Everything is set for your virtual corporate event: the speakers and sessions are lined up, you’ve planned your event breaks, networking, and entertainment. You’ve even instilled a bit of gamification into your event that will get your attendees moving, interacting, and smiling ear to ear. And, as an added bonus, you’ve signed up tons of companies with products and services relevant to your meeting’s industry for a virtual exhibit hall that will knock your attendees’ socks off.
You know that at an in-person event, the exhibit hall is one of your attendees’ favorite places to hang out, meet new people, and discover new products and services. In fact, research from Trade Show News Network shows that the average attendee spends 8.3 hours in the exhibit hall at a show or exhibition.
Now, here’s where you may hit a snag. Paying a visit to a virtual exhibit hall may not be as obviously compelling to your virtual event audience.
Why is this the case? Just think...many of the sensory inputs that drive people to an exhibit hall at a face-to-face event (think smell, taste, touch…) simply don't exist in a virtual event platform.
So how do you convince your attendees that the virtual exhibit hall is worth their time (thereby keeping your exhibitors happy)?
Where Should You Start?
The first thing to ask yourself is, “How do I create a great virtual exhibit experience that will
entice and entertain my audience?”
Our number one rule of thumb: Know your audience.
On the surface, this seems obvious. But unless you take the time to discover what contests, swag, prizes, gamification, or entertainment will appeal to your unique audience, efforts to drive traffic to your virtual exhibit hall may be ineffective.
For example, if your event is for technology professionals, hosting a contest with a prize of free gadgets, hardware or tech subscriptions makes perfect sense.
On the other hand, if your event is for professionals in the fashion industry tech gadgets may not be a good motivator. Instead, you may want to host a contest with prizes such as clothing, shoes, and jewelry.
You get my point.
What Makes a Great Virtual Exhibit Experience?
- It’s Visually Appealing
Just like with an in-person event, a virtual exhibit space needs to be inviting and eye-catching to your audience. In fact, this is critical in a virtual environment where attendees can’t be enticed with hands-on experiences or yummy catering. Inside a virtual exhibit hall such as that available with MeetingPlay, your attendees will notice that, like in-person events, exhibit booths are complete with exhibitors’ branding, colors, and logos. In short, from the moment they enter your exhibit hall, attendees will get a flavor for each exhibiting company’s “personality”. Some event organizers go the extra mile with 3D exhibit halls and booths available within immersive virtual environments.
Creating a visually appealing space will draw your audience to your exhibit hall but keep them there longer.
- It’s Engaging
Let’s consider the booth experience itself. Remember, your goal is not only to get your attendees to visit your exhibitors’ booths but to learn about each company and interact.
To maximize engagement opportunities, offer multiple ways for attendees to interact with exhibiting companies. Group and one on one chat is one way for visitors to converse with representatives in a non-threatening way.
But never forget that people don’t buy from companies. They buy from people. So, creating ample opportunities for your attendees to meet the people behind your exhibiting companies is essential.
Here’s the good news. Innovative virtual event software allows attendees to meet and talk with a knowledgeable salesperson one on one with live video conferencing, all while never leaving your virtual event. At the press of a button, they can see and interact with live representatives and get the information they need when it’s top of mind.
Virtual event technology enables exhibitor representatives to go “live” with scheduled hours, including demos and product showcases for even more face time with attendees.
- It Guides Your Attendees to New Solutions
An exhibit hall is more than just about finding new swag. It's a valuable environment where attendees can discover new solutions for their pain points. Just as AI can match attendees with like minded individuals and sessions, it can also recommend exhibitors who may be of interest.
To help your attendees remember new companies and products they are interested in, provide them with a means to take electronic notes during booth visits and click through to the exhibitor’s website. An added bonus of a virtual exhibit hall is that materials like brochures, flyers and coupons that attendees would normally stuff into a tote bag and haul around at an on-site event (only to be lost before they get home) are stored electronically for easy retrieval after your event.
It Provides Lead Opportunities for Exhibitors
Don’t forget your exhibitors expect to obtain high-quality leads for their investment. Virtual giveaways, special offers and free trials are a great way to excite attendees and get them to willingly give out their contact information, even if they don’t have time to speak with a live representative. Ideally, exhibitors display messaging during the course of the event with updates, special offers, or contests to gain interest from their target audience.
How to Attract Attendees to Your Virtual Exhibit Hall
Now that you know the strengths of your virtual event’s exhibit hall, let’s talk about how to get your attendees there. While it is physically much easier for an attendee to get your virtual exhibit hall—one click vs. escalators to navigate or maps to follow---it is psychologically more difficult to convince people that attending your virtual exhibit hall is worth their time. Here are some ways to convince people to take a closer look:
Before the Show:
- This may seem basic but informing attendees about your virtual exhibit hall, showing them how to navigate it including which features will be available to them, and letting them know which exhibitors will be waiting for them, is an excellent first step in getting people excited about visiting.
- Encourage exhibitors to send personal invitations to attendees, including scheduling preplanned meeting times and keeping attendees’ aware of office hours and promotions.
- Offer discounts, prizes, and giveaways. Nothing motivates people more than free stuff, especially stuff they don’t have to carry home in their suitcase at the end of the event.
- Create social media hashtags that get people talking about the exhibit hall and the exhibitors they found there.
During the Event:
- Encourage your speakers, especially the one leading the more popular programming, to spend some time in the virtual event hall, giving attendees time to ask follow-up questions and get some face time with people they admire.
- Motivate attendees to visit your exhibit hall and engage with exhibitors and sponsor materials with gamification. Points can be earned for specific engagement interactions and then exchanged for swag in your virtual event swag store.
- Create a virtual scavenger hunt where attendees get points for finding things found in various exhibitor booths. Nothing motivates people more than the chance to compete. Offering prizes or additional discounts to the winners will get people even more excited.
- Develop an exhibitor map and offer a prize or points to attendees who check-in at a certain number of booths. As a bonus, create a quiz with simple questions that could be answered by visiting various booths and learning about the products or services.
After the Show Closes:
- Keep the virtual exhibit open after the close of the show so that attendees can return for information or contacts they may have missed.
In addition to creating awesome content and networking, nothing could be more important than showing attendees the value of visiting your virtual exhibit hall. This may seem challenging at first, but with the right strategy, it's easier than you think.
Follow our rule of thumb on knowing what appeals to your audience, provide ample opportunities to interact, and watch your exhibit hall traffic surge!