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Episode 41 - Creating the Right Virtual Trade Show Experience

A behind the scenes look at the Cloud Conventions Trade Show Strategy

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Convey went to a great deal of effort and research to understand how to take the elements of a live trade show and build as many of them as possible into a virtual environment to capture the interest and attention of the 30,000 sales partners and vendors we invited to be our guests as attendees.  Here is a glimpse at our virtual event strategy that we will execute at Cloud Conventions and that you can use as a guide in the event you are considering an event in the future.

Does COVID-19 represent the death of that fun Vegas conference, the regional partner event, or association trade shows?  Hardly.  People will always crave face to face contact, need to build relationships in person, and be able to touch and feel a physical product.  But frankly, we haven’t been eating a balanced diet offering our audiences other ways to connect, get the latest updates, develop relationships and have a trade show experience.

Associations, event companies, and trade show producers make a ton of money when exhibitors purchase booths, invest in sponsorships, and attendees pay the price of admission to flock to that event that is chocked full of giveaways, cocktail parties and glitzy presentations.  But we are in lockdown and frankly, the return to the next normal may blunt our ability to provide a safe environment for trade show hosts, exhibitors and attendees.

Does that mean our association members, sales partners, business owners and vendors have to forgo events and conferences?  Maybe it does in the short term, but in the long term, it does mean that eating a more balanced diet by adding virtual trade shows and conferences only makes sense.  The telecommunications and cloud industry is going to get its first taste of a professionally produced and executed virtual conference when Cloud Conventions debuts in May.

We went to a great deal of effort and research to understand how to take the elements of a live trade show and build as many of them as possible into a virtual environment to capture the interest and attention of the 30,000 sales partners and vendors we invited to be our guests as attendees.  Here is a glimpse at our virtual event strategy that we will execute at Cloud Conventions and that you can use as a guide in the event you are considering an event in the future.

Define a strong “why” behind the event.  Every event needs a purpose, a focus, and in fact, a mission.  Cloud Conventions has made it our purpose, our focus and our mission to educate, inspire and empower our telecommunications and cloud channel to be the driver that gets business back on track.  It’s a clear message and drives all of our content strategy and event design.

Do something that hasn’t been done before.  There have been virtual events in our industry, but never one like this with the scale and diversity of content.  We are clearly breaking new ground at Cloud Conventions by inviting speakers and thought leaders outside our industry to weigh in on business strategy.  We are building in interactive elements you would expect at a live trade show, but you never thought would be possible in a virtual one.  You’ll see things our industry has never done before and frankly, it will be refreshing.

Create an irresistible offer.  You can attend most webinars for free as you can Cloud Conventions, but where is the fun in that?  With the support of our vendors and sponsors, we are adding promotions and spiffs you could only find at Cloud Conventions.  We’ve introduced the concept of virtual swag and points for prizes the more you interact and engage in the event.  These are offers that will be too hard to resist.

Keep in mind that content is king.  I think our live trade shows have forgotten this concept because you see the same panelists, topics and content year after year.  It’s gotten old and frankly stale.  Cloud Conventions developed our content strategy first before we even invited vendors to help us.  We scoured the market for interesting business speakers and thought leaders and frankly found quite a few whose live events were cancelled, who believe in our mission and were ready to help.  At Cloud Conventions, you’ll see that content is king and the educational experience will be unparalleled.

Offer a diverse, interactive experience.  People at live events need to rub elbows, find out what’s new, and connect with each other.  Cloud Conventions recognizes that interactivity is important, so we build lots of ways to do that.  Every virtual booth has live chat for attendees to jump in for a conversation.  Meeting calendars are available to book a demo or an appointment.  Discussion forums in the platform are turned into networking lounges so people can engage and interact with each other.  And each night, we have a cocktail event hosted by fun people who will engage in live conversations, take chat questions and even stream the event live on YouTube.

Let technology manage the details.  Cloud Conventions is being run on the Convey Services portal technology and frankly although virtual events and conferences are not our primary focus  we have all the technology we need to automate  the  details, the technology to make it organized and go off without a hitch.  Attendees register on our portals and get a personalized dashboard that guide them through their opportunities to consume content, interact with each other, and pick up those valuable prizes. Every speaker and session leader has a content catalog so people can learn more about them and the virtual booth is automated with technology managing all the touch points.  If you are considering doing a virtual event, then this technology is perfectly suited for that purpose without breaking the bank.

Deliver a strong ROI for vendors and sponsors.  If attendance is offered for free, then the show has to be funded by vendors and sponsors, who are frankly getting a great deal to showcase themselves.  Unlike Channel Partners, Enterprise Connect or other live shows, vendors and sponsors don’t have to build and ship a booth, pay to fly people out there, house and feed their people, purchase carpet and power from trade show services or invest in expensive giveaways. 

The virtual booth and sponsorship experience is at a fraction of that cost and the ROI can be measured in 3 ways.  How many attendees gave me their contact information?  How many attendees were motivated to a call to action...filled out a form? Requested a demo? Jumped into my live chat room?  Schedule a meeting? And finally, did I identify partners that were good fits to represent my services?  The technology we use helps quantify all those elements unlike a live trade show that depends on the person to stop by the booth and agree to have their badge scanned.

Takeaways

It’s time for our industry to eat a balanced diet adding in virtual events and conferences along with live ones.  It’s a shift borne out of adversity and necessity, but ultimately will be one that many industries make because a virtual event reaches a wider audience, is less expensive, can produce a great ROI, and can be interesting, educational and fun.  Join Cloud Conventions in May and attend as our guest or get that ROI you need as an exhibitor and sponsor.  We have a mission, irresistible offers, great content, interactive experiences, are organized and will give you the ROI you need.

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