Virtual Events (Industry Conferences and Trade Shows*) proved themselves as a concept during the Covid pandemic. However, they do not provide the exact same experience of physical events. The differences can be summarised as follows:

  • Physical Events: (i) Cost is not a prime consideration, (ii) Where people get more personal feedback and (iii) Products being promoted have to be seen\felt\tasted. In the main, these events have a well established date in the business diary.
  • Virtual Events: (i) Cost is a significant consideration (ii) They provide a greater level of digital statistics and (iii) Products and Services being promoted can be made virtually. Also, given their lower cost profile, they lend themselves to smaller, newer events.

(N.B. Hybrid Events are simply Physical Events that are extended by offering the option of virtual access.)

In this section we cover:

  • Virtual Conference Platforms.
  • Virtual Exhibition Platforms.
  • Virtual Stands.
  • Supporting Services.

The solutions we propose are:

  • (Very) Low Cost.
  • Easy to configure - and can be edited in real-time to serve a specific opportunity.
  • Structured to provide key statistics to both organisers and exhibitors - e.g. who came and who did what.

Furthermore, we looked to find solutions where the event organiser does not take any external financial risk i.e no up-front payment to anyone. In our opinion, their risk should be limited to the internal resources they would have to commit to develop, promote and manage the event.

How good is that?

*We do not cover webinars or podcasts here. Although these are usually broadcast "live", they are also recorded and made available online after the broadcast - to be viewed post-event. Here we are concentrating on industry conferences and trade shows where the emphasis is on live B2B communication.

Virtual Exhibition Platform - We reviewed many platforms, there are many, Virtual Event Platforms on the market and what we noticed is that the focus for many was on replacing physical events - and not on providing an event experience fully adapted to technological realities and the differences between virtual and physical experiences.

The general critique we would make of these platforms would make the following points:

  • They are expensive - and seem to take the cost of physical events as the base rather than the cost of the platform.
  • They are complex to configure - we would suggest that the simpler the better.
  • They are slow to download - should not faster downloads be a key feature?
  • They contain graphics and features that do not belong in a virtual environment - what additional benefits do avatars bring? why do you have to download the stand next door?
  • They are temporary i.e. the event is available for a short period of time.

We suggest that a Virtual Event Platform should have the following key features:

  • The Entrance Lobby with Sponsors' Banners and links to:
  1. Conference Hall.
  2. Exhibition Hall.
  3. A Networking Area.
  • The Conference Centre

The area where presentations, round tables etc. take place.

  • The Exhibition Hall

This lists the Exhibiting Companies: Name, Logo, Brief Description with Link to the Virtual Stand.

  • The Networking Area

Where participants can meet.

When you look at it - all that is needed is the Lobby Image with links to suitable supporting areas.

Virtual Conference Platform. There are many platforms out there that we reviewed. We looked for an easy-to-use, fully featured and cost-effective solution with the following key features:

  • Audience Participation

Attendees can passively watch a stream or raise their hand and ask to join the speaker on stage. If they would rather stay off-camera, attendees can still join in the live chat and Q&A.

  • Audio Breakouts

These help people host interesting debates and curated conversations. These are perfect for:

- Hybrid Events.

- Workshops.

- Networking.

  • Comprehensive Registration & Follow Up Processes

A smooth registration and follow-up service is fundamental to a successful event.

  • Fully Customisable

Colours, fonts and images can be tailored for each and every event.

  • Hybrid Ready

The platform should feature audio only stages and breakouts i.e. the facility to broadcasts events without spending thousands on unnecessary video equipment.

  • Scalability

For anything from a 20 person event to a 100,000 global conference.

  • Security

User authentication is ISO27001/27018 certified by a third party and has completed a full third-party SOC 2 Type II audit. Your data is safe with Arena.

  • Virtual Rooms

From stages for keynotes and breakout rooms for small sessions.

  • Visibility

Attendees can see a summary of who is in a room, and how many people will attend in total before entering. Upon entering, they can engage in a dedicated chat stream for each stage, ask the speaker questions and upvote other questions they would like to hear answered.

We found that Arena provided all the required features with a pricing structure that is both competitive and does not require upfront payment from the event organiser.

We take the view that Virtual Stands should not be difficult to set up and expensive. The philosophy is to provide you with a stand that is:

  • Fully featured - with multiple communication channels, downloadable documents, video links.
  • Really easy to tailor and update.
  • Quick to download.
  • Low Cost.

The stand can be customised with:

  • Your corporate colours.
  • Graphics (valid formats: png, eps, jpg - resolution 150 dpi) - you can place an optional background image on the 2 walls.
  • Links to your website.
  • 3 places for your logo and straplines (valid formats: png, eps, jpg - resolution 150 dpi).
  • Headline Texts.
  • Links to your Social Media profiles.

Once you have completed the easy steps for the initial configuration, your Virtual Stand can be quickly and easily updated whenever you want.

The Registration Process should include the following features:

  • Attendee Reminders

Registered attendees can add events to their calendars with a single click and receive a confirmation email with the Event link and Event details.

  • Attendee Management

The Event organisers are always in full control and can very easily edit or remove attendees from the event at all times.

  • Custom Attendee Fields

The facility to capture extra details from attendees such as interests and preferences, or sales related information like seniority and annual budget.

  • Custom Ticket Types

The ability to show / hide rooms based on the attendee's ticket type to personalise the experience for different types of attendee.

  • Registration

Attendees simply enter their email address to register for the Event immediately receiving an email confirmation that includes the event link and details.

  • Security Preferences

The options to choose between public registration (anyone with a link can attend) and private registration (only those with matching email can attend).

These are all included in the TTS proposal ;-)

In addition to the Virtual Stands and Exhibition & Conference Platforms, you will also need to choose a number of Supporting Services.

The Supporting Services are also listed in the areas where they would be deployed, but we thought it would help to list and describe all of them here.

Virtual Conferences

  1. Video Communication Streaming e.g. Teams, Meet, Whereby, Zoom etc. whichever you prefer.
  2. Video Recording and Streaming Service - so that presenters can pre-record their presentations.

Virtual Stands

Your Virtual Stand would be significantly strengthened by the addition of a chatbot. There are a number of commercial services available and you should choose the one that best suits your requirements. However, we can indicate two services that offer free chatbot services: