Why exhibitors hate online events and what can organizers do?
This week, events analytics company Explori released some interesting statistics about the impact of virtual events. The good news? Attendees are happy with the new format and greater accessibility of online events.
“A year on, the benchmarks show attendee sentiment for virtual events is increasing… Attendees are scoring virtual trade shows even higher for satisfaction and their likelihood to recommend compared to the 2020 benchmarks.”
While these insights were great, but unfortunately, it wasn’t all positive news. There’s one segment of online event stakeholders that continues to be dissatisfied with virtual formats: Exhibitors.
Explori’s research regularly shows online event exhibitors’ satisfaction is low. And they’re not the only ones. Tradeshow Logic found 43% of exhibitors surveyed who participated in an online tradeshow in 2020 would not do so again.
We can understand. Visiting a virtual tradeshow recently (not one of PIRATEx’s events), glaring issues were apparent immediately. The biggest issue? The event platform itself.
No online event exhibitors organization
Open opening the exhibitor’s panel, the difficulties became clear. The platform the event organizers used did not organize online event exhibitors at all. It left attendees scrolling through hundreds and hundreds of different products and sponsors, with no way to sort or keep track of specific information.
With no categorization, exhibitors and showcased products were arranged in alphabetical order. Some exhibitors creatively used several special characters [such as “‘.*( ] to push their products up the appearance list.
The result? An incredibly messy, and very user-unfriendly experience for attendees –and prospective buyers!
Limited search and filtering
The messy interface extended to the exhibitor list and representatives as well. Representatives with special characters in their names, such as a handy underscore before their first name (for example, _Brian), appeared top of the program.
The only way to sort this massive field of results was by company name or individual name. For new entrants, having your products stand out would be virtually impossible.
Filtering options were limited. Attendees could narrow choices to either two tiers of sponsorship, or “start-ups”. But with hundreds of exhibitors, in several specializations and product categories, it was incredibly difficult to find new products to discover.
Digital “booths” with no customization
Things didn’t get much better when an attendee’s choice exhibitor was located. When interested clients clicked on an exhibitor field to learn more, they were rewarded with a loading screen.
Where they waited…
For the virtual booth to load.
The slow frame rates were puzzling because the exhibitor showcase was not branded with flashy videos and images. Instead, it was dominated by white space. And black text in large blocks.
There were few options for online event exhibitors to make their page their own, with unique branding or interactive features.
Are you there?
One of the most fundamental parts of a tradeshow is to make sales and develop leads. In this case, your networking and matchmaking capabilities must be optimized for the digital format. In this case, the platform had the opportunity to schedule a meeting in the virtual meeting room, or also to begin a text chat. But how to know if that prospective party is online to chat? There was no way of telling if representatives were available to connect in real-time. Even worse, few had contact details updated, so they could be reached outside of the conference venue.
Furthermore, there was no way for attendees to save a list of prospective leads to connect with later. Unless you have time to copy and paste each one into a search bar. A simple integration with Linkedin, Hubspot or any of the available CRM solutions, could have made following leads much easier.
There is no reason why meeting requests should take place only on the conference platform.
Was ist das?
One of the biggest headaches for exhibitors was apparent when it came to the conference’s content. A number of sessions were sponsored by exhibitors who produced live or pre-recorded presentations in multiple languages.
Many of these sessions ran simultaneously, in different livestreams. While multiple livestreams are definitely a bonus, presentation titles were often left untranslated. Attendees often had to jump into several livestreams before they found the right language.
One can imagine the frustration felt by sponsors and exhibitors who developed and paid for presentations misrepresented in the conference program.
Don’t blame the platform.
It is clear that any one of these challenges would frustrate exhibitors. Slow loading times, lack of filtering and search options frustrate prospective buyers. Technical problems turn virtual trade shows into little more than alphabetical directories. Definitely not a marketplace!
While the points shared above are anecdotal, we see them appear again and again.
It might be easy to blame the eventtech, or the switch to virtual.
Ultimately, if your exhibitors and sponsors aren’t happy with their experience at your virtual event, don’t blame the software– it’s up to your organization.
What Organizers Can Do
Exhibitors can have an incredible experience at online events. It takes proper organization, choosing the right platform, and being experience conscious. Great exhibitor experiences require a high level of production and consideration from organizers.
Organizers must include the exhibitor customer journey alongside that of attendees when designing virtual concepts. Identify the pain points exhibitors experience at each point of the process. How can technology address these?
When it comes to platforms, it is truly a buyer’s market for eventtech. Make your considerations carefully. Organizers should choose their “must-haves” before selecting a platform. Do not build your virtual tradeshow experience around a specific platform or technology, before identifying those features which will provide the most value for your participants. In a tradeshow setting, you will want to prioritize platforms that make networking and sales a lean and elegant process. Look for features that integrate with existing applications your exhibitors might be using.
Asking the Right Questions of Eventtech
Exhibitor Classification and Organization
When comparing platform choices, examine how exhibitors and sponsors can be classified and organized. How can they be searched? Is it possible to color-code different categories? Can the platform host multiple exhibitor spaces within your event, or all exhibitors nested together? How can exhibitors stand out, and how can prospective buyers collect information on them?
Digital Trade Show Booths
The “Digital Trade Show Booth” is where many of your exhibitors will spend the majority of their event. For organizers, it’s important to ask about what types of branding and theming options are available. How can exhibitors make their spaces their own, and how easy is it for them to change? Can trade show booths be adjusted during the event? Or only beforehand?
How is contact information displayed? Can exhibitor spaces be integrated with outside applications? Is there a way to show what representatives from the firm are online? What formats can be adjusted?
General Tech Checks
When evaluating platforms for your online event, there are some basic considerations to keep in mind. Ask the organizer if you can visit an outside event on their platform before you make a decision. Pay attention to loading times, and the general look and feel of the event. How is the experience different for your various event stakeholders?
For organizers, it can be difficult to cater to all event stakeholders equally. But attention to detail, good organization and the right platform choice can ensure exhibitors are not left behind.