Event virtualisation: The Need of the hour

It aids in attracting and tracking diverse exhibitors and attendees

Even as it promotes physical interface, the exhibitions industry has always had an intrinsic rapport with digital platforms. There is consensus that digital is the way to go for the obvious advantages they have and to cater to the ever-expanding business needs of our customers. Therefore, some turnkey organisations were turning into early adopters with significant investments in digital expertise including products ranging from full online marketplace project, lead generation campaigns and webinars -- always, though, as supplements to the much-revered face-to-face trade expos.  

The Covid-2019 crisis has put global professional sourcing in disarray. Worldwide, the industry has seen a string of event cancellations and postponements amid the existing pandemic. Considering these disruptions, businesses across the globe turn to digital solutions to sustain productivity and organizing virtual exhibitions where one can virtually participate in an event at their own time wherever they may be. It is also anticipated that even after the situation stabilizes, a certain caution may still be maintained among exhibitors about travelling for participating in international trade fairs and exhibitions which are key while hosting large scale exhibitions. 

Companies are working towards using all the technologies at their disposal to ensure business stability and build the expertise to mitigate these challenges. Virtual conference platforms can analyze a lot about conference-goers, including data on which sessions were attended the most and for how long, which booths had maximum interaction, and more. This kind of insight is invaluable for developing targeted content and for making your next virtual conference even more successful. The virtual world can offer the perfect solution by combining the best of brand experience with the digital engagement people crave. 

Then again, it aids in attracting and tracking diverse exhibitors and attendees, creating massive online audiences for companies to share their innovations along with access to various forms of media to enhance the sales experience.  Its ability to track leads, quantitatively measure event performance and gauge event ROI down to the most basic statistics is also extremely useful. 

With most exhibitions organisers having joined in the inevitable transformation towards the virtual platform, the impactfulness of these platforms will really depend on the stage of preparedness and experience the organisations have had, from before Covid2019. Most significantly, the success also will be about how well we understand our customers’ requirements, pain points, their work from home dynamics and provide relevant solutions for their issues, based on how well engaged and connected we have been with them. Our being able to pin-point on their future short term and long-term requirements and their brand loyalty and trust for us have also been honed by deep professional relationships and human-to-human interactions, that got promoted by the face-to-face trade expos and engagements.

With almost half the world’s population under lockdown, virtual platforms are helping us in a big way to stay connected and run businesses. The virtual trade shows are also likely to be leveraged even better to offer efficient, impressive, and state-of-the-art digital solutions for a prosperous future of the market. Yet, one’s bet is on a hybrid engagement, with physical expos supplemented by digital engagements. This is a feedback we have also got from our customers, especially newly launched start-ups or SMEs, who might feel unnoticed in a virtual platform but use other means of brand advocacy in a ‘brick and mortar’ trade expo. 

Besides, at the end of the day, all of us prefer face to face meeting, want to shake hands (better still, a namaste), exchange thoughts, and of course party together. It provides an environment of friendliness which, in turn, boosts the success of our relationships, whether they are personal or professional.

The author is managing director, Informa Markets in India

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