A recent survey by Tradeshow Logic confirms that many exhibitors consider virtual events risky compared to in-person events. But there are ways to win them over.
Associations are well along in pivoting to virtual meetings this year, but there’s no guarantee that their exhibitors will follow suit. In fact, many won’t, according to a new study from the show management company Tradeshow Logic, which surveyed nearly 350 exhibitors.
According to Redefining Value for Today’s Exhibitors and Sponsors [registration], more than a third of respondents (35 percent) said they don’t anticipate participating in any virtual tradeshows in the next 12 months, while another third (32 percent) anticipate attending between one and three. In comparison, just 14 percent of respondents said they don’t plan to attend in-person events, and 38 percent expect to attend up to three events.
Exhibitors were significantly more likely to say they’ll take part in in-person events on a repeat basis: 17 percent of respondents anticipate attending at least 10 in-person events, compared to 8 percent that expect to attend 10 or more virtual events.
The report’s authors suggest that the results highlight how risky moving exhibitors to a virtual event by default could be. The firm recommends offering multiple options to exhibitors who would traditionally take part in an in-person event, including refunds.
“Based on this response, it’s not a given that your exhibitor/sponsor base will engage in your virtual event. Internal budget restrictions or reduced staffing are indicated barriers,” the report states. “Automatically re-allocating your customers’ deposits to your virtual event will alienate a certain segment of your market who are simply unable to participate.”
Easing Virtual Event doubts
One major challenge is that virtual events are still largely an unknown quantity for exhibitors, who often aren’t convinced of their value.
“Even though virtual platforms are touted as ‘turnkey,’ they still require significant marketing and promotion investment from your exhibitors and sponsors in order to get a worthwhile return,” the report notes.
The report offers advice for easing exhibitors’ doubts about the virtual format:
Maximize face-to-face time. Direct interaction with potential customers matters for exhibitors at virtual events, who want to offer education or product demos to attendees.
Ask for guidance. Keeping exhibitors in the loop can help ensure better engagement for sponsors.
Make the value of participating clear. Exhibitors want to gain leads and make sales, and they’re not sure a virtual experience can deliver them. Articulating how those results are possible will help ensure exhibitor investment, the report notes.