Last week, InXpo Inc., the Chicago-based virtual event company, announced a partnership with Maritz, its second deal with a major meeting and event company in the past two months.

InXpo will be Maritz’s preferred provider of virtual environments for meetings and events, as part of the recently launched Maritz LIVE suite of e-meeting services.

In April, InXpo announced a similar partnership with marketing and events agency George P. Johnson.

The partnerships not only drive corporate business to InXpo, but also provide clients with strategic services around a meeting or event—such as marketing, ROI measurement, and speaker selection and training. “We thought that if we built the technology everyone would know what to do with it. That’s not the case,” says Malcolm Lotzof, CEO of InXpo. “We need a partner who knows how to do that.”

InXpo provides customized online meeting sites that allow attendees to view webinars, download information at virtual tradeshow booths, and interact via text chat, among other features. While not a 3D, immersive experience like Second Life, the business-oriented online venues require no downloads or user training. Unisfair, On24, and 6Connect are among the other companies competing in this market space, termed by Maritz totally virtual environments.

InXpo turned its sights on the corporate market only late last summer. Launched in 2003, the company had focused mainly on the exposition market, working closely with media companies, such as Pennwell, Ziff Davis, and IDG. "With the economic recession, Corporate America started focusing on virtual events," says Lotzof. "Business is skyrocketing."

Comparing InXpo’s first quarter 2008 to first quarter 2009, tells the story: The number of corporate events was “in the teens” this year compared to none last year, Lotzof says. And looking at all InXpo events, business has more than doubled this year versus last. “The challenge is to grow the business fast enough,” he says. A statistic Lotzof says is telling of the company’s success: 95 percent of the trade shows and 75 percent of the internal events that InXpo has hosted have drawn more attendees than were expected.

In other news, InXpo announced today an integration with the microblogging tool Twitter. Event attendees can now post short Twitter messages without leaving the virtual environment. One benefit to event producers: the show’s hashtag (the convention for making Twitter posts trackable and searchable) will be automatically inserted on each post, providing valuable event promotion. Organizers will also be able to track the number of tweets sent out from the show, among other metrics.