Virtual Future for Exhibitions
With the exhibition industry facing an uncertain 2021 awaiting the lifting of restrictions, the popularity of virtual events continues to grow.
In March 2020, the industry responded to the beginning of lockdown with a range of online solutions. These were fairly rudimentary to start with; in some cases, as simple as a dedicated webpage listing exhibitors, providing links to their websites. Whilst this was far from ideal for both the suppliers and visitors, it nonetheless attempted to keep both sides in touch with each other.
But as the pandemic continues, the global exhibition industry has responded, showing how innovative it can be by making use of and enhancing existing technology to create truly interactive events.
Virtual/hybrid studios offer a platform for businesses to host their event and provide everything you would normally expect at a large-scale exhibition. Spaces can be created in 3D, allowing visitors to view exhibitors’ profiles as they ‘walk through’ the venue, as well as virtual ‘rooms’ for workshop sessions and talks. And with some hybrid events there is an opportunity for a real-time 1-1 chat between visitors and suppliers. This interaction between supplier and attendee is vital and is what exhibitions thrive on.
There are many different platforms available, offering a range of solutions to suit all businesses and budgets, including:
goexhibit.com – an intuitive platform that has been around for about 15 years. Goexhibit allows visitors to walk around the exhibition hall and interact with suppliers in the virtual exhibit booths.
gtrnow.com – an easy-to-use app that helps you plan and host both totally virtual or hybrid events.
inxpo.com - offers a live chat function within the virtual booths, as well as breakout sessions which attendees can watch as a live stream or on demand.
hexafair.com - is specifically aimed at virtual tradeshows and expos (as opposed to events in general). It also allows you to set up masterclasses, networking sessions and workshops.
mapyourshow.com - event management software including different products for live events (such as data gathering, booth sales and badge collection) together with platform for hybrid events.
As we (very) gradually emerge from this pandemic, many things that we have taken for granted will have changed drastically. The exhibitions industry could be one. At first, it is likely that government restrictions on capacity and the need for social distancing will mean smaller scale events. And although the trend for virtual events was on the increase pre-covid, it is likely that these will enhance rather than replace the physical exhibition. Running a virtual event alongside a ‘real life’ exhibition has the potential to attract a greater range of exhibitors and reach a far wider, more engaged audience.