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NOT-FOR-PROFITwww.conference-news.co.uk . January 2012 . 15Event industry guru and Conference News columnist Richard John is a regular speaker at the CHASE event and this years' show will be no different. He's speaking on both days, addressing the issue of "professionalism" for events on the Wednesday, but also delivering a presentation looking at the rise of technology and the world of "virtual events". Here, Richard gives us a sneak preview of this presentation.There's a lot of talk about events in the future being entirely web­based, replacing the face­to­face element. But how realistic is that? I'm looking to help people separate fact from fancy; the truth is that technology already allows us to create any kind of virtual meeting format already.It seems there is huge confusion about the different types of meetings platform available, and in fact many people get stumped trying to understand the terminology. Generally, "virtual" means that there is no human interaction, while 'hybrid' suggests that the face to face element is supplemented by online technology. Suppliers also talk about 'synchronous' and 'asynchronous' events, which simply means not Fact and fantasyHow realistic is it to expect a future of entirely web­based, virtual events? Richard John separates the facts from the fantasieseverything takes place in 'real time'. So, a visitor might log on and leave a message, and only get a reply on their next visit.There seems to be considerable fear about these new options, driven perhaps by a lack of understanding of how the technology works, matched by a concern that the new approach will make traditional charity and membership events - and therefore the organisers of those events - redundant. The latter is unlikely to be a legitimate fear; research suggests it's the hybrid model that is the most popular, as organisers see this route as a more effective way of 'monetising" an event. The psychology of human communications shows that the face to face element is as important as ever; what the technology should allow is for the meeting time to be far more effective. Online interaction, apps, social networking are simply techniques that should be utilised to make sure the meetings that do happen are the right ones, and the discussions that follow are effective.But for the beginner, or the traditional event organiser moving towards this technology, the choices can be confusing. At my presentation I'll be showing some simple models which I hope will make the choice easier, but also looking at the 'soft' skills that are also necessary to master. For example, how do you keep an audience engaged in a webinar when you can't see them? I'll also share a few case studies of companies - large and small - that have successfully mastered the opportunities. "The truth is that technology already allows us to create any kind of virtual meeting format already"