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by Michael Shapiro | May 17, 2010

Virtual-event platform provider InXpo unveiled a new set of features last week, known collectively as the InXpo Social Suite. The new functionality represents a more formal integration of popular social media platforms into InXpo's virtual events. While some degree of Twitter integration, for instance, was previously possible, the InXpo interface has been redesigned so that attendees can now easily toggle amongst messaging in their channel of choice.

If you've been to an InXpo-hosted event in the past, you likely noticed a group-chat window through which you could communicate, for example, with others hanging out in the virtual lounge. In the new social suite, attendees can interact not just through the group chat, but also via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, merely by clicking on the appropriate link in that window. The organizer of each event decides which channels to make available to that event's attendees. With all channels activated, an attendee can see which LinkedIn contacts are attending, or keep tabs on the Twitter activity for the event's hashtag. The Facebook window features an "everyone watching" tab, a feed of all comments posted by attendees -- the same setup used by CNN for its live coverage of the Obama inauguration. (See the screenshot below for an example of how the conversations might appear onscreen.)

The tighter integration of social media platforms makes perfect sense in this context -- it's all about increasing engagement and communication -- as does the option not to use one, or any, of the platforms for a given show. A show manager may well decide that the Twitter and LinkedIn conversations are more appropriate than the one on Facebook, for example; it depends on where the attendees typically gather and which channels they're more accustomed to using for work purposes.

In a less predictable development, InXpo also rolled out gaming functionality in the platform, a feature typically even less associated with work than Facebook. But preliminary testing of the games with clients such as Cisco has been particularly effective in increasing attendee engagement, according to InXpo. The two games now available, Trivia Challenge and Word Scramble, can be tailored to reflect the content that's being discussed at the event, so there's an educational component to playing. InXpo promises to increase the game library soon. It will be interesting to see whether more complex games are introduced, and if so whether they'll be deemed by clients more of a distraction than an incentive to engage.
 
All of the new features are now available to InXpo clients. The social media integration is part of the standard platform, while the games must be licensed on a per-event basis.

InXpo lounge screen