Right now, there's only one option if you don't want to get left behind in the events industry: going virtual. The mistake many exhibitors and organizers have been making as of late is believing that going virtual is a temporary cure, rather than a permanent change to their business models. The future of events is tech-centric, and virtual platforms are here to stay whether they like it or not. The problem is many exhibitors are currently struggling to generate leads at virtual events.
That's because many virtual platforms lack powerful networking tools, organizers are currently more focused on education and content, and because attendees don't seem to be in the right mindset to buy and invest.
In Event Manager Blog's recent State of the Industry event, the industry feels that organizers and platforms have a responsibility to encourage engagement at virtual events. When asked about their biggest frustrations in sourcing virtual event tech, a whopping 51.5% believe virtual event engagement can't meet that of a physical event.
If you agree, your perception is about to be changed.
The challenge for organizers
Organizers have a challenge: they need to completely rethink the way they plan and sell networking opportunities at their virtual events. Back when we could meet face-to-face, many events relied on serendipitous meetings for attendees to bond over coffee, or make business deals at cocktail hour. That possibility is limited when everyone is attending from home.
Now, more than ever, organizers need to be hands-on with their networking opportunities and exhibitor onboarding in the virtual platform. Their goal remains the same: helping exhibitors maximize their ROI, but the way they reach the goal has to be reviewed.
The Organizer Checklist
- Understand that content could attract potential buyers and give a voice to your exhibitors. Webinars, sponsored sessions or interviews are a great way to help your exhibitors sell their product while adding insightful content into your event library.
- Become data-driven. Capturing detailed data such as sector, region, interests, and reason for attending the event can be done as early as the registration form for attendees. This data will help you tailor your networking opportunities, offering accurate suggestions of people and companies to attendees. Not only does it save them time in their search for new contacts, but it also helps each attendee and exhibitor build their personalized schedule or meetings before the event even starts.
- Advanced networking opportunities are great tools for both exhibitors and attendees. Swapcard offers speed networking and online roundtables. Speed networking is where the organizer pairs attendees with other attendees or exhibitors for 5-minute meetings, where they can do a rapid-fire of Q&A and meet a maximum amount of new contacts in a short amount of time. Online roundtables are small, breakout groups of video calls that exhibitors can buy to get face time with attendees who have in-depth questions. Online roundtables feel authentic and give all the participants a voice.
- Target your ads. On some platforms, such as Swapcard, you can target certain ads to certain groups of attendees. Help your exhibitors get their ads seen by the right people with this tool and they're sure to get more qualified leads clicking on the ads and visiting their booth.
- Organizers need to invest time into onboarding exhibitors on the virtual platform so that they can use it to its full potential. There's no use paying for all these cool features if your exhibitors don't know how to use them! During onboarding, teach exhibitors how to capture their data, measure their ROI in real-time and how to customize their booths, and create an immersive experience for all those who visit.
The fact is, exhibitors can significantly increase their ROI at a virtual event. It might not seem that way right now, because studies show that many exhibitors are having a hard time going virtual. But with the right tools, team, and attitude, you'll probably never want to go back to a fully physical event - hybrid is the way forward! Here are some of the best ways to make sure you help exhibitors break their personal records at your next virtual event and come away with as many qualified leads as possible.
Want to know more about engagement at a virtual event? In the 365 platform, Evolve Community Series, the latest episode features Sabrina Meyers, Co-Founder of Two Social Media Chicks, and Vincent Bruneau, CEO and Founder of Sparkup discussion some incredibly concrete and useful tools and tips for boosting engagement online. It's available on replay and you can register for free!