With physical events and trade shows set to remain on hold for some time yet, more and more companies with a considerable budget for events are going digital. But, how do you realign a multi-day trade show filled with networking and lead capturing opportunities and insightful sessions to the new world of virtual events? And once you do, how do you ensure attendees are engaged throughout the event?
As an enterprise event app platform trusted by Fortune 500 companies for more than 7 years, we answer what it takes to pivot from traditional event strategies and switch to virtual.
How do Exhibitors Transform with Digital?
We’ve seen a huge influx of event planners or B2B companies who initially cancelled or postponed their events in April. Some pushed their events to September, some in December and some events got cancelled. In May, there’s a distinct change where event planners and marketers realized the absence of events that’s making everyone go virtual.
Many traditional event planners said we can’t do it virtually because we can’t get that engagement virtually. But, there’s a virtual event going in almost every day now. It’s like going out to eat in a restaurant and ordering food online from an app. At the end, both things get the job done, though differently.
How are virtual events different from web conferences or webinars?
The size of an event matters. Webinars usually cap out at 100, not a lot of webinars go beyond 500. Video meetings are usually even smaller with 70-80 attendees at the most. Virtual events, on the other hand, have thousands of attendees, either an evening session or over 3 days depending on the format of the event.
One of the core differences is, while the event works as a lead generation mechanism at the same time you discover new people. If you discover new people in a video meeting, you will be surprised and raise that as a security hazard because it’s not a good thing to have strangers on a video call. You also want it to be 24/7. Webinars or video calls do not go on for so long. Virtual events have the ability to create a long lasting effect just like traditional events.
What do virtual booths look like and how can they simulate the in-person experience?
Virtual event apps have interactive 2.5D virtual show floors where visitors can explore, locate specific booths, collect marketing collateral and initiate a conversation with an exhibitor. If it’s your private event, it’s a large company and it’s hosting its own event then of course your different booths could be your different service offerings. For example, you might have something on product A and something else might be on product B, so that’s how you could have a pavilion.
How do visitors access collateral and communicate with booth personnel?
When attendees go to a small to medium sized booth, they are generally not left alone. Exhibitors come up to them asking if they can help. It’s sort of intimidating for the visitor. The other side of the experience is where they go to a large booth from a popular brand. They struggle to find someone to have a good conversation with because everyone is busy.
Visitors can easily access information from these virtual booths. They can collect marketing materials from a booth, watch pre-recorded videos from the exhibitors and mail themselves. Taking that one step forward, they can get into a video call right away with the exhibit booth staff. Very few exhibitors can actually do 24/7 manning the physical video call. When they say they are available from a specific time like 8 am to 5 pm, visitors can enter into a video call with one of the exhibit staff during that hour.
How do visitors book meetings with exhibitors?
Even if you have 6-7 people running your virtual booth, at one point you might have more than a hundred visitors requesting for a video call but you don’t have the staff to do it. Other than exchanging business cards, you also want the ability to schedule a meeting with a visitor and link it to your calendar. It should link to the calendar of the sales person and also link to your own calendar. So, you can select a slot in the near future or later in the day and they will call you back. As an exhibitor, instead of saying “I got so many leads,” now you are saying “I got so many meetings.” Which is a big step up in terms of validating ROI.
How can I make attendees visit the virtual booths?
To begin with, you have your own captive audience and your existing customers. Apart from that, we have an optional plug-in which is an AI based system called ZOE. It adopts a cadence marketing platform to drive in new leads. In B2B marketing, you rarely get an instant response from a prospect. It takes a process of cultivating the lead process and sometimes leads are genuinely busy or unavailable.
Of course this is not the only way you would drive traffic. At the moment, since most of us are at home globally, our digital usage has spiked from average 4 hours a day to 7-8 hours a day. Advertising on platforms like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn are effective based on whom you are targeting. So, a combination of direct marketing and advertising is the key.
What if multiple attendees are trying to video call an exhibitor at the same time?
When the exhibitor signs in, each representative from the exhibitor signs in individually. Most often it’s a round-robin system. So, if you are trying to speak to somebody, it will go from one person to another who is logged in. When nobody is available or no one responds back, which is quite common, this is when you use the schedule for a meeting feature asking them to call you back, which is on their calendar.
Also, your staff has the e2m OnAir app, where it notifies you that there’s a request to talk. You have the option of seeing the profile of the attendee. So, if you are receiving hundreds of requests on a specific hour, you might want to prioritize whom you want to speak to. Since all attendees are registered, as an exhibitor, you can see who’s trying to speak to you. Then, you can decide to either reschedule or cancel that request.
What if attendees pass by without engaging with an exhibitor? Would their details be sent to the exhibitor?
If it’s your private event, if you own the entire event, you own the booth, you’re doing the sessions, you are the owner of the virtual event asset, then yes, you will get that statistics. However, if you are part of an event, like somebody else is hosting the event and you have paid to be there, you will only get the data that somebody saw your collateral. You don’t get the full data because the attendee doesn’t want to talk to you, he just wants to see. It’s the equivalent of knowing who checked your Facebook profile, it would be very spooky because if you know who’s checking your Facebook or Instagram profile, it would upset the whole social connection.
Can more than one visitor visit the same booth and view collateral?
Yes, unlimited attendees can do that. e2m OnAir is made entirely on cloud and made planet-scale. It auto-scales. So, if you get a million visitors then you are going to get a bigger bill but the server won’t crash for sure. We are known for making planet-scale software that don’t go down, don’t crash and e2m OnAir is structured that way.
How long does it take to build an exhibit floor?
We would recommend you have 4 weeks as a minimum lead time before your event can be ready. You need to have unique content and you need time to prepare the content.
How do you pitch to a select audience with many exhibitors who are competitors?
One very interesting thing on a product roadmap which we’ll be launching later in May or early June is almost like an equivalent of speed dating kind of a situation that we call “hosted buyer meet.” So, as a vendor you buy into 10 meetings and those meetings would be clocked at 3 minutes each, then those videos come automatically and you don’t know who’s coming in. You’re mapped based on your target focus. So, you could say that “hey, I want to speak to companies who are in this sector with so and so revenues and with so and so employees” and the system will automatically match you.
Would you like to give us any insight as a parting note?
One of the biggest things an event does is that it creates some focus in the company and drives the energy in a focused manner. If you are still looking for events to open up before you could start your events again and they could be employee events, sales enablement events, no matter what kind of event or training you are doing, postponing is probably not the best strategy. There’s a lot of uncertainty of what will happen post September-October. Like how webinars have mushroomed, like how video callings have increased, if you can get on the wagon quicker, there’s a chance you’ll get the attention of your customers faster.