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In Creating Virtual Events, Best to Look for ‘Sustainable Models’

I saw two industry quotes today that both pointed in the same direction.
“What can you create now that will become a product forever?” a media company revenue officer asked.
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“We were looking to build a sustainable model for a relevant digital program, not a one-and-done,” said Rochelle Richardson, senior VP of expositions and events, AVIXA, the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association, commenting on their pivot in June to a virtual InfoComm 2020 Connected event. “We wanted to build a model we could continue to tweak and enhance for our other events around the world.”

Last week, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) released the results of its latest poll tracking the impact COVID-19 is having on the B2B exhibition industry. One of the numbers is that 81% of companies cancelling in-person events are pivoting to virtual events. Since we can be pretty sure that it will take a while to fully come out of this crisis, it makes sense to, as Richardson noted, strive for a sustainable model.
Here are some helpful virtual event tips from Richardson—in a Trade Show Executive article—and Jen Laloup, CEO of the Mobile Growth Association—in a story on Trade Show News Network.
Ensure that all exhibitors have access to the platform at least three to five business days before you go live. “Because of the timing, we were not able to do that, so we had to layer in additional staff from around the globe to get everyone up to speed before the event started,” Richardson said. That’s interesting because, of course, vendors just need a half day or so to set up for an in-person event. But remember that we are all in unfamiliar territory.
Break down communication silos. The importance of good internal communication can’t be stressed enough, Richardson said. “We formed task teams across the different regions, without asking anyone to stay strictly in their lane, and that worked really well.”
Include gamification aspects to further entice attendees to visit exhibitor showcases. This is a good idea in person and apparently it works just as well virtually. AVIXA put on a highly popular trivia night contest for attendees.
Seek a virtual platform that allow events to recreate an engaging in-person experience online. Not only does the use of comprehensive tools improve the attendee experience, Laloup wrote, but the metrics and insights gathered on attendee behavior also provide a great opportunity for events and sponsors to further optimize their approach. AVIXA used Grip, an AI-powered event networking solution. Attendees scheduled more than 1,000 meetings with exhibitors on the platform and exchanged more than 14,000 chat messages.
Look at new ways to sell your virtual event. “Selling a digital product is a whole different ball game,” Laloup wrote. “It’s vital that [your teams] get creative in how to tackle this. Hosting webinars or social media live streams in the run-up to the event is a great way to showcase speakers and engage potential customers.”
Think hybrid. “By offering a virtual experience as well as a physical one, conferences will have access to a significantly wider audience pool, while still being able to offer an in-person experience for those that want to travel to the event,” Laloup wrote. Remote panelists can be streamed into a live event. Audiences, live and virtual, will have ample opportunity to interact with the content and speakers in a meaningful way. And polling can be comprehensive.
Make your content on-demand. “This helps to solidify the value of the sessions in the attendees’ minds and creates a platform for continued connection between the event and audience,” Laloup wrote. InfoComm 2020 Connected will have its content online and available through Aug. 21. I think the reason for the hard stop is that we all need deadlines. Whenever I get a survey, I quickly check when they need it by. You also need to come up with reasons and easy links for people to go back to the content. I was on a call this week where everyone—maybe 10 of us—agreed that the on-demand content was excellent. But when asked who has gone back to review it, maybe one person had taken a quick look.