InXpo has rolled out its new Social Suite, which makes two significant upgrades to its virtual-event platform: integration with major social networking sites and a menu of games that can be used to engage the audience.

Dennis Shiao, InXpo’s director of product marketing at the Chicago-based company, says the new Social Suite is a result of two “powerful forces: The Web is becoming increasingly social with the growth of sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and, as a result, events are increasingly social, both physical and virtual.”

Earlier versions of the InXpo platform incorporated some social networking features; attendees could send tweets out from a virtual meeting and communicate with one other using group and one-on-one chat functions. But now the Social Suite allows users to quickly toggle among four social networks, all within one window in the virtual meeting space.

In Twitter mode, attendees can post messages as well as read the latest tweets related to the meeting (with organizers setting the hashtag keyword to be followed). In Facebook mode, users can either read/post to the conference’s Facebook news feed or to their own. The Social Suite also allows attendees to see if anyone attending the meeting is connected to them via LinkedIn and to use InXpo’s own chat space. The chat space has been upgraded to allow one-to-one chats to turn into group chats and also to support Web cam feeds, so users can see the person they’re speaking with. Shiao says that the platform is designed to add more social networks over time as new ones become popular.

In addition to the four social networks, InXpo’s Social Suite will have a library of games that clients can license on a per game, per event basis to help engage the audience. “The key thing that brings all the gaming together is a real-time leader board. Being able to compete with other attendees and see where you stand is an incentive. It provides the anchor for attendees to keep coming back to check on their status and to engage further,” Shiao says. All the gaming activities are tracked, not only for the leader board but also for event organizers to be able to see who is participating. Two games, a trivia challenge and a word scramble, are in the library now. “We believe that games are a great engagement vehicle, and that games can help facilitate learning,” he says, noting that show hosts supply the game content. Shiao expects as many as five more games to be added before the end of the year.

Cisco Systems, which held its annual sales conference online in 2009 using the InXpo platform, will be among the first to use the new Social Suite (including both games) when it convenes the Cisco Live customer conference, concurrently in Las Vegas and concurrently online, during the last week in June.

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