B2B trade fairs: the latest developments
The COVID-19 pandemic led to many trade fairs being cancelled, while others moved online. Virtual industry events still have their place, as they enable participants from all over the world to attend, while saving on travel costs and protecting the environment.
Entirely face-to-face trade fairs, with no digital component, are now the exception. According to the UFI Global Exhibition Barometer, 80% of UK respondents reported having added digital products or services to their existing exhibitions, while 50% said they had launched digital products not directly related to existing exhibitions. 44% of respondents thought there would either certainly or “most probably” be a push towards hybrid events in the future.
While hybrid events have undoubtedly boomed since the pandemic, the concept is far from new. It was noted back in 2014 that hybrid events can reach up to ten times the capacity of an in-person event. Some other advantages of hybrid events, as cited by media production company Buffoon Media, include:
- Improved accessibility – a hybrid event can meet the needs of every attendee, including those unable to attend in person due to disability or travel restrictions.
- Increased engagement – both in-person and online attendees can watch and react to content in real time, with remote attendees participating in Q&A sessions via online chat or video conferencing.
- Better analytics – statistics such as the number of viewers, demographics, location and average view-time can be leveraged to inform future events.
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Tech tools for digital and hybrid trade fairs: what do you need?
Online conferences and trade fairs usually attract a high number of participants, so any software solution must be scalable. Virtual trade fair booths also have specific requirements, which many software solutions are designed to address.
Event management software
For digital or hybrid trade fairs, as for in-person events, preparation is essential: invitations, registration, planning and evaluation all need to be considered. There are a number of platforms which offer this functionality, including cvent and scoocs. Enabling participants to stay in touch following the event is also important: cvent’s Attendee Hub allows both in-person and online attendees to create personalised event journeys and keeps them connected to fellow participants and event sponsors.
Platforms for virtual events
These comprehensive tools focus on turning events into an experience. One popular platform is vFairs, which offers virtual attendees realistic 3D designs, branded exhibition halls and interactive avatars. It can handle over 10,000 attendees and integrate with over 2,000 third-party applications, including payment services, marketing platforms and recruitment software.
Webex Events (formerly Socio) also offers a virtual event platform. Backed by the familiar Webex brand name, it features TV-like livestreams direct via the platform, as well as engagement tools such as chat, moderated Q&A, polling, gamification and video rooms.
Another top name in the virtual event market is BigMarker. Among its features are an on-demand media hub for session replays and an AI-driven “matchmaking” option, which connects attendees to the highest-value connections based on preset criteria.
Best practice: British Canoeing Delivery Partner Conference
British Canoeing, the national governing body for paddlesport, chose vFairs as the technology provider for their 2022 virtual Delivery Partner Conference. Their goal was to ensure that the virtual environment provided an immersive experience similar to an in-person event.
Not only did the virtual platform have to be engaging and interactive in order to retain attendees’ interest, it also needed to cater to the needs of a diverse audience, which included sole traders, activity centres, hire providers and organisations of different sizes. The organisers were also keen to gather feedback from the attendees to understand their experience and identify areas for improvement. Virtual booths recreated the experience of browsing through physical booths and gave attendees a chance to learn about the latest products and services. They could also chat with booth representatives and schedule one-to-one meetings. Webinar sessions were recorded and made available for later viewing, which helped to overcome the challenge of accommodating attendees from different time zones, allowing them to watch the sessions at a convenient time.
Additional features which helped to replicate the atmosphere of an in-person conference included a photo booth, which enabled attendees to take pictures of themselves and share them on social media. They could also fill their virtual “swag bags” with over 500 items, including brochures, product samples and promotional offers.
The result? The Delivery Partner Conference 2022 was a resounding success, with 100% satisfaction rate according to feedback gathered at the event. 94% of people surveyed appreciated the event’s ease of use, while 97% were happy with the content presented.