Photo credit: “LAUNCH Music Conference” on flickr.
In the virtual extension of this booth (above), will I be able to play all those cool-looking guitars?
Previously, I wrote about ways in which the physical event experience can be brought to virtual events. Then, I attended one of the world’s largest and most prominent trade shows, NAB Show in Las Vegas. Based on that experience, I’ve concluded that there’s so much more that virtual trade shows should be offering.
There’s nothing quite like the face-to-face experience of a physical trade show. Whether you’re producing a 100% virtual trade show or providing a digital extension to your physical trade show, I build upon my previous post to consider additional ways to bring face-to-face experiences online. That’s right, it’s Virtual Trade Show 2.0.
Private Meeting Rooms for Key Clients & Prospects
Physical trade shows are great for providing TLC for your VIP (“tender love & care” for your “very important people”). When your executives invite key prospects, clients or partners into a private meeting room, it results in some “intimacy” (away from the hustle and bustle of your booth) and it signals to visitors that they’re important. In this way, trade shows are great for establishing, and then developing relationships.
In a virtual trade show, private meeting rooms could be a feature for premium-level exhibitor sponsorships. They’d allow you to have “multi party” dialog (i.e. your executives and your visitors), in an area that’s separate from the virtual booth. To encourage the “intimacy,” all parties should be encouraged to enable their webcam, so that they can be seen and heard. Sight and sound builds relationships better than the keyboard.
Touch and Feel the Products
“What do you sell?” – in a virtual trade show, you explain your product offerings – or, you point to documents and links in your booth. In a physical trade show, you bring your products to the prospects and have them touch and feel them. Throughout NAB Show, exhibitors were doing demos of their software, removing line cards from servers and showing off their latest chips, devices and doo-dads.
Virtual trade shows need to provide a better “touch and feel” experience. Exhibitors should have the capability of placing 2D, interactive representations of their products in their virtual booth and allow exhibit staff to show visitors how the product works. To date, virtual trade shows are all about the “tell”, but they should move to the “show and tell” and then the “show, tell and play.”
Some technologies that may enable this include Equipment Simulations, LLC – check out their LiveDrive demo, which allows you to interact with a fire engine. Another technology to watch is Kaon v-Stream – Kaon pioneered the use of interactive kiosks and v-Stream now enables a similar experience, delivered over the web.
Exhibitors Make an Impact by Delivering Core Services
Too often in virtual trade shows, there’s a “wall” that separates the core elements of the show from the exhibitors. The problem here is that exhibitors “fund” the show, which means that the show won’t go on without happy exhibitors. As such, exhibitors ought to be integrated into the experience, so that they become “core” to the show.
As an example, the image (above) is not the food court at NAB Show. It’s one half of an exhibitor’s booth! Judging by the crowd that stopped by for a bite or a drink, this exhibitor became a “core element.” And you can bet that after many visitors finished their snack, they walked across the way to learn more about the exhibitor’s products and services.
Virtual trade show producers will need to find ways to integrate exhibitors into the core experience, without allowing the exhibitors to be too promotional (it’s a delicate balance). Sponsoring a “virtual food court” would be one thing, but having exhibitor staff “hound” all visitors with private chat requests would not be wise.
Trade shows have a rich history that goes back hundreds (thousands?) of years. Virtual trade shows have a history of less than ten years. It’s time to draw upon history to help shape the future. Leave a comment below and share your thoughts on how you’d design virtual trade show 2.0!
Dennis, thanks for the thought provoking post! I think most virtual offerings are more about funnel filling than opportunity creation/advancement. The most successful attempts will be ones where the organizer is going real niche with the content and is targeting a very specific demographic. Organizers need to be very selective in ensuring that exhibits map to the content and vertical audience. It does no one any good, to take the money from an exhibitor and then deliver poor results. Less exhibitors with a compelling story will outperform too many exhibitors jones’ing for leads.
Exhibitors need to think hard about their attraction strategy. The most successful ones will be able to communicate why stopping by their booth is beneficial. Participants are usually looking for information that will help solve their problems. They want to know what’s new. They want a deal they can’t get anywhere else. Exhibitors need to make their plan around these things and then come up with a way to create urgency.
I don’t see many participants walking the virtual floor to be entertained or get into a deep conversation with someone they don’t know or trust.
At large shows like NAB, the meeting rooms are primarily used for pow wow’s with existing customers and/or large opportunities in play. I envision much of that will continue face2face or through a closed virtual meeting.
Dave: thanks for the comments. I agree with just about everything you wrote, with one twist: I’d like to see virtual trade shows go “beyond funnel filling,” to enable opportunity advancement.
To your point(s), I do think it’s key that to have any chance of opportunity advancement, the “virtual value proposition” needs to be niche and targeted.