For many locations around the globe, the country of New Zealand is many miles (and oceans) away. As such, businesses in New Zealand have the challenge of reaching and connecting with a global audience. In 2008, Virtual Expos New Zealand Limited was faced with helping businesses address this challenge. The economic environment presented a number of obstacles – rising costs, shaky exchange rates and the need to drive new business as the economy was sputtering.
On the flip side, virtual event technologies had emerged, while New Zealand companies were under pressure to uphold a clean green brand and consider their carbon footprint. The decision became clear for Virtual Expos New Zealand Limited – build a virtual event to “showcase and sell the best of New Zealand to a global audience and to enable people everywhere to get a taste of what New Zealand is all about.”
The virtual environment was named ExpoNZ and configured as a 365 dayper year online community – with live events scheduled throughout the year. Marie-Claire Andrews, ExpoNZ’s Vice President and Head of Sales notes, “Through our expo, New Zealand businesses no longer face the tyranny of distance – the costs and inconvenience of reaching markets a thousand miles away. A year round schedule of live events, B2B opportunities, huge support from the dedicated team in New Zealand and round the world, plus a half million dollar marketing budget all make this a pretty compelling way for NZ to face down the global credit crunch and do more business.”
ExpoNZ neatly segemented the event content into halls – allowing visitors to select their desired activity: Trade, Learn, Visit, Live, Invest, Work:
This provides an intuitive entry area – it clearly highlights the available exhibition areas and encourages visitors to determine (on the spot) their objecctive. If I want to visit or live in New Zealand, then I’ll visit those two halls – perhaps returning at a later date for investment opportunities.
The virtual event platform for ExpoNZ is powered by US-based Expos2 – via their partnership, ExpoNZ is an authorized reseller of the Expos2 platform in New Zealand. According to Andrews, the sponsorship cost to exhibitors is “$12,000NZD per year or $2750NZD for seven weeks around a specific live event and we’re also signing up sponsors for the halls, the lectures and supporting infrastructure.”
Like many virtual event organizers, Andrews belives in the power and value of social media integration, but notes that “it’s all about consistency, relevancy and immediacy”. Andrews has leveraged Twitter to uncover potential sponsors and clients – and for generating buzz around launch events. She also reads a number of industry blogs and finds connecting via Linkedin Groups to be particularly valuable.
What were some of the technical and logistical challenges faced by ExpoNZ? First and foremost, Andrews notes that “it has taken a while for internet bandwidth here to catch up with the rest of the world.” As such, she had to “be creative” with media servers in the U.S. to support North American visitors. Secondly, ExpoNZ faced a perception issue – business is done in a very personal fashion in New Zealand, so “there’s a belief that face- to- face is generally best. We have to demonstrate that business can be done virtually – and with our integrated video conferencing you do get face to face – if only digital.”
Live Event – July 16, 2009
Registration is now open for a Live Event on the morning of July 16, 2009 (which is July 15th in the U.S.). The start time for the event:
- 7AM NZT
- 12PM PDT (July 15)
- 2PM CDT (July 15)
- 3PM EDT (July 15)
According to ExpoNZ:
You can’t enter the Expo before the day, but visitors can pre-register at http://www.exponz.co.nz and we’ll send updates about the show.
All the information including presentations and job listings will still be available afterwards because ExpoNZ is ‘always on’ 365 days a year round the clock. So visitors can come back as often as they like after the event; to make appointments to talk to exhibitors in their booths, to re-view presentations at leisure.
We’ve a cohort of over 15 ICT companies and supporting organisations (eg Immigration) and eight speakers lined up so the live conference will run till around 11am NZT. We expect to have several hundred job seekers from the UK, US, Canada and Australia primarily.
For New Zealand visitors, Andrews’ personal recommendations are as follows:
Best places to visit: A wine tour in Marlborough, diving in the Bay of Islands, ski-ing in Wanaka, hot pools in Rotorua and culture, coffee and creativity in my fantastic home town, Wellington of course!…..