The Show Must Go On: How to Leverage Virtual Events to Protect your Employees from COVID-19 during Trade Show Season

On the heels of the World Health Organization’s declaration of the Wuhan coronavirus as a global emergency, some of the world’s largest trade shows have been disrupted.  Sponsors and attendees alike are downgrading or withdrawing their participation, prompting event organizers to postpone and even cancel their events.  Stated communications service provider Ericsson upon its withdrawal from the 2020 Mobile World Conference, “Ericsson appreciates that GSMA have done everything they can to control the risk. However, as one of the largest exhibitors, Ericsson has thousands of visitors in its hall each day and even if the risk is low, the company cannot guarantee the health and safety of its employees and visitors.”

One way event planners can guarantee the health and safety of employees and visitors: a virtual event platform.  A virtual event is like a live trade show, except as the name implies, it takes place virtually, or online. Going beyond just a webinar, the technology allows individual users and businesses to enter a virtual, accessible 3D event space, where attendees can visit trade show booths, watch live webcasts, and interact with each other in chat rooms (complete with translations if necessary). They can download product sheets, presentations, and videos… at approximately 75% less than the cost of live attendance and all without the hassle of airport security, hotel check-in lines, or in the case of today’s headlines – the risk of contagion. 

Even better for those companies leveraging trade shows to identify the almighty lead: virtual event visitors’ behavior is tracked, analyzed, and visualized, allowing companies to truly understand who their potential buyers are and where they may be in the buying cycle.  Added bonus: these leads are available in perpetuity.  With a virtual event, companies have the ability to create new sales over and over. Once they’ve built the event, they never have to break it down.  They can keep using it over and over again. They’ve now established a new community.

Additional benefits include:

Wide Reach: Everyone can attend an online event, irrespective of their location. A virtual event is a great opportunity to connect with a wider, international audience and make connections with peers, prospects, and experts with whom attendees might not have crossed paths at a physical event. 

Companies can also expand their reach by offering both a physical and an online experience, or a “hybrid” event.  Hybrid events often draw a larger crowd, and in a hybrid event, there are more voices in the dialogue.  For example, the virtual moderator can lead discussions on social media or the event platform during the event as well as interact with the live audience during a break.

And in the case of  the unexpected, such as a virus outbreak, a hybrid event allows companies to choose how they would like their employees to experience the event’s content, networking opportunities, and product demonstrations.  For those companies who prefer a face-to-face experience and feel comfortable allowing employees to travel, the opportunity is there.  And for companies like Ericsson, who are unwilling to allow employees to travel amidst virus concerns, there’s no need to forego participation.

Cost-Effectiveness: Physical events come with a laundry list of expenses: venue rental, staff, travel, food, hotels, and entertainment.  A virtual event eliminates many of these line items, not to mention speakers often charge less and registration numbers increase because everyone on a global team can attend.

Low Carbon Footprint: Compared to traditional trade shows, virtual trade shows are “greener,” and lowering environmental impact is an increasingly important goal for many companies, especially in a world where consumer buying groups are making purchasing decisions based on a company’s commitment to the environment. Tax incentives for cutting fuel costs are also likely to increase, making virtual exhibits an even more attractive proposition.

Intelligent Lead Generation: Traditional trade shows often generate exciting leads.  Unfortunately, 80% of those leads are never contacted again – a statistic bound to discourage the most enthusiastic marketing professional. The reasons are myriad: disconnects between marketing and sales departments, the difficulties of reading hand-scribbled names and addresses, the tedium of entering contact information by hand into databases.  However, virtual trade shows assume responsibility for collecting the data  – and most include built-in lead management software. Suddenly tracking leads becomes simple. In addition, many systems offer tags so sales reps can make notes on attendees or companies, making post-event contact easy.

Also, virtual event systems generally allow companies to run analytics as soon as the show is complete. Instead of entering all of the data separately, the virtual trade show tracks and analyzes it and generates reports. Sales can chase leads immediately, which can greatly improve return on investment.

Opportunities to Connect with Next Generation Buyers: Virtual events help companies connect with the digital generation. Over time, the digital generation will comprise the majority of corporate decision makers, and this generation will be at least as comfortable with the virtual world as they are with text on a page.  Gaining experience now in the virtual world will give companies an edge in marketing to this vast demographic.

Productivity: When an employee is at a trade show,he or she is out of pocket.  Valuable time is spent traveling and attending the event itself.  And for event sponsors, let’s face it: just putting up and taking down a booth can be a day’s work in itself.  A virtual event, however, allows the employee to visit and revisit the experience on their own terms, increasing the attendee’s productivity, the conference’s value for the attendee, and its ROI for the event producer.  And virtual events tend to be faster paced than those in real life since the attendees don’t have to physically move from space to space.  This means attendees can actually meet more people.

The Search is Over

As companies strive to protect the health and safety of their employees as well as the employees of their customers, partners, and vendors, they’re taking all necessary measures to ensure no one is put at risk: restricting travel, limiting the size of meetings, providing remote-work solutions, and continuing to insist on safe behavior in every environment.  One easy and safe way to conduct “business as usual” in this environment is through the use of virtual events.  To learn more about how you can leverage virtual event technology in your own organization, request a demo today.