Are Online Exhibitions The Way of the Future?

Post by 
Karen Ashwin
Published 
August 12, 2020

Across the country and even around the world, many physical events are still on hold. As a result, an increasing number of organizers are turning to online events and exhibitions (or virtual trade shows) to ensure they can still connect with interested consumers around the world.

Online exhibitions, conferences, and all other virtual events, however, are not just a way to get through the pandemic while still engaging with a potential audience. Many professionals believe they are here to stay.

What Online Exhibitions Have to Offer

Online exhibitions can offer several advantages to both the brand and the audience. For brands who are hoping to engage with their audience in these uncertain times, hosting online exhibitions can help fill the void left by the lack of in-person events while still encouraging brand engagement. Into the future, they can be used to reach a more global market or provide an alternative option if in-person gatherings are still restricted or if high-risk attendees are wary of physical events.

They also offer many other benefits that many marketers, brand ambassadors, and event planners may find enticing long after pandemic-related restrictions ease up, such as:

Lowered costs

Virtual trade shows tend to be far more cost-effective than in-person events. Which makes sense considering you are able to save on everything from promotional items, travel expenses, and accommodation to costly floor space, brand-appropriate decor for booths, and similar costs normally involved with physical trade shows. Less expensive events allow planners to include more exhibitors, and brands to save on costs or put that budget towards other initiatives.

Larger audiences

Because there are fewer costs involved with online exhibitions, there is the added benefit of the event being cheaper for attendees (who typically don’t have to fork out large sums of cash for tickets or travel arrangements) and allows you to target a more global market. The best part is that it’s not just “numbers”—no one drags along their friends to virtual trade shows, so there’s generally a higher concentration of qualified leads; the people who join are those who are genuinely interested in what is being offered.

Access to invaluable data

A massive advantage of online exhibitions is the wealth of data that can be generated from them. This data gives you a clear picture of exactly what your attendees liked and what they didn’t, where they engaged, how long they spent online, what questions they had, and who they spoke to. Additionally, the data provides insights into how your content was consumed, what resonated with people the most, and what collateral was downloaded, etc., which will help you with your lead nurturing efforts. Armed with the raw data, you are better able to tailor your conversations and personalize your strategies to offer specific CTAs and content accordingly. In short, this type of data is priceless.

Moreover, lead data generated from the online exhibition can be shared with exhibitors. This information coupled with a top-notch virtual trade show platform can help to capture leads, funnel them into the right channels, and essentially, could result in a higher rate of conversions.

Virtual event and trade show platforms tend to have key features that center on content management, networking and chat tools, live webinar hosting, and software that allows seamless integration with many of the most popular CRM systems. They can help you to gather and analyze your data easily as well to enhance your lead nurturing efforts. Three of our favorite platforms for trade shows are 6Connext, vFairs, and Pathable. Give yourself some time to research the best option for you, but making use of a virtual trade show platform is a must.

Longer event lifespans

One of the most incredible things about virtual trade shows and online events as a whole is that they enjoy greater longevity than in-person events. Once a physical trade show is over, it’s over—you can’t open it up again for people who couldn’t make it or extend it for much longer than the 1-3 days they typically run for.

Online trade shows can span a week if you think that’s a wise strategic move. Not only that, but you can give people access to time-sensitive on-demand content or permanent access to certain keynotes, booths, etc., once it’s over.

Being able to give potential customers access long after the event itself has incredible potential benefits. For example, the exhibition can then be leveraged for SEO purposes. Furthermore, it gives attendees the ability to make their way through the content in a time that suits them (and at their own pace) and, ultimately, it has the power to produce some valuable leads even though the live event has ended.

Engagement opportunities with audiences

Naturally, one of the best parts of physical events is the human connection—the ability to interact with attendees. The great thing about virtual exhibitions, however, is that you can still find innovative ways to engage with your audience while reaping the benefits of hosting in the virtual space. This is especially true when you use one of the aforementioned platforms to allow for smooth integration across multiple channels.

For example, for your event, you could make use of podcasts, instant messages, polls, event chat rooms and different technologies that integrate into one seamless environment for a smooth sales experience. By using multiple channels and software that work well together, brands can communicate their messages quickly and effectively, answer any questions, and exhibit their products to typically larger audiences than they would have been able to otherwise, all in one place.

Online exhibitions, contrary to popular belief, can allow attendees to get that ‘networking fix’. You could encourage attendees to participate in event-related group chats or swap electronic business cards, and prompt them to ask salespeople or keynote speakers questions. The best part about this is the data that you can derive from all these actions can inform your lead nurturing efforts after the event.

The ability to leverage technology

Apart from the trade show platforms and apps we spoke about using to create seamless and engaging events, you can also make the most of other incredible technologies for a memorable experience. Brands have embraced 3D renders (although this does require a fast graphics card) and green screens to ensure their online exhibitions are in a class of their own. There are so many possibilities when it comes to the virtual space these days and it’s important to find ways to stand out from the crowd.

Are Online Exhibitions Here to Stay?

When the world gets back to ‘normal’, it’s likely online exhibitions will still be around, with many of the bigger events in the future probably erring towards hybrid events which include virtual elements as well as in-person possibilities.

Many industries have already realized the benefits of virtual technology, from the potential of bigger audiences, and access to invaluable data to lower costs, they make a lot of business sense. When planning events in the future, organizers will need to consider both the benefits of those virtual components and the logistics required to make them possible.

We all crave certainty, but right now, we can only hypothesize what the future holds. Online exhibitions are likely to stay, but perhaps more as part of a hybrid approach, meaning that you will need to find the perfect balance between physical elements and online benefits. The good news? You certainly don’t need to do it alone. With close to 30 years of experience in the industry, The Event Production Company can help you with your virtual, hybrid, and in-person events. Contact us today to learn more about what is possible for your next event.

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