One of the frequently asked questions we receive relates to ensuring success for exhibitors and sponsors. We answer this question in a session titled “Ensuring Exhibitor and Sponsor Success: Without a Plan, It Won’t Work” on Thursday, January 13, 2011 from 8:00 – 8:50 am. One of our panelists, Miguel Arias, co-founder and COO of IMASTE, provides five ways for ensuring success.
IMASTE is the european leading specialist in virtual events, fairs and trade shows. Since its launch, IMASTE has delivered more the 100 virtual experiences in more than 15 countries. IMASTE has strong partnerships with some of the major job boards across the globe, aswell as with global corporations and interactive agencies, with a strong focus in the european and south american markets.
While the virtual events industry is gaining traction and the market is become more and more mature, we have seen a little sense of disappointment from exhibitors and sponsors in many events.
If we want the virtual fairs and trade shows to survive in the long term and become a mainstream tool for marketers and event managers, we need to fulfil the needs of our exhibitors and attendees. We cannot forget that our exhibitors, as the physical events exhibitors, are looking for tangible results and a credible return on their investments in terms of lead generation, sales increase & Brand & Corporate awareness.
I will try to give you a few tips on how to ensure that your exhibitors will be satisfied recurrent customers, from our experience organising more than 120 virtual trade shows in more than 20 countries (mostly in Europe and South America).
1. Do not oversell and set realistic expectations
Virtual events are a very cool and trendy technology, and they do deliver great results. But let´s be clear about this, they will not solve all your exhibitors’ problems and these actions need to be an integrated part of the exhibitors marketing mix.
Set conservative objectives in advance with your exhibitors, based on previous or similar experiences and define with them what is to be expected in terms of visitors, attendee engagement and lead generation.
2. Content is king, and it needs to be adapted to a virtual environment
It is very important to differentiate one exhibitor from the next one. Remember that virtual events are not web portals or directories, therefore customisation, as in the physical world is a key concept. Try to create tailored contents for a virtual experience, which should be funny, engaging, short and direct. Virtual audiences get very easily distracted and tend to multitask while attending a virtual event.
A virtual event is all about sharing a venue, though virtual, with other attendees and exhibitors that have common interests, needs, etc.
You need to foster this sense of community interacting proactively with your virtual booth visitors, offering help and support. Try to have different kind of profiles manning your booths, so that you can give specific answers to the different needs of your target audience.
Again, keep it short, direct and interesting.
You will need to present your exhibitor results of the event, therefore measure everything and give them detailed reports. My suggestion is not to focus only in static metrics (visits, nº of exhibitors, etc) but in engagement metrics (nº of conversations, average page/visit, nº of comments or ratings).
It is important to convince your exhibitors that the traditional click-through rate, they use for their banner & SEM campaigns, does not apply to virtual events. In a 3D branded environment, you can already give the visitor a lot of information, interaction and get a call to action, without having him visiting the exhibitor’s corporate site.
5. Gather feedback, learn and iterate
Since we are still in a very young industry, with loads of innovation going around it is very important to get our exhibitors and sponsors involved in the definition of the technology platforms of the future.
After each event, gather as much information about the attendee’s and exhibitor’s satisfaction as you can, find out where the platform can improve and implement those changes in short iterations. Continuous R&D is mandatory in our field.
I wish you all Merry Christmas and very successful virtual events in 2011!