Event organizers: It's time to let your exhibitors shine!
When you compare all types of event stakeholders, from attendees, to speakers, to sponsors, to exhibitors, there’s one category that consistently expresses lower satisfaction levels with online events.
Can you guess who it is?
According to various surveys and research done in the past year, it’s exhibitors who continually score some of the lowest satisfaction scores when it comes to the move to online events. Tradeshows are continually pointed to as having some of the greatest difficulty moving online.
The results aren’t surprising when we look at the attention paid to some of the exhibitor booths at online events. Unstaffed virtual booths, meeting requests that go unanswered, outdated brochure materials, broken links. We’ve seen it all.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Poor exhibition spaces are not the responsibility of your exhibitors, it’s your job as an event organizer. Organizers must help ensure that their exhibitors get the most out of the online event format, and lend a hand when it comes to maximizing the experience for exhibitors. They are among your most important stakeholders.
Poor management of exhibition booths leaves not only a bad impression on your attendees, as well as the event itself. It also makes your exhibitors much less likely to return to your event in the future.
We’ve organized many online tradeshows where our exhibitors have been overwhelmingly positive and reported incredible experiences. It’s possible to ensure that every exhibitor can successfully move to a digital event if the organizing team designs it appropriately.
What can event organizers do?
It’s up to event organizers to ensure that exhibitors make the most of their online experience. Read on for some top tips that can help smooth the process of bringing a tradeshow into the digital arena.
Organizers must work to maximize the experience of exhibitors through adequate training and one-on-one support before, during and after the event.
This includes assisting exhibitors with marketing support prior to the event, and providing appropriate visuals that can be used across different social platforms. Create a cohesive theme that can tie your event together with a distinctive look and feel.
Provide onboarding support.
There are a multitude of event tech platforms out there, and just because many of us have had a crash course in how to use them over the past year, don’t take your exhibitor’s experience for granted. Onboarding to a new platform, no matter how intuitive you might think it is can be difficult. Especially if exhibitors are familiar with alternative platforms and things just don’t work the same way. Organizers must be prepared to do whatever it takes to onboard exhibitors appropriately. As an example, at PIRATEx recently, one of our Project Managers spent over two hours on the phone with a tradeshow exhibitor walking through the entire platform, end to end. This might be an outlier example, but event organizers must be prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure that your exhibitors get the most value out of the experience.
Make sure digital and video content is optimized for each exhibition booth.
Exhibitors can make a better impression through appropriate video and digital content to ensure their digital booth has a distinctive look and feel. While many exhibitors miss the booth building experience, and the unique branding opportunities offered at an in-person event, in the online space, there is still a lot that can be done. At a recent online event, we were taking in the exhibitor’s area and were surprised at how few of them availed of the video options the digital trade show “booths” offered. Even for those that did, many were outdated or of low production value. Online events are littered with exhibitor booths that have poor video quality and showreels that did not highlight the products well or make it clear what the vendor was offering. Improving these things would make a huge impact when it comes to their presentation at the event, and make attendees more likely to engage. Well produced, and catchy videos will help you stand out better than anything. Event organizers can help their exhibitors by previewing videos and booths before the event, and working with their exhibitors to ensure that the videos are used in the best light.
Lend a hand when it comes to online networking and social aspects of the event platform.
The event organizing team can ensure that each exhibitor understands how to best utilize the online networking functions and social areas of the event. This is a huge one– and for many events, highly underutilized. Uploading the booth content is only part of the tradeshow experience. More importantly, is connecting with your visitors, and building those leads that lead to long term relationships. So ensure your exhibitors understand how to make the most of the virtual networking components your platform offers. Organizers may host a webinar prior to the event begins, or make one-on-one calls or meetings with exhibitors beforehand to do a virtual walkthrough of the tool. We’ve found that one-on-one calls are the most valuable in ensuring that exhibitors get their questions answered. It also helps prevent queries coming up later on, especially during the event itself. Help exhibitors understand how to get the best out of their video networking tools, by doing individual tech checks with each of them prior to the event. Here, you can let them know if their camera setup is working properly, or if they can make any changes to their lighting or microphone before the event gets underway.
Have a contact person for each exhibitor.
Make sure you have enough staff on hand to assist exhibitors during the event. One of the biggest myths about online events is that it only takes a few people to run the platform. But if you want to get the most out of your online event experience, you’ll need a few more than that. Staffing needs for exhibitor areas can vary per event, but ensure that each exhibitor has a contact person, with their direct phone number, email, and messaging information that can assist them on the event days for any queries or problems that may arise. Have these contact persons check in with exhibitors regularly during the event, to address issues early, and to ensure that exhibitors are having a positive experience. Event organizers can also use staff to drive attendees to the exhibitor areas of the event, by highlighting unique offerings in the engagement areas of the event platform.
Don’t forget post-event.
Post-event feedback and support is a huge opportunity for exhibitors, so it’s important for organizers to make the most of it. It goes beyond just sending a feedback survey. Make a personal call or email to each exhibitor individually after the event to get their impressions and feedback on the event itself. Come prepared for this call with your analytics of their booth stand, and share the insights personally. Provide detail about the statistics and data shared, and help exhibitors understand the impact of the event. Be open to hearing critiques and work hard to find a way to address any that may have come up.
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