What the Mad Rush to Digital Means for Your Exhibitors 1

With many traditional, physical events being either canceled or postponed, a many of us have been compelled (or have decided of our own accord) to build hybrid or digital events as a replacement or extension. Although the creation of these new events has happened more quickly and with greater ease than expected, these new vehicles represent different communications mediums and must be executed differently than face to face events.

Creating digital events enables us to:
  • Market something as a substitute for a physical event which is no longer tenable.
  • Retain much of our exhibitor or attendee revenue.
  • Deliver some level of useful buyer-seller engagement for both attendees and exhibitors.

I have yet to see anything said regarding the difference in the value of leads for exhibitors generated by a digital event versus a face to face event and this is an important distinction as they are not equivalent. As has been noted many times concerning engagement, nothing beats an in-person encounter at a booth or in a meeting. While many physical show leads are merely badge scans, those that come from face-to-face interactions with staff (who qualify the potential opportunity and append the lead record with notes and other insights) are inherently more valuable to both parties. Digital events have a lower attendance commitment (simply logging in online) and less engagement with exhibitor staff. The resulting leads would likely be placed in the earlier stages of a sales funnel.

Enhancements to digital events are ongoing, including efforts to improve the lead generation potential. I have tested some speed networking digital software with which an exhibitor is promised a new meeting every 5 minutes. Though certainly better than random digital leads, digital speed dating is still not the equivalent to an in-person interaction.

So what?

The above considerations should inform your efforts to retain exhibitor revenue by re-directing it toward digital sponsorships. Exhibitors will not necessarily see the value of the new digital events as equivalent to what was previously done face to face and be hesitant to commit. Given that, what’s the sales pitch?

  • A digital event generates leads that would otherwise be lost with no F2F event.
  • The overall volume of leads will likely be higher than the booth traffic of a physical event.
  • The cost-per-lead will be far less -with no booth, T&E, flights, shipping, drayage, etc.
  • You can retain industry market presence and brand recognition and stay in the game when face to face events are cancelled or postponed.

This new world of digital events does not change the fundamental blocking and tackling needed by your exhibitors to be successful. Getting sales from digital events means having those responsible for follow up (inside sales, business development reps, etc.) contact these leads as quickly as possible. Speed is of the essence, as the impression made at a digital event will fade more quickly than the impact of a F2F interaction.

It’s clear that event organizers who did not have digital programs previously should add them to their portfolio, both for the extra revenue they can generate as well as the ability to distribute the risk of their operations across non-F2F activities. But don’t proceed forward with the expectation that a digital lead is the same as a show lead. Your exhibitors don’t think so.
Good luck and don’t hesitate to connect if I can help

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