December 1, 1997

Temporary Web sites liven up trade shows, events

The Web is a natural for event promotion.

Even though the Web is a real-time, interactive, one-to-one medium, we˜re far more used to seeing it used, especially by businesses, in a pretty conservative and unimaginative way.
It˜s not that the information within a Web site is always boring or static — creators of successful Web sites have certainly learned that lesson — but the character of a typical business Web site itself is, well, rather buttoned-down.
Web sites are being used primarily to leverage basic corporate information, occasionally spiced with press releases or new-product announcements. There˜s nothing wrong with this approach — but it ignores the Web˜s compelling dynamic and real-time potential.
Popular culture has already tuned in to Web as a great way to follow, learn about, and sometimes participate in live, short-term events. The Rolling Stones pioneered this with a break-through live concert broadcast over the Internet several years ago, and today a wide variety of events are covered live on the Web, some with astonishing complexity and innovation.
However, you don˜t have to be the Rolling Stones or the NBA to take advantage of live event promotion via the Web. Most businesses participate in or sponsor special events or announcements that lend themselves to Web coverage. Do you put on customer or user events, or participate in trade shows? Make major product release announcements? Has your business sponsored any other event that might benefit from more exposure?
Any event with a built-in audience and a common interest is a great fit for Web coverage. An event Web site attracts both those people planning to come, and those who cannot attend. Creating such a Web site means thinking a little differently, but the results can be exciting.
Thinking differently
Event Web sites differ from traditional Web sites in that they are designed with a limited life span — they typically exist for only a few weeks or months. The Web site will have a definite beginning, middle, and end, like the event itself, and will represent the event to the people who couldn˜t attend. It has to contain timely, accurate, and concise information.Plan it out
There are a number of technical aspects involved in making your event Web site a success. Because it is a time-critical venture, everything must be carefully planned well in advance. You can˜t delay the site a week if something doesn˜t work out! You put a lot of thought into the event planning itself, so don˜t forget to include the Web site in these plans.
The type of event you˜re hosting will determine in large part how it will be covered via the event˜s Web site. In general, though, think about the following:
n What kind of "look" should the Web site have? You˜ probably want to leverage the graphical theme already developed for the event, to give the Web site a character consistent with your other promotional efforts.
n How will you promote the event Web site? The event Web site will be successful only if people are aware of it and visit it. Be sure to advertise the Web site itself — its address, at the very least — well in advance of when it goes live.
n What aspects of the event do you want to cover? There may be too much going on at the event to cover it all, but consider what keynote speeches, product demonstrations, announcements, classes, and so forth are the most important, and make sure those are highlighted.
n What multimedia elements do you want to include? Here˜s where you can really put the real-time nature of the Web to work for you. Digital cameras, now available for $500 or less, give you an easy way to take pictures that can be published to the Web within minutes. Digital video takes a more substantial investment in equipment and expertise, but can also be used effectively. Pictures (still or video) and audio can be used together to give visitors a real taste of the event˜s sights and sounds.
n How will information be gathered at the event and fed into the Web site? Depending on the scope of the coverage you˜re aiming for, you may want to use a small, dedicated staff who can conduct interviews and write articles, take pictures, and assemble all the components and keep the Web site updated.
n How often should the event Web site be updated? You may want to provide coverage that changes daily or even hourly. Most visitors will probably be satisfied with twice-daily updates.Go live!
Like the event itself, all the planning and preparation has come down to the moment when the event˜s Web site goes live. The more thorough the planning and preparation, the smoother the launch of the Web site will be!
You˜ve done all the groundwork and now the event is appearing live on Web browsers around the world. Important speeches and announcements, covered on the spot, are translated into feature articles with photos of the happenings as they unfold. Live reports are filed from the trade show floor. Attendees offer their reactions and opinions. In short, your event is now happening everywhere there˜s an Internet connection.
What are the payoffs? People who couldn˜t attend your event can still feel involved, and have access to valuable information. Who knows — maybe next year they˜ decide to come! And for the people who did attend, the Web site can provide extra value in the form of information about sessions they couldn˜t get to, keynote speakers they might have missed, or even transcripts of presentation that they can print for future reference.
Using the Web to cover live events is a departure from the traditional corporate Web-site model, but it˜s a natural way to exploit this dynamic and flexible medium.Terry Burton is communications director for The Nth Degree, specializing in interactive media design and production. She can be reached at tburton@the-Nthdegree.com.

The Web is a natural for event promotion.

Even though the Web is a real-time, interactive, one-to-one medium, we˜re far more used to seeing it used, especially by businesses, in a pretty conservative and unimaginative way.
It˜s not that the information within a Web site is always boring or static — creators of successful Web sites have certainly learned that lesson — but the character of a typical business Web site itself is, well, rather buttoned-down.
Web sites are being used primarily to leverage basic corporate information, occasionally spiced with press releases or new-product announcements. There˜s nothing wrong with this approach…

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