Trade shows have always played an important part in keeping up to date with the latest industry trends, making new connections and nurturing existing ones. Last February was the first shock for the live events family when Mobile World Congress Barcelona was cancelled due to Covid-19 fears.
What might have seemed back then as a drastic measure has now become our new reality and event organizers have been looking for new ways to provide the same experience virtually. But is the experience comparable to live events?
For those whose main agenda has been networking at these events, a lot has changed. As we do not have to deal with travel management anymore, the decision of attending is being made not months but days before the event.
This leaves very little time for researching who you want to meet and scheduling those meetings. I’ve heard two opposing opinions whether it’s easier or harder to schedule those meetings.
It’s true that it’s a lot easier to ignore people online and business ghosting has become much more common. At the same time, if both sides see the value of that conversation, it’s much easier to take the conversation straight to the point.
More focus on content
What has changed most drastically, is the experience of sponsoring an event. Without the need for physical merchandise, the focus is now on the best product videos, case studies and whitepapers to get any kind of interaction from your virtual booth visitors.
This content gives a lot more value to the visitor compared to a pen with the company logo on it, but you can not smile and say hello to them until they agree to a 1:1 meeting. Having attended virtual events on three different market-leading platforms, the biggest challenge seems to be providing a solution that invites the visitor to interact with the content.
From a sales point of view, we have learned the following:
We attend events where we can find our existing customers or companies with similar profiles. This increases the probability that we will talk to companies whom we can help with our products and services.
Research has always been one of the most important parts in the preparations for an event and even more so with virtual events. To secure those meetings it is imperative to show you have done your homework.
For this we have set in place a process where we filter the attending companies to our criteria, research their background and only approach the ones where we see a match.
People love to buy but do not like being sold to. As it is very easy to cut the conversations short in a virtual setting, make the most of your time by asking questions about them and spend less time pitching your product. Find the problems that your product or service solves.
Virtual events tend to have fewer attendees than live events. Some people might not show up because they had something come up at work or the kids are homeschooling or they just don’t feel like showing themselves on a video call that day.
You can’t change that but you can send out more meeting requests and have more calls with the ones that do. You can always come back to the ones that skipped at a later time. Note that events with paid tickets have better attendance rates than free events.
As events are an investment, we also consider how much resources we need to put in both cost and time-wise to secure the return on investment. What activities are planned for marketing pre- and post-event? How many people from the sales team are needed to cover all the possible conversations?
Work with what you have
Virtual events will always be missing some of the human touch but given the current global situation, the prediction is that we will not see live events until 2022. Until then we can work with what we have and I’m personally grateful to all the event organizers for finding new innovative ways to connect businesses around the world.