Building software to host a virtual event poses a million questions, many of them hoping to address the user experience. And the exhibitor experience. How to keep people engaged, how to keep them from being bored, how to have conversations, how to connect, how to give keynotes. And so on. I recently caught up with Sandy Hammer, co-founder of AllSeated, which has recently launched virtual event software that looks, well, impressive. She and I sat down to talk about it, and to give her a chance to show us a little bit about how it works:
The use of virtual tradeshow exhibits may not be exploding, although my sense is that it is increasing. Some big tradeshows have gone completely virtual for the next year or so, maybe longer, depending on the depth and breadth of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Which leaves exhibitors in a bit of a quandary: what to do about virtual exhibits. Should you invest in one? Should you just wait out the pandemic and hope you can get back to live tradeshows in the next six to twelve months?
And if you are seriously considering a virtual exhibit, it’s important to consider all of the various things you can do in the exhibit. I’ve seen a few virtual exhibits lately, and there is a wide variety in the approach. Some exhibitors have chosen the simple, let’s-keep-the-cost-down approach. Others have tried to throw everything in but the kitchen sink.
As an aside, one exhibit maker I spoke with recently said that a recent client of theirs did a virtual exhibit and found that at the virtual tradeshow, they experienced a 700% increase in leads for a fraction of the cost of appearing at a live show. My eyes opened at that stat, and while it’s impressive, it’s likely not going to be a common experience for every virtual exhibitor. But it does demonstrate that there is a lot of potential in virtual tradeshows if you plan ane execute well.
Having said that, there are a number of ways to get engagement at virtual tradeshows. The first is crucial: make sure that potential visitors know about your virtual tradeshow exhibit so that they are prepared, put it on their calendar, and have expectations.
The second is to build the expectations and prepare for them by putting specific things in your virtual tradeshow booth that visitors want. Things they’ll respond to, interact with, and share with others.
From that starting point, the question remains: what should be in your virtual exhibit? There are many answers, and your company’s specific needs should help frame the answer. Here are a lot of the things, perhaps not all, that could go into your exhibit. Keep in mind that each piece will add to your overall cost, much like a 3D real world exhibit, and that each piece of content, such as videos or white papers or PDF reports, all will take time and money to create. Before finalizing your plan, create a budget based on all of the pieces you think are necessary to make your virtual tradeshow booth a success.
Here are a number of things you can and should consider:
- Product Demos
- A place to collect visitor’s contact information
- Download Center (PDFs, coupons, sales sheets, special reports, etc.)
- Archived video
- Live stream video
- Live chat
- Booth tour
- Schedule a meeting
- Learn about your company
- Learn about new products
- Give people the ability to share things on social media
- Steer people to your social media outlets
- Leave an audio or video message
No doubt if you put your mind to it, you can come up with more. What am I missing?
I’ve been thinking about virtual events and have a few questions:
Let’s say that Organization A is going to convert their typical in-person event that normally hosts, oh, let’s say, 3500 exhibitors and 80,000 attendees. It’s a pretty big show. Millions of dollars generated in business. A big deal.
Now because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will have to go virtual, if the organizers decide to move forward with the event. Something like CES2021 comes to mind, which recently announced they were going all-digital, although it could be any number of large shows.
I’ve been trying to wrap my head around how it would work. And yes, several questions come to my poor little brain as I try to understand how it will work. I would think that exhibitors will need some sort of platform that they’ll provide for online attendees to land on at their main site that will then take them on a tour of the various virtual exhibitors.
Let’s start with the organization that is putting on the virtual event:
- What are you offering attendees and exhibitors?
- How will you implement it?
- What are attendees looking for? Will you be able to give them what they want?
- If you have live sessions, will they be available for playback later?
- What platform will you offer exhibitors for their exhibits, and how will those virtual exhibits be designed and constructed? Will they be from a template, or will you offer custom design services?
- How will those services be priced?
- How much time do you need to implement those services, assuming that you can provide them to all of your exhibitors in a timely manner?
- Is the final online presentation available for a limited time, or can exhibitors take it with them to another venue?
- What flexibility and options will you offer your exhibitors for their virtual exhibit?
- If an exhibitor already has a virtual exhibit done by another provider, will you willingly link to that virtual exhibit from your platform and make it as seamless as possible?
From the attendee’s viewpoint:
- Why should I attend?
- What do I get by attending?
- How much will it cost me to attend?
- If I pay the admission fee, will I have access to all programs for a limited amount of time or will it be open-ended?
- Who else is going to attend?
- Will I be able to get a list of other visitors in any way, shape or form?
From the exhibitors’ viewpoint:
- How will the organizers promote and publicize the show?
- How will they attract people to my booth?
- What options are available to “boost” the attendance in my virtual exhibit?
- How will I know who is there, how long they stay in the virtual space, what they clicked, etc.?
- What is the cost to partake in the virtual tradeshow?
- How long will the virtual exhibit remain available to visitors?
No doubt, you’ll have other questions. I’d love to hear them. I can’t think of everything, right?
It’s a good time to mention that the good folks at Classic Exhibits, the main exhibit manufacturer we work with, is now offering virtual exhibits – and they’re pretty impressive. Take a look here.