Catching up with Dennis Shiao of INXPO: VX Platform, iPhone App and XPOCAST

In April, Michael Doyle wrote about the launch of INXPO’s VX Platform, which sought to simply the process for creating and launching virtual events. VEI checked in with Dennis Shiao, Director of Product Marketing with INXPO, to delve more into the features of the VX Platform, future developments for the company’s webcasting product XPOCAST, and mobile strategy.

With the VX Platform, what happens to events built on your previous platform?

The VX Platform, and previous technology, which we call Platform Builder, are both built on the same platform and same server instance. VX brings a new user interface (UI) and administrative backend to the same underlying platform. Any events build on Platform Builder remain unchanged.

What is happening to older events, like Cisco Live?

While we are encouraging our existing customers to transition to the VX Platform, this is not a deal breaker with clients. In the end, the underlying platform powering VX and the one that Cisco uses for custom elements is the same. The VX Platform brings a simplified user experience for building these events.

Interestingly, this past CiscoLive event had an interface that is similar to those built with the VX Platform. 2D and 3D elements were deemphasized to bring content front and center to the experience.

With VX, while the UI is simplified to focus on core elements, if a client has more customized requirements, than we will leverage Platform Builder to incorporate those elements.

What elements can be customized for the simplified interface?

Our goal was to make the make the creation of an online event as easy as a blog. For example, mommy bloggers don’t have to be trained to use WordPress. The nirvana is a WordPress-like experience where you don’t require training for virtual event development.

New York Festivals virtual event

New York Festivals built on VX Platform

Some elements include:

  • Role-Based Access: Clients are assigned roles where the client super user or administrator can assign user access to specific events.
  • Lock Down: This features locks down demos or virtual events from further edits.
  • Event Type Templates: VX Platform incorporates templates of the most commonly used virtual events, such as a virtual trade event or virtual booth.
  • Social Suite: The company’s Social Suite, announced last year, is incorporated in the backend with the ability to add Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

Will you include the ability to do one-click profile syncing with an attendee’s social media profile?

There is huge potential to link a person’s social profile during the registration process. For example, the ability to log into a virtual event via LinkedIn or Facebook, capturing the base profile data that those services provide and then requesting additional profile fields from users once they login to the event..

In terms of metrics, what is the next opportunity for virtual events?

Metrics has been most impactful way to present the data from virtual events. The next opportunity is to having tight integration with CRM systems and deep connections. For example, we use HubSpot to track visitors to our website. HubSpot can track these engagements on your site and import this into Salesforce as a sales lead record.

Virtual events need to do the same level of mapping. A prospect’s interaction on your website is similar to the interactions of a prospect within your virtual event. The rich profile you can generate from virtual events have implications for lead generation. Sales teams should have access to this rich data from a virtual event.

How does VX Platform play into an overall mobile strategy?

As the VX Platform is built on HTML 5, this is compatible with iPads and Android tables. In terms of smartphones, the challenge is the limited real estate for rendering. We’ve decided to place a priority on iPhone based on customer feedback. We anticipate a free iPhone app will be available in Q4 2011 and will then tackle an Android app.

Who can produce events on the VX Platform?

Clients must be certified in order to self-produce an event on the VX Platform. We have a certification program and anticipate certifying 300 customers and employees by the end of the year. We are running the program through our internal virtual workspace, vBIZ, and integration with Taleo Learn to track and certify learners.

What are your plans for XPOCAST?

One of the exciting developments we haven’t announced, but have already rolled out, is interactive panels for the XPOCAST interface. We call this interactive UI, XPOCAST Flex, which provides interactive panels that can be moved and resized. HTML can be embedded into a panel, allowing clients to embed Twitter widgets, YouTube videos, Facebook pages, and more,.

Interestingly, our efforts to simplify the process for creating webcasts via our XPOCAST Builder tool gave us the early indication on how to simplify the experience and process for a self-service offering. Based on this experience, we invested into building out the VX Platform. We now have plans to fold XPOCAST Builder into the VX Platform.

Conclusion: From Self-Service to Mobile

In his post, Michael highlighted that self-service is a trend for most technology players to watch. Another trend worth watching closely is the platforms’ shift to mobile experiences. As we wrote in our Business Motivations and Social Behaviors of In-Person and Online Events report :

“Smart phone penetration is projected to reach 27% of all US users of mobile phones (1) and an estimated 82 million are predicted to use tablet PCs in the US by 2015 (2) making content easily accessible and searchable will be key for an overall event experience – both in-person and virtually.”

We anticipate that, like INXPO’s shift from a flash-based virtual event platform to HTML 5, more virtual event platforms will follow suit by the end of the year, if they haven’t already.

Citations:

1. comScore Releases Inaugural Report, “The 2010 Mobile Year in Review”, February 14, 2011

2. Forrester Research Blog, “US Tables Sales Will More Than Double This Year”, January 4, 2011

 

About Cece Salomon-Lee

Cece Salomon-Lee has over 15 years experience building and implementing successful communications and marketing strategies for Fortune 500 and technology companies. She has been an active participant in the emergence of the virtual events industry, originally in her roles with technology pioneers ON24 and INXPO and recently as a consultant with the Virtual Edge Institute. Quoted in the media and industry speaker, she is a recognized expert in public relations, customer communications, executive visibility, analyst relations, social media and virtual events.