Your business must go on.
But in what may be the start of a new normal for companies worldwide, your workforce is likely remote to prevent transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
The good news: you’re not alone. Globally, employers are implementing social distancing practices at the workplace. These include reducing the number of employees in the office, asking employees to work from home, prohibiting access to common areas within offices, restricting office visitors, and using virtual environments for communication and collaboration.
And even better news: there’s a wide variety of tools and technology to help virtualize office environments and enable teams to continue to work well collaboratively and simultaneously. A 6Connex Sales War Room, for example, is a fantastic virtual environment that allows sales leaders to check in anytime, anywhere to a digital command center that tracks real-time progress to goals for every business segment. Teams worldwide receive continuous deal updates and alerts, in addition to having access to an easy, virtual way to collaborate on sales activities such as scenario modeling.
Other tools, such as e-Learning, are perfect for training internal teams or customer user groups alike. At 6Connex, our e-Learning environment is user-friendly, easy to set up, and most importantly, available across a wide variety of devices and operating systems to ensure everyone on every device has equal access. Attendees receive real-time feedback during their training course, and management can get up-to-date analyses on how courses are performing, as well as track the progress of individual participants.
And on a day-in, day-out basis, companies can’t beat live event streaming as an online alternative to in-person conferences and meetings. In fact, virtual events,with deliberate planning and excellent facilitation, can be very effective, and 6Connex has been working with customers worldwide to move various AGMs, stakeholder meetings, conferences, and business events online. While the obvious benefit is that these meetings have been able to take place as scheduled, many of our customers have also been pleased to discover that in moving their events to a digital format, there are ancillary advantages including:
So if you, like many, are promoting social distancing and transitioning the meetings and events on your calendar to digital formats, here are three best practices to keep in mind:
1. Pick the right solution.
Virtual events can take many different forms, and the right virtual event provider will have multiple solutions from which to choose. For example, are you hosting a meeting? An event? A training program? When you’re planning an online event, think about what you want your user experience to look like.
If you expect attendees to mostly just listen, a webinar is probably your best option. A webinar format is similar to a lecture or presentation. They’re ideal for sharing content with large audiences and may be open to the public. Typically, webinar attendees do not interact with one another. Though 6Connex provides features like a Q&A and polling to enable additional engagement, your average webinar adopts a ratio of one or two speakers to many attendees.
On the flip side, if you’re inviting a large audience and you’re expecting more back and forth communication between them, a virtual event might be the better option. With a virtual event, you can host interactive sessions and invite lots of audience participation. You can even create an event environment with various “break out rooms,” where participants are assigned to virtual side sessions and can then reconvene for a main meeting.
A web-based video conference most closely resembles a face-to-face meeting and is likely appropriate when the main purpose of your event is real-time, internal communication and collaboration. Participants can connect to the video conference from their desktop or device, and all participants can see and hear each other. Video conferencing is most useful for board meetings, company announcements, and team meetings where it’s critical for participants to see each other, present, and work as a group efficiently.
And if the goal of your meeting or event is training, then an e-Learning platform is probably the way to go. With e-Learning, you’re recreating the classroom environment, complete with characteristics like instructor-student interaction, Q&As, discussions, games, collaborative projects, quizzes, etc., but the instruction takes place online.
2. Be Prepared
Let’s face it: this is a best practice for any meeting regardless of whether it’s taking place in person or online. Create an agenda for your virtual meeting or event and distribute it in advance. (Tip: include it in the calendar invite.) If you’re new to virtual meetings and you’re using a virtual platform for the first time, be sure to take it out for a test drive and make sure there aren’t any connectivity issues. Also, be considerate of attendees’ different time zones and schedule the event at a time that’s reasonable for all participants. The goal is to host an effective event, and if you take time to prepare, chances are your attendees will be prepared as well and you’ll maximize your event ROI.
3. Utilize Interactive Features
No matter which platform you use or event format you choose, be sure to take advantage of all of the engagement features that come with it. For webinars, virtual events, and e-Learning in particular, tools such as chat boxes, Q&As, polls, and more are not only well received by attendees, but they allow you to track participation data so you can see how well your audience is responding to the digital format. And with social distancing required in some states for at least the next three weeks, this data will enable you to improve your digital events for the longer-term.
Options in the Wake of Coronavirus
While in-person interactions and meetings greatly contribute toward building relationships and fostering collaboration, virtual environments can go a long way to replicating this while still enforcing social distancing, whether the goal is internal communication, sharing thought leadership, or training new employees (because some of us are still hiring!).
