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by Michael Shapiro | December 17, 2010

As we develop the editorial focus for our next M&C webcast, "Putting on a Hybrid Show," it's becoming increasingly apparent just how many different options, and technology choices, exist for adding a virtual element to a face-to-face event. So I found it particularly interesting to note how one upcoming in-person conference is providing attendees with at least six different options to attend virtually.
 
The Virtual Edge Summit 2011 will be co-located with PCMA's annual meeting next month at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. As PCMA's Convening Leaders wraps up on Jan. 12, the two-day Virtual Edge Summit will begin, providing more than 30 educational sessions and workshops about virtual event solutions. Appropriately enough, interested parties who cannot attend in person can do so virtually -- for absolutely no charge. What's more, they can test drive six different platforms while participating; one login and password allows attendees the opportunity to attend through the 6Connex, Digitell, Expos2, INXPO, Social27 and/or Unisfair environments. And it's possible more suppliers will sign on before the event, according to the Virtual Edge Institute, which produces the summit. Theoretically, with enough computers and/or displays, attendees could even attend the event through every environment simultaneously.
 
Additionally, I'm told by an institute spokesperson, the summit will provide virtual hosts, who will engage virtual attendees directly via a stream that is broadcast between the live seminars and addresses. Regardless of which platform virtual attendees are using, they will be able to watch the live, virtual-only stream.
 
This is pretty cool stuff. The Virtual Edge Summit 2010 took a similar approach last February, providing attendees with four different virtual environments to choose from, but they've streamlined the process this time around. Not only are there more available platforms, but it will be easier to log in and out of each. This represents a fantastic opportunity for anyone considering a virtual or hybrid event to really compare some of the different environments and see just how the attendee experience plays out.
 
If you're not available Jan. 12-13, or if you're attending in person, as I am, the content will be archived at each platform for 30 days for free. After the first month, the content can be accessed at no charge for up to a year by paid attendees of the face-to-face event, or for a $125 fee by anyone who didn't attend in person.