deliver conferences and product launches which can be accessed at anytime and from any location using a broadband connected computer.

The VEM system eliminates the need for venues, hotels, travel and lost productivity, while conveying all of the information and benefits of attending a traditional face-to-face event.

The Free Rein VEM system was the culmination of 3 years development effort.

The software tools were developed in partnership with a number customers and partners, including; BT Major Customer Services, B&Q Group, Intercontinental Hotel Group, Business Link and most recently event organiser Hart Wilcox.

Based upon the input from these partner organisations, Free Rein created a three phased development plan which ended with Virtual Event Management, comprising:

  1. Online Event Management (OEM)
  2. e-Communications Management (ECM)
  3. Virtual Event Management (VEM)

The Online Event Management (OEM) system aimed to eliminate manual processes and paper based communications from the back-office activities needed to support delegates who were attending face-to-face events - e.g. Delegate registration and sign-up, workshop session bookings, payment processing, delegate information pack, right through to post event reviews and feedback.

The ECM system came next with the goal of improving the ratio of potential delegates to actual delegates; maximising the return on investment for a face-to-face event. The ECM system uses e-mail/SMS to prompt potential delegates, and can deliver highly targeted communications before, during and after an event.

The final and most recent development phase was the VEM system. This system was developed during 2011 in partnership with Hart Wilcox and their customers. The first virtual event ran in October 2011 to 250 personally invited delegates worldwide to launch a new tablet computer. This was followed by a further event in Feb 2012 to over 2000 resellers for the launch of a new digital radio, and most recently, three simultaneous events were run for over a 1000 resellers, distributors and partners.

The additional functionality offered by the VEM system is the ability to deliver rich digital media – such as a product launch events, with presentations, video demonstrations, and product downloads, supported by two way chat with experts, all delivered within a single secure, robust and scalable environment.  Access to virtual event sessions is by invitation only, allowing the event organiser to share commercially sensitive information in the secure knowledge that only chosen people can hear and see the information.  The system uses Amazon Web Services to dynamically cache content, ensuring that the delegate gets a fast delivery regardless of the number of simultaneous users.

The three phases of development are interoperable, and it is possible to combine the features of OEM, ECM and VEM into a single integrated system.

The Results

The two most significant sales recently have been:-

1)     The sale of the OEM system to the UK Government for their national Business Link – Event Finder Service.

2)     The sale of the ECM system to a major UK based Internation Bank Group to deliver highly secure internal management news service for its senior executives.

Beyond these two recent sales, the OEM system is used by the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, BT and MacMillan Publishing.

Customer Benefits

Each system offers unique benefits. The OEM system delivers efficiency savings. It eliminates many of the back office tasks associated with running events. Typically the OEM system saves between 10-15% of the effort.

The ECM system delivers effectiveness. It allows event organisers to engage in regular communications with potential delegates; converting them into actual delegates. Typically 20% of unconfirmed delegates will respond and become confirmed delegates.

The VEM system delivers innovation. It allows global product companies such as Motorola to launch products quickly at a fraction of the cost. It allows Motorola to run simultaneous events for partners/ resellers/ end-users and the trade-press without having to be constrained by the availability of venues, hotels etc. It allows event management companies such as Hart Wilcox to offer their customers blended events; with a mix of face-to-face and virtual components.

The Future

Future phases of development will see the VEM system integrate with social media sites to extend the coverage in a number of areas;

• Start contact before the event and encourage the marketing "buzz"

• Continue after the event to support channels, develop feedback

• Enable a better integration of a live and virtual events and cross fertilise ideas from both groups

The opportunities for the VEM system are still emerging. It has proven its international viability with Motorola; delivering 7 virtual events since December 2011.

We have identified potential partners and resellers for a ‘white labelled’ version of the VEM system, and are confident that using ‘cloud based’ hosting we can accommodate 100’s of concurrent events, with 1000’s of concurrent delegates.