Advances in virtual trade show software have paved the way for the exceedingly popular movement towards all-virtual sales experiences. Exhibitors and event marketing professionals everywhere are championing virtual trade shows for their relatively low costs and substantial ROI.
The ability to generate qualified leads directly from your office without having to run up expensive travel bills makes virtual trade shows extremely attractive. Lower barriers to entry also mean that virtual trade shows attract more diverse exhibitors and attendees, creating massive online audiences for companies to share their innovations with.
How do I know? The numbers prove it.
Virtual events rank as the 2nd most important source of information considered by big business decision-makers when it comes time to invest in new technologies, according to Forrester’s research.
If you haven’t considered working with virtual trade show software just yet, I think these benefits will change your mind. Let’s take a closer look at the top virtual trade show benefits.
You guessed it… more money in your pocket!
Virtual trade show events mean hosts and/or exhibitors can save a ton of money on travel, lodging, promotional items, and other costly expenses typically associated with trade shows.
The reduced cost of virtual exhibiting allows many more exhibitors to participate, which increases the value of the trade show itself.
But wait, it gets better…
The larger pool of exhibitors is only surpassed by the even larger increase in attendees.
Stay with me here. Virtual conferences are easier for attendees to join because there is no travel involved (particularly international) and there is no minimum space requirement, so you can fit as many as you’d like. Come one, come all, from the comfort of your laptop or smartphone.
The best part?
Online trade shows and exhibitions allow you to track those self-qualified leads in the following manner.
At physical conferences, you usually just get a standard attendance report.
At virtual conferences or virtual exhibitions, reporting and analytics track every move attendees make. You know how they came, where they went, what they did, with whom they chatted, what they tweeted, which videos they watched, etc.
Here’s the best part.
On the lead nurturing front, you can even run analytics on content located in the event. By knowing how many attendees viewed and/or downloaded a piece of collateral, you can tailor your future content and conversations around the content that your qualified leads found valuable.
Historically, this data has been virtually impossible to track.
Now, the aforementioned lead data collected at virtual trade shows can actually be collected and redistributed for all exhibitors. The data compiled is readily available to all of the exhibitors involved, which allows for smooth lead capture if you are using the right virtual trade show platform.
The 6Connex virtual trade show platform, for example, provides integration directly into many of the top customer relationship management (CRM) systems including Eloqua, Salesforce.com, and Marketo, making capturing leads and funneling them to the correct channels a breeze.
Virtual events and virtual trade shows have longer lifespans than their physical counterparts.
What does that mean?
Where a physical conference might last 1-2 days, a virtual conference can have as many live days as you’d like.
Not only can you go live longer, but with the right virtual trade show platform, you can also leave the event on-demand for 30, 60, 90 days, or opt for permanent access to booths, presentations, documents, videos, etc.
Here’s why that’s important.
Permanent access to your virtual exhibition online will create residual SEO juice for your brand and generate a substantial amount of leads LONG after the doors to a physical trade show would have closed.
Now that’s just good business.
What’s the fundamental goal of virtual trade shows?
I’ll tell you. It is to allow for the same type of interaction that is available at traditional trade shows without the high costs of travel and purchasing trade show booths.
Virtual trade shows often integrate instant messaging, seminar technologies, podcasting, and other means of communication into a single, smooth operating environment.
Is a smooth sales experience that important? The answer is a clear yes.
For this reason, virtual trade shows are becoming one of the most popular ways for companies to communicate their messages quickly and effectively, exhibiting their innovations to mass online audiences.
I can almost hear your thinking “…but my attendees want to network with other attendees and exhibitors!” However, this common misconception couldn’t be further from the truth.
Virtual trade shows actually make it easier for attendees to interact with each other and sponsors.
Attendees can now create their own online profiles, interact in event-wide group chats, and engage in value-packed conversations with other participants. Additionally, electronic business cards can be swapped with just a keystroke.
What about sales reps?
Chatting with booth reps becomes a breeze with virtual because attendees feel they can ask questions uninhibitedly, attaining all the information they need without ever fearing they’ll miss a seminar or keynote speaker.
The best part? All the data accrued from chats and interactions are stored in a database and allow you to better nurture your leads post-event.
So what’s my point?
The virtual trade show is a growing tool in the marketing and training arsenal.
Although physical exhibitions may never go extinct, reliable virtual trade show platforms make it easier than ever to extend your web of industry contacts and gain more qualified leads, all while effectively improving your company’s bottom line.
If you’re thinking about hosting a virtual trade show, download our free Virtual Event Planning e-book to get started. For more information, get in touch with a rep at 6Connex to see how we can help you get started today.