What led you to launch Xtalks.com back in 2004?
I spent much of my early career in magazine publishing and witnessed, first-hand, the massive impact the rise of the internet had on this sector. When I moved into the physical events industry, I didn’t feel that same urgency and desire for change. So when the first webinar platforms were being rolled out I saw an opportunity to utilize this new medium to better connect practitioners with content and ultimately sponsors with an audience.
Today, marketers have to decide how to allocate their budgets between traditional, physical event sponsorships and webinars. How do you see this playing out?
Bringing a new medium into the mix is always a game changer. It forces marketers to reevaluate their options and puts pressure on media companies to improve their offerings. There’s been an overall shift of focus from physical events to webinars since there are concerns over audience cannibalization, share-of-voice, as well as considerable financial and time allocations. Webinars fill that gap in the marketplace. That said, virtual and physical event formats serve different purposes and there’s still room for both in the marketplace.
People are always going to want to meet face-to-face and webinars should not be seen as a mechanism to replace that….. if anything, webinars are a great way to enhance and add value to tradeshows and conferences. What we do hear though, from many of our clients, is that they have reduced the number of physical events they sponsor. There are simply too many event companies trying to draw from the same delegate pool. So it is natural that marketers will opt for a key industry association tradeshow or meeting and put the most of their marketing budget into alternative media.
The way in which relationships are forged is constantly evolving. Yes, webinars provide our clients with a competitor free stage but most importantly, engaging with someone for 60-90 minutes has to be considered as winning a greater share of mind than a fleeting handshake at a show.
What are the real benefits for practitioners attending Xtalks webinars?
People often harp on (myself included!) about how cost efficient, time-effective and environmentally friendly webinars are. But ultimately the true value lies in the access we provide to quality content. We work closely with our sponsors to ensure that the content being presented holds real educational value for the audience. Our webinars provide audience members with an opportunity to engage with industry experts in a way unmatched by other forms of media. This interactivity coupled with audience anonymity, through polling, chat-driven Q&A functionality, etc., ensures attendees have a chance to advance their understanding of a topic or issue in a way that would have seemed almost impossible just a decade ago.
They say that “content is king” but equally important is providing a way to access that content. Today practitioners want to view content on their own terms: wherever and whenever that might be. By both providing “mobile access” to events coupled with Xtalks’ extensive, on-demand library, we are able ensure that practitioners’ thirst for quality information is satisfied.
What are the benefits for companies sponsoring Xtalks webinars?
I think that if you understand what it takes to build and satisfy an audience then your sponsors will be happy. When you operate in sophisticated sectors like the life sciences and food you need to use the appropriate messaging and have a deep understanding of just who will benefit from attending a specific webinar. Tailoring outreach for each campaign is key; we really pride ourselves on being a narrowcaster as opposed to broadcasting. Success is not driven by the size of your contact database or even number of attendees at a webinar – it’s really about making sure that the appropriate audience is being engaged. Every client has their own set of objectives and we like to think that our understanding of these needs together with our customized approach delivers a great ROI.
Engaging someone through quality content for some 60-90 minutes has to be considered as winning a greater share of mind than a fleeting handshake at a show.
What does the future hold?
When you are working in the “new media” space, you have to make a decision: are you going to follow the crowd or come up with something novel and hope to take your audience with you.
We’ve been really fortunate to have worked with some forward-thinking marketing professionals and clients for over a decade. They took a leap of faith when investing in virtual events but today webinars are a main stay of their marketing mix. For sure, the future for Xtalks, our audience members and sponsors is all going to be about interactivity: connecting people which each other through access to content. We don’t have a crystal ball but we are beginning to see glimpses of what we think things will look like…and it’s exciting